Victoria council has granted city staff additional funding in order to complete the construction of the city’s bicycle network by 2022.
A report submitted to council by Fraser Work, Director of Engineering and Public Works, outlined the need for an extra $350,000/year for the purposes of hiring additional staff to oversee different aspects of the project in order to complete it within the original deadline.
This amount is to be obtained from development cost charges and gas tax grants, and will supplement the existing $30 million that has thus far been allocated to the bicycle network. Without the new funding, the infrastructure would not be completed until 2023-24, according to city estimates.
“Many people will not agree with the expenditures involved in this investment but…we’re not just building this for today; we’re building this for future generations,” said Work.
According to the report, the investment will allow city staff to streamline the public engagement process by adding the following staff positions:
- Transportation Technologists – support development of design concepts, analysing design alternatives, supporting the detailed design process.
- Project Communications/Engagement – dedicated focus on community consultation, media responses, public notification, construction liaison activities, promotional campaigns, educational campaigns, and reporting activities.
- Construction Management Tech – preparing tender documents and administering and managing daily issues related to construction.
- Administrative Support – support program planning and delivery (there are no current administrative resources allocated).
The costs associated with these resources will amount to $350,000 per year between 2020 and 2022, and about half that amount is required for 2019, bringing the total to approximately $1,225,000.
The motion was voted on by Mayor Lisa Helps and Councillors Jeremy Loveday, Sarah Potts, Geoff Young, and Sharmarke Dubow, while Councillors Marianne Alto, Ben Isitt, Laurel Collins, and Charlene Thornton-Joe were not in attendance.
Mayor Helps and councillors Loveday, Potts, and Dubow supported the recommendations made by city staff, while Councillor Young opposed them.
Helps, Dubow, and Loveday all pointed to climate change and environmental concerns as reasons for supporting the accelerated construction of the bike lane network, while Potts seconded the motion after clarification that the funding would be obtained from development cost charges and gas tax grants.
When asked how an extra $1.2 million to speed up the project by just one to two years is justifiable, Helps points to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC) that gives the planet 11 years to achieve carbon neutrality.
“The single biggest reduction in carbon pollution as a community is to increase walking and cycling to 55% of all trips by 2041 and increase use of transit by 25%,” she told Victoria Buzz.
“When we’ve only got 11 years left to get to carbon neutrality as a planet, every year counts.”
When speaking to the necessity of implementing a bike lane network overall, Helps contends that around 60% of the population would like to cycle but do not feel safe doing so yet.
This statistic, she says, comes from various research institutions, including Simon Fraser Institute and the Canadian Institute for Health Research.
Councillor Young, who rejected the motion, had several concerns about the proposal, including the fact that while the addition of staff is intended to speed up the construction project, training and bringing newcomers up to speed might actually slow things down.
He also believes that construction costs are likely to decline in the near future, making it advantageous to stick with the slower timeline.
Young does, however, support the bike lane network as a whole, arguing that a lot of people unjustly believe that roads are paid for by drivers.
“A lot of car drivers are under the impression that their gas tax is paying for municipal roads which it mostly is not,” he said in the council meeting. “Essentially bicycle riders and pedestrians as taxpayers, as local taxpayers, are contributing as much as vehicles are.”
But in this case the additional funding to streamline the project will, in fact, be partly drawn from gas tax funds.
The next bike corridors to be built are on Wharf Street and Humboldt Street and are slated for completion this year.
Once finished, the entire network will be 32 km long.