Activists push for bike lanes in Port Alberni

Port Alberni city council chambers were standing room only on Monday night as council voted to continue on with bike lane painting.

Cycle Aberni organizer Sarah Thomas cycles north in a new bike lane along 10th Avenue last week. Cycling advocates will be celebrating the new bike lanes on Friday

Port Alberni city council chambers were standing room only on Monday night as more than 80 residents and cycling advocates came out to show their support for the city’s bike lane initiative.

“A bike lane to a bike rider is like a crosswalk to a pedestrian. It’s really just white lines on the road but it gives everybody a safe indication to know where we can expect to see each other,” said longtime cyclist and Cycle Alberni member Bill Brown.

Council had originally put a halt to painting bike lanes last week, stating that they hadn’t received sufficient information from staff.

“I still want to see a proper plan and I don’t see one,” said Coun. Jack McLeman.

The bike lanes being painted currently were approved up to a cost of $50,000 by council as part of the city’s 2016 budget. A matching BikeBC grant leveraged another $50,000 for the project and was awarded several weeks ago. Painting began shortly after.

However, this isn’t the city’s first foray into bike route planning.

In 2013, city council commissioned the Active Transportation Plan.

The plan was completed and adopted by city council in mid-2014 and went to a public consultation session at Harbour Quay in August 2014.

Included within the plan was a proposed on-street bicycle network—the basis for a proposed bike route plan used in two community consultation sessions this winter.

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CAO Tim Pley’s report to council highlighted the city’s ongoing commitment to cycling infrastructure.

“We’ve been discussing bike lanes for a while. Bike lanes are cited in our Active Transportation Plan, our Official Community Plan and in our five year financial plan there is $50,000 budgeted this year,” said Pley.

According to Pley, the already painted bike lanes along Roger Street and 10th Avenue have cost the city $12,700.

“It’s not as simple as just painting a line because this is a first time installation. In the future, if we are re-painting existing lines it will be easier and less expensive.”

The city’s plan includes continuing the bike lanes up 10th Avenue to China Creek Road at a cost of $6,600, from the Gertrude Street bridge up to Roger Street at a cost of $15,000. The remainder, $60,000-65,000, will go towards a proposed off-street bike route along Stamp Avenue.

“Stamp Avenue is a challenge for cyclists, it’s a challenge for our community. On Stamp Avenue we envision developing a path off of the street,” said Pley.

“We don’t have enough money [in the $100,000] to do a path on both sides and we will try stretch that money as far as we can to at least get one side done and perhaps get work started on the other side.”

Other community organizations stepped up to the podium to offer their support for bike lanes.

“In the agenda today, the motion is to accept the [CAO’s] report. We’d like to see a little more action in implementing the Active Transportation Plan and for the city to resume painting the bike lanes,” said Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley president Jolleen Dick, adding that the city’s bike lane initiative coincides with the YPAV’s plans to install bike racks.

“We fundraised money last year to have bike racks in the Alberni Valley.”

Chair of the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition and Director of the BC Cycling Coalition Leo Boon praised the city’s Active Transportation Plan.

“I use your plan in some of my talks because the District of Bowser, where I sit on their stakeholder committee, is putting an active transportation plan. So great work there,” said Boon.

Boon challenged council and resident concerns that there aren’t enough cyclists in Port Alberni to make use of the new bike lanes.

“We don’t want bike lanes for the cyclists because they are already cycling. What your Active Transportation Plan is for is to get the 40 per cent of the population who wants to cycle but feels not safe, uncomfortable, whatever word you want to use. They’re just not happy with the way they get treated in the traffic mix,” said Boon.

Coun. Sharie Minion admitted that she was one of the 40 per cent.

“I’m the 40 per cent who loves to ride my bike but I don’t because I don’t feel comfortable on our roads,” Minions said.

“I think the bike lanes are a great start to getting more people out.”

Coun. Denis Sauve brought up safety concerns.

“All I see right now is scooters, electric wheelchairs and bikers using it not wearing helmets,” Sauve said.

“It’s nice to put the bike lanes is but the biggest thing is education. We have responsible cyclists in this community but the majority of the cyclists are ordinary people and we have to understand that we need to educate them.”

Coun. Dan Washington echoed Sauve’s concerns and added that drivers need education too.

“We really need to get the education out there. These lanes came up on Roger Street and drivers were going ‘what does it mean? What do we have to do?’”

Council passed a motion to have the bike lane painting continue and to initiate talks with the regional district regarding the connectivity of cycling routes throughout the region.

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