Alternatives for Stamp Avenue pathway suggested

City of Port Alberni looking to stay within budget for cycling infrastructure

Some of the suggested routes for a multi-use path along Stamp Ave. SCREENSHOT

Some of the suggested routes for a multi-use path along Stamp Ave. SCREENSHOT

The city of Port Alberni is looking at other options for cycling infrastructure on one of its busiest roadways.

After receiving a $100,000 Bike BC grant for the Stamp Avenue project earlier this year, the city budgeted $200,000 to help pay for a separated, multi-use path along both sides of Stamp Avenue. The additional $100,000 came from the city’s Carbon Fund, which is a reserve fund established to support greenhouse gas reduction initiatives.

But, said director of development services Scott Smith, the costs turned out to be more than originally anticipated.

“It became clear once we got out there and looked at the available right of way we had, costs began to escalate,” said Smith during a Monday, Nov. 20 committee of the whole meeting.

A number of hydro poles, large trees, hydrants and other deterrents, especially on the west side of Stamp Avenue, made a pathway difficult. Smith said the cost got to more than an estimate of $1 million, so staff started looking at other options.

One of the options would be to just put a path on the east side of the road, by adding width to the sidewalk already in existence. Another option would be to eliminate a vehicle lane on the west side and use that space to put in a separated bike path.

“This is a significant change,” said Smith. “We’d need to have serious consideration before we went down there.”

Smith believed that both of these options could be done within budget, although staff would need to talk to BikeBC to find out if the grant would still be valid.

Most councillors agreed that the intersection at Roger Street and Stamp Avenue was a dangerous intersection for cyclists and pedestrians alike, and that something should be done so that cyclists could get from one side of the Avenue to the other.

Both Councillors Jack McLeman and Chris Alemany said that the painted bike lanes around the city are dangerous in some areas, and agreed with the idea of designating the path on the east side so cyclists and pedestrians can share it.

Alemany was also in favour of looking for a solution for the west side. He believed that it was possible to add a pathway without taking away a vehicle lane. “There is a ton of room on the roadway,” he pointed out.

Councillor Denis Sauvé disagreed with letting cyclists and pedestrians share the pathway. “I can tell you that the responsible cyclists are in the minority in this community,” he said. “Does it warrant us having to reconstruct a whole roadway to satisfy a minority of law-abiding cyclists? I know this community needs to start realizing that we’ve got to live within our own means and what we have budgeted.

A few representatives from Cycle Alberni were at the meeting to present their point of view.

Cyclist Bill Brown pointed out, “The purpose of divided bike lanes is to enable bike traffic in a predictable and consistent fashion. The process of putting bike lanes in and making them available and having people get used to them actually creates safer cyclists. I agree, the majority of us out there right now are riding unsafely.

He said that the best option would be protected bike lanes on both sides of the road, with easy access through the intersection in a predictable way.

“Perhaps a first step towards that is to start with a two-lane, divided multi-use path,” he said.

He clarified that the path would clearly delineate areas for cyclists and pedestrians, rather than mixing them.

Cyclist Charles Thomas said that the west side of Stamp Avenue is the more dangerous side of the road to ride on, especially the on-ramp from Victoria Quay, which becomes a bit of a “pinch point.”

After a bit of debate, the committee recommended that city staff look at the cost of an off-street path from Millstone Park to Stamp Avenue, merging onto an on-street path down Stamp Avenue.