Brooke Gavinchuk gets a push from her mom Jordyn along the new Fort Street bike lane during its official opening, Sunday May 27. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Fort Street bike lanes officially open in Victoria

Latest stretch of bike network a designated two-way, protected downtown lane for all abilities

Cyclists of all ages and abilities gathered in the 700-block of Fort Street on Sunday to celebrate the official opening of the dedicated, two-way, protected bike lanes running from Wharf to Cook Street.

Free bike rentals, family activities and live music welcomed those on bikes, scooters, tricycles – even a penny-farthing.

Jordyn Gavinchuk, who watched as her toddler Brooke wheeled around on a balance bike, said having protected lanes makes her more inclined to bring the family cycling downtown.

“We’re a pretty active family so it’s nice that Victoria is expanding the ease of biking,” she said.

RELATED: Latest disrupted retailers remain positive during Fort bike lane work

The construction of the hotly-debated bike lanes, the latest in the City’s cycling network, has not been without its critics.

Some local businesses complained about disruption during the building phase, but Teri Hustins, owner of Oscar and Libby’s and member of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said today was about celebrating what the bike lanes will add to Fort Street.

“Today is really just about welcoming people back to the street, the celebration of the lanes and for people to rediscover the uniqueness of the businesses,” said Hustins, who handed out free bike bells to riders passing through.

RELATED: Lessons learned: City reflects on bike lane construction

Addressing the crowd, Mayor Lisa Helps – an avid cyclist – apologized to Fort Street businesses, acknowledging the construction had a significant impact. She then challenged those in the corridor to gauge their revenue starting Sunday “with two times the amount of customers coming right by their front doors.”

“The reason we’re building this infrastructure is so that people who need to drive, people with disabilities, seniors … will be able to do so, because all of those who would cycle, but don’t because it’s not safe, will be cycling,” she said, adding it frees up road space and parking for everyone.

People want to live in close, connected, smart communities, she noted.

Fort Street is the second all ages and abilities bicycle route in the downtown core, connecting it to the rest of a 32-km network that rolls out to every neighbourhood, as well as to regional trails.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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Carolyn Zyha (left) joins her friend Heather Knowles (right) as they try out the new Fort Street bike lanes at the official opening, Sunday May 27. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

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