The City of Vancouver is planning a major overhaul for a busy downtown street that's likely going to include a new separated bike lane at the expense of some 50 parking spaces.

Parts of Richards Street already have a southbound bike lane protected by parking lane. On other stretches of the road, however, only a painted line separates cyclists from busy downtown traffic.

"We know a lot of people don't ride on the painted bike lane portion because they don't feel safe, and this is why we've been focusing on creating these all-ages-and-abilities routes," the city's manager of transportation design, Paul Storer told CTV News.

The proposed solution includes a two-way protected bike lane on the east side of Richards.

Those who ride their bikes in the area say the lane would be a welcome improvement.

"I certainly prefer this. You feel very safe," one cyclist said.

But the proposal also calls for the removal of 50 streets parking spots to accommodate the bike lane—a plan that doesn't sit well with some downtown drivers.

"For anyone who drives in the city, it's just getting worse out there," one driver said.

"I think it's gone a bit overboard with all the bike lanes and all that," added another.

There are currently no protected North-South bike lanes in Vancouver's core between Hornby and Beatty streets.

The proposed Richards Street upgrade would connect False Creek to Gastown, an addition one sustainable transportation expert says is essential for the downtown core.

"I think it's a necessary connection," University of British Columbia professor Lawrence Frank said. "If you look at the cycling map of downtown, this is a missing link that needs to be added in order to complete it."

And the city's five-year transportation plan doesn't stop there.

It includes at least four more new or upgraded bike lanes in the area, one of which would go across the Granville Street Bridge.

"One of the projects that's going to be coming up in the next little while is looking at the Granville Bridge and how do we make walking and cycling over it safe and comfortable for everyone," Storer said.

The city said no decisions have been finalized for the Richards bike lane and consultations are ongoing.

If the upgrade is approved, construction will begin in 2019.

City staff would not tell CTV how much the project would cost.

With files from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure