North end business owners have told city hall to take their road diet plan and bury it at the bottom of the freezer.
Close to 50 people, mainly owners and employees of businesses along 43rd Avenue, took to the streets Thursday at noon to protest city staff’s idea of reducing 43rd Avenue between 27th and 32nd Streets from four lanes to three to improve safety and promote bicycle use.
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.
“The proposed lane reduction of 43rd Avenue from four lanes to two with a suicide turning lane is what has us greatly concerned,” said Harald Kober with Roko Service Ltd., located on the corner of 43rd Avenue and 29th Street, who organized the noon-hour protest.
“Where has such an idea come from? Who are the people pushing this agenda?”
Kober organized the crowd into four teams, who walked back and forth in all directions in the crosswalks on 43rd and 32nd Street.
Protesters carried signs that read “Shame on city hall,” “We mean business,” “We are the boss,” and “Listen to us” during the 30-minute protest.
Pauline Davidson, owner of Carpet Castle on 29th Street, joined the protest to support her neighbouring business owners on 43rd Avenue, and hoped city hall pays attention.
“It’s time that they hear what the people have to say,” said Davidson. “They’re making changes all the time. This one just doesn’t make sense.”
Business owners are not opposed to bike lanes, said Kober, but the lanes would serve no purpose in the commercial area.
“There is no destination point for the bike,” said Kober. “Further, being an industrial area, the potential for harm by encouraging bike traffic here is greatly increased. Take the bike lanes to neighbourhoods that will benefit.”
During the half-hour demonstration, only two bicycles were spotted on 43rd Avenue.
Wayne Paul, a retired Tolko employee and Roko customer, said 43rd Avenue is already such a busy street that making it any narrower will “only makes things worse.”
“It’s common sense,” said Paul. “City hall did not get in touch with the people out here protesting who own these businesses to find out what’s going on. They just go ahead and do things.”
Mayor Wayne Lippert, in Vancouver at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention, got wind of the protest in a phone conversation he had with Kober Thursday morning.
“I have taken all of the information presented to city hall, acknowledged receipt of it, and I can say it’s on agenda for the next council meeting with all of the e-mails and phone messages for council to make a decision,” said Lippert. “I have taken action to make sure the people are heard.”
Next regular Vernon council meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 11.