The first day of May saw the debut of the Pandora Ave protected bike lanes. Situated in the heart of Victoria’s downtown, the marquee transport project marks a new era in better mobility options for Victoria residents and visitors.

With its first protected lane, Victoria joins dozens of North American cities reconfiguring its streets for multi-modal travel. With its concrete medians, new trees, bike racks and floating bus stops, plus mid-block crosswalks and bicycle traffic signals, the Pandora lane design is a novelty in Victoria. But similar projects have been adopted in cities worldwide. All of Canada’s major cities have built or are planning protected bike lanes. In the US, over 82 cities have built separated bike facilities.

The core benefits are clear: improved safety and clarity for all road users. For instance, in US cities, protected bike lanes have reduced sidewalk riding by over 50 per cent.

Of course, the traffic pattern changes are new for Victoria and do require some patience and a period of adjustment for all road users. In the first week, City staff (and volunteers) provided assistance and advice to motorists, pedestrians and people on bikes, and shared extensive information on print and online.

With bike racks full and people of all ages riding the new lanes, it is clear that high-quality bike facilities are bringing more bike riders downtown – and provide a new and much-appreciated level of comfort and safety.

“Pandora feels so much safer with physical separation from motor vehicles,” said local bike enthusiast Cindy Marven. “The new lanes make it possible for us

to ride downtown with our son. We no longer need to bring our car down here, where some of our favourite businesses are located. We’ll be able to get to them so much more safely and easier now.”

Shane Devereaux, owner of Habit Coffee, strongly supports new bike infrastructure. “The Pandora lanes – and all the extra bike parking – are not only great for business, but also for the overall vibe of the street. It is so much calmer now than the old three-lane strip we used to have. I look forward to the bridge being done and the next pieces of the network, so we can really see the connectivity start to take shape.”

As it gets built out, the city’s emerging bike network can only compliment Victoria’s dynamic downtown vibrancy: new condos, retailers and restaurants, more downtown residents and a thriving high-tech sector. As Mayor Lisa Helps says: “Our new bike infrastructure is really about building a healthy, prosperous and sustainable city.”

Ray Straatsma leads the consulting firm RStreets Urban Strategies and is President of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network. Previously published in the Downtown Victoria Magazine.