By David F. Rooney
They’re not about to become reality today but bike lanes will eventually be part of tomorrow’s traffic schemes.
The City moved a little closer to that during Tuesday’s Council meeting as both the Enhancement Committee and the Engineering and Public Works Department presented their views of how bike lanes could unfold.
Both presentations focused on bicycle lanes along Douglas, Third and Fourth Street. However, there are some problems. Most city streets are about 44 feet wide — not the 46 feet stipulated by the BC Ministry of Transportation. This means they are too narrow for exclusive-use lanes along their full length. And unless the City establishes designated bicycle routes along streets that fit the provincial criteria its bike-lane program will be ineligible for provincial funding.
The Enhancement Committee recommended the routes be located between the Big Eddy Bridge and the Fourth Street Bridge over the Illecillewaet. The Engineering and Public Works Department proposal suggested the routes could cross the Big Eddy Bridge, albeit not on the vehicular traffic deck and continue along Big Eddy Road (see the map below). Cyclists and motorists would share Fourth Street to the biker lane on Airport Way. Motorists would also be prohibited from passing cyclists on the bridge deck.
Toni Johnston, chairwoman of the Enhancement Committee, said Douglas, Third and Fourth Streets can accommodate one-way exclusive bike lanes but only if parking is restricted to one side of the street only.
Councillor Gary Starling noted that there “are already people who don’t have access to garages” and eliminating parking along one side of whole streets could be a problem for those homeowners who therefore rely on street-parking.
However, this could be made to work if the lanes were only in use between the months of April and October. Cyclists who insist on using their bikes during the winter would just have to take their chances, Mayor David Raven said.
Johnston said the committee identified three different kinds of cyclists: experts who tend to be confident, all-weather and often all-season users; utilitarian users — essentially commuters, shoppers, moms and dads pulling Burleys, and others who, if they lack confidence also cycle on sidewalks; and seniors and children.
What was went unstated was a clear need for a public education program for the many riders who have an absolute lack of road sense and the rules of the road. Many, many people ride on the wrong side of the road (i.e. they cycle along facing on-coming traffic as though they are pedestrians), turn corners without making signals (some even do so on the inside of moving vehicles that are themselves making clearly indicated turns), and many blow through stop signs as though they are invisible. That one of these individuals has not yet been killed is a miracle.
City is very interested in what the public has to say about this issue.
Click here to see an Engineering and Public Works Department map of its proposed bike routes. You can e-mail your comments on the proposed bicycle path to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or buttonhole a City Councillor.