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Cyclists use the Dunsmuir Street bike lane in Vancouver in 2010. Critics say the city is moving too quickly on the idea of adding more separated bike lanes to routes that go downtownLyle Stafford/The Globe and Mail

The former planning director of Vancouver is urging a halt to the inflamed rhetoric that seems to accompany any proposal for further bike lanes in the city.

"I worry that we're starting to sound like Toronto with Mayor [Rob] Ford," Brent Toderian said on Thursday, amid controversy over city hall's call for bids to study the feasibility of bike lanes on the Granville and Cambie bridges.

"I think we need to have a much more sophisticated discussion than we've been having," said Mr. Toderian, who was planning director for nearly six years. His contract was not renewed earlier this year.

Critics say the city is moving too quickly on the idea of adding more separated bike lanes to routes that go downtown, with memories of previous cycle path battles still fresh.

"To me, the decision has already been made in the mayor's office to go ahead with more bike lanes. That goes without saying," NPA councillor George Affleck said.

"This is a process that got them in trouble before, and they're going there again. I'm surprised. I thought they'd learned their lesson."

Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, said he does not necessarily oppose the idea, but criticized the city for releasing "dribs and drabs" of proposals rather than a comprehensive transportation plan.

"We have to ensure that we're not choking the lifeblood out of the downtown. ... I think it would be to the city's benefit to come out with the whole thing at once, rather than being caught off guard with these issues suddenly appearing in the media."

The concept of splitting the eight-lane Granville Bridge with a tree-lined cycling/pedestrian walkway was unveiled last June in a draft of the city's Transportation 2040 plan. The city is seeking a feasibility study on that idea and a possible Cambie Bridge bike lane before council has considered the plan.

Mr. Toderian bemoaned the fact that bike lanes have become a hot-button issue, noting that biking is merely one pragmatic part of making a city function.

"Only in North America has this become an ideology," he said, blaming both those who call bike lanes a war on the car and "self-identified cyclists" who don't help the discussion.

Mr. Toderian, now an independent planning consultant, said bike routes are the only aspect of the city's entire transportation puzzle that the public and the media tend to talk about.

"Bike lanes are not a fad. They are part of a multi-modal city, a critical part of the city working well in the future."