Cycling safety

Consultation for a plan for drivers and cyclists to share the road takes place at Echo Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 6-8 p.m.

Sarah Thomas and John Mayba preach awareness when it comes to cyclists using Port Alberni’s road system.

Do you cycle? A lot? A little? Have you not dusted off your bike since you were a kid?

Whatever the case may be, the City of Port Alberni wants your help in shaping the future of cycling.

“We’d like people with any interest in cycling or not to come out and learn more about cycling,” said city engineer Guy Cicon.

“You don’t have to be a cyclist to be interested in the event.”

The city, in partnership with Cycle Alberni, has already hosted a consultation session with cyclists within the community to begin to map out priorities.

That meeting, which was held at Char’s Landing in mid-January, had Cicon and engineering tech Eric Bruvall lay out options for cycling routes and bike lane design.

“What we’re trying to achieve now is a presence. Any presence that we can achieve right now is just going to lay the groundwork for more,” Cicon told the group of cyclists then.

Bruvall agreed.

“We do a small piece of infrastructure now, prove that it will be used, get the proper ridership counts and then in a few years go back to the province and ask for more money.”

Last year, the province doled out close to $12 million to fund cycling infrastructure as part of its BikeBC program.

This year, Cicon wants some of that money to come to Port Alberni.

He’s asking city council to pitch in $50,000 as matching funding against the BikeBC funding.

“I think that’s the best strategy because getting a few routes established is going to normalize it in everybody’s minds, that bikes are a form of transportation and get them used to sharing the road,” said Bill Brown, an avid Port Alberni cyclist.

Sharing the road is exactly what Cicon’s initial bike lane proposal is.

“Cycling is an important element in the community’s active transportation planning and bike lanes indicate the shared nature of the road right-of- way,” he said.

For John Mayba, who’s been cycling in Port Alberni for decades, getting a presence is key.

“I think that the biggest initial reason for doing it is to create more of an awareness,” he said. That awareness comes in two parts.

“For the cyclists, that there are places that they can look at cycling safety. For the rest of the residents, including the drivers, that there are going to be cyclists on the road and that cyclists have a place on the road in this community.”

Carving out that space for cyclists on the road is what Cicon is proposing to do.

He’s looking at two different options: bike lanes separated from the car lanes by lines of paint or shared bike  lanes designated by arrows (“sharrows”).

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“A sharrow lane is a situation where really there just isn’t a physical ability to maintain all of the lanes of traffic and add 1.8 metres for a bike lane,” said Cicon.

It involves a bike symbol and arrows painted one metre from the curb, said Bruvall, and is being proposed for Beaver Creek Road, Johnston Road, Gertrude Street, Stamp Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Redford Street, the 10th Avenue dip, upper Third Avenue, Kingsway Avenue and Burde Street.

While according to provincial cycling regulations cyclists do have the right to occupy one entire lane even without the sharrow, having one reminds drivers to be more careful.

“When you’re going down a narrow street and you have a painted bike in the middle of the lane, then the motorists will be aware too that it’s a shared roadway.”

The other option, proposed for River Road, Roger Street, 10th Avenue apart from the dip and lower Third Avenue, are separated bike lanes.

“We’re considering the separated, painted lane markings,” said Cicon. “You get a full cycle lane marked out, plus a door zone and allow parking.”

While Coun. Chris Alemany has, as council liaison to the food security and climate disruption committee, recommended protected bike lanes, Cicon said that’s unlikely to happen with the initial push.

“Separated bike lanes are lower cost,” he said, but added that he wouldn’t be opposed to protected bike lanes in the future.

Bike lanes have had their criticisms but Cycle Alberni member Sarah Thomas said that they’re a good start.

“Even if it’s just paint on the road, it’s an indication that there are people there so I don’t think it can be anything but a net benefit.”

Coun. Jack McLeman has spoken about his dislike of on-street bike lanes many times over the years.

“Bike lanes are a real great thing. The problem that I have with bike lanes here are that we don’t have a whole lot of bikers in Port Alberni and the other concern I’ve got is safety,” said McLeman.

“With bikes and parked cars and cars driving back and forth and a painted line on 10th Avenue… I just don’t want to kill someone.”

Cicon doesn’t agree.

“That’s contrary to what other communities are experiencing,” he said.”

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, the city and Cycle Alberni want your input.

“It’s very important for people to talk about where they cycle, what are the really great cycle routes, what works with cycling and how they might be able to bike more,” said Thomas.

Cycle Alberni: Pulse on Biking 2016 is being held at Echo Centre on Feb. 17 from 6-8 p.m. The event is free to the public and everyone, from walkers to motorists to cyclists, is encouraged to come out.

And while you’re headed that way, take a look at the side of the road on 10th Avenue between Roger Street and Wallace Street… you might just see the start of something new.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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