Businesses fear impact of Beechwood bike lanes

As Beechwood Avenue undergoes its complete street makeover, shop owners fear the new bike lanes will be bad for business.

The complete street project started this week, with city crews painting bike lanes in both directions from Putman Avenue to Springfield Road and Charlevoix Street and cutting vehicle lanes in half.

The changes will have an impact on Beechwood’s parking, which will drop from 56 spots currently in off-peak hours to only 29.

While the total number of parking spots in the neighbourhood will actually go up by as many as 61 spots during peak hours, side street parking just doesn’t cut it, said Monique Dugas, who owns Clothes Encounters consignment shop.

“People have all their clothes to drop off,” she said, arguing her customers need the door-to-door service. “At the flower shop (next door), do you think people are going to carry all their flowers if they’re going to a wedding or a funeral?”

She predicted the street’s boutiques and specialty shops will eventually close because of the changes.

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum said he’s “sensitive” to the merchants’ concerns, but cited a parking utilization study which found only 32 per cent of Beechwood’s spots were being used during rush hour. Off-peak parking rates were even lower, between 25 and 27 per cent, even on weekends. Studies of nearby side-street parking were similar.

“It’s very hard to make the argument that this is going to cause hardship,” Nussbaum said.

Jamie Kwong, director of the Quarter Vanier BIA, said she’d like the city to at least post some wayfinding signs to help customers find the new side street parking spots.

“These are the concessions they need to make to help minimize the amount of impact to our local businesses,” she said.

Nussbaum said that’s “in the works.”

The reconfiguration is a short-term solution until the corridor is rebuilt in the distant future, and Nussbaum is the first to admit it’s not ideal.

For the next eight months, for example, the bike lane from St. Patrick Bridge won’t connect to Beechwood over the Vanier Parkway, leaving a 200-metre gap on the north side and a 130-metre gap on the south.

City crews will fix that next spring once curbs can be reconfigured to make more room, Nussbaum said.

This article orginally appeared on Metro News on Sept. 8.