$22 million Victoria Bridge replacement span panned by cycling advocates

Avid cyclist Paula Coutinho takes a full traffic lane when crossing the Victoria Bridge on Ridout connecting Old South to the downtown.

She says because the bridge’s lack of bike lanes makes it a pinch point that can intimidate less experienced cyclists.

“They’re afraid to cycle on the road with the traffic,” Coutinho explains. “So if we can do more things to make it safe we’ll get more people out riding.”

City hall will be replacing the 96-year-old bridge this year, but details of the $22 million project is sparking pushback from some cycling advocates.

“I actually feel less safe with these designs,” says Andrew Hunniford, general manager of the London Bicycle Cafe.

The new span will be divided into a sidewalk, a one-direction painted bike lane, a multi-use pathway that pedestrians and cyclists must share and two 3.5 metre wide driving lanes.

Hunniford believes the wide traffic lanes will encourage even higher vehicle speeds, “In that future state, those lanes are wider, that traffic is faster, and I don’t have protection (cycling in the bike lane).”

The city’s engineering department says the design is now finalized.

Garfield Dales, managing director of transportation planning and design, explains that the lane configuration was developed during the 2017 environmental assessment which included opportunities for public input.

“It was trying to find the best way to accommodate all those users and also balance some practical limitations like the amount of right-of-way that’s available,” Dales tells CTV News.

Pending city council approval, construction of the new bridge will begin this spring, and be completed in mid-2023.

Replacement of the Victoria Bridge is scheduled to avoid conflicting road closures with replacement of the CN Rail overpass at Wharncliffe Road.

An online public meeting about the bridge replacement will be held by city hall on Jan. 27.