Some businesses don’t have the appetite for putting a Vernon road on a diet.
The city wants to reduce 43rd Avenue, from 32nd to 27th streets, from four to three lanes to improve safety and promote bicycle use. But some merchants say the project will be a dead-end for profits.
“All they (city) are doing is telling us how their arrangement will be. It will just be a giant pain for us,” said Gary Krieger, Tireland owner.
As part of the proposal, the three lanes would include one each way for traffic and a centre two-way, left-turn lane. The space gained by eliminating the fourth lane would be for cyclists.
Krieger is concerned delivery trucks won’t have sufficient room to turn off 43rd Avenue and residents will avoid the area if fewer lanes lead to congestion.
“A lot of people drive by and see a tire shop and stop. I spent a lot of money last year making my business more visible,” he said.
City figures indicate that 14,000 vehicles a day use 43rd Avenue and that could climb to 18,000 a day by 2031.
Harald Kober, Roko Service owner, says current city zoning allows for industrial activities along this section of 43rd Avenue.
“There is no destination here (for cyclists). Are you going to put your kid on a bike on 43rd Avenue?” he said.
Kober says there are 100 jobs in the area related to the automobile sector and light industry.
“Look after something for us,” he said of business retention.
Kober points to adjacent 29th Street, which has been narrowed with sidewalks and bike paths.
“You can’t take trucks down this road to supply the businesses,” he said.
While some businesses are opposed to a new traffic model, others remain undecided.
“If they tear up the road and do like 29th Street, it could interfere with business. If there’s just turning lanes, it may not interfere much,” said Dale Wicks, with the Sunshine Corner Cafe.
Travis Wise, with Wise Guys Car Wash, has been looking at similar projects in other communities.
“The road diet could help business and revitalize the commercial strip,” he said.
“Sometimes it increases traffic flow and makes it easier to turn on and off a street.”
City council has yet to make a decision on the staff recommendation for 43rd Avenue changes.
“If the businesses don’t want it and they’re not comfortable with it, chances are we’ll leave it alone,” said Mayor Wayne Lippert.
“But people need to do more research, including myself.”
The future of the project is tied to the city possibly receiving a $868,000 government grant.
“We’re not likely to hear this year that we can do it. It’s likely to be next year before we can implement it,” said Amanda Watson, a transportation technician.
Staff recently met with businesses and residents as part of a consultation process.
“We will report the comments back to council,” said Watson.
“We don’t want to promote anything detrimental to business.”
Watson says the road diet concept arose because of reported accidents and requests to connect bike lanes east and west of 43rd Avenue.
“They have been successful in reducing accidents while maintaining capacity for vehicles in other communities,” said Watson, adding that there shouldn’t be any negative impact on businesses.
“They don’t prevent access for large trucks because there is the larger centre turn lane (providing space to navigate).”