Veterans Center: We may close because of bike lane

A plan would get rid of parking on the same street where the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center resides. (KATU Photo)

A veterans service center in Vancouver is considering closing or moving because of a proposed protected bike lane, which would eliminate its street parking access.

"It's going to virtually put us out of business," said Judy Russel, president of the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center. "A lot of (our veterans) come in here -- they have canes, or they have crutches. If they can't park out front, there's going to be no way for them to get here."

Vancouver's Westside Mobility Strategy aims at increasing traffic safety by improving pedestrian infrastructure and adding bike lanes.

Under part of the plan, a two-mile stretch of Columbia Street, from Esther Short Park to West 45th Street, would have a protected bike lane on it.

"It connects so many key destinations that people would like to go to," said Jennifer Campos, the principal transportation coordinator for Vancouver.

Russel says the city has suggested having the veterans she serves park on side streets, but Russel says a half-block walk could discourage some disabled veterans from coming in for help.

"If veterans can't get in here, they can't get help," Russel said. "They can't take all our parking to make a safe route for bike riders and not give us anything; it's not just fair to the veterans."

Vancouver Mayor pro tem Bart Hansen says he's sympathetic to the veterans center's worries and that the city's public outreach effort will work in the coming months to find a compromise that works.

Hansen grew up near Columbia Street, in the Carter Park neighborhood. He says that the city has to find the difficult balance between providing for the existing needs of people while also planning for the sustainable future of generations to come.

"What we're trying to achieve is safe modes of transportation for all modes of transportation," Hansen said. "The litmus test is, would I put my daughter on a sharrow (non-protected bike lane) on a major or minor arterial? The answer is no."

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