Work is still planned for the High Street shared bike lane this spring, but there could also be a protected bike lane created as well as a one-way traffic route on the street.
Delivering an update on the Active Transportation Plan caused a ripple of concern on city council on several fronts, including some questions on the primary bike route.
Coun. Cal Renwick said he knew the plan called for a dedicated bike lane to be created on High Street, but he still wasn’t sure what the effect would be.
“My personal thought … is that I keep looking at that and wondering where is it going to go, where is traffic going to flow?” he asked city senior planner Sebastien Arcand during a regular council meeting earlier this month.
The bottom line of the plan was a shared route between bicycles and vehicles, Arcand explained, and the city will continue work on the High Street portion this spring as soon as weather permits and should have it complete by July 1, depending on weather.
“It will include some traffic calming features, speed bumps and the closing of an intersection,” he said. “But we are not going to create a … one way or, at this point in the project, create a dedicated bike lane.”
High Street was approved as a shared roadway as long as, in reality, it meets the cycling needs of all ages and abilities, interjected Coun. Rik Logtenberg.
“If not, a separated or protected, bike lane would be created,” he said.
Logtenberg had further concerns surrounding nearby Willow Street, as it’s often been used as a shortcut off of High Street, and the continuance of that situation could be a problem for the primary bike route.
“It is that flow of traffic that worries me. Have we done anything to explore … what is the option for Cedar (Street) going back to two lanes to release some pressure on Willow, or potentially blocking Willow part time or looking at blocking it completely for all or part of the year?” he asked.
The city took baseline traffic counts last year in developing the plan, Arcand offered, and once the bike lane is created the city will revisit traffic data and see if it is diverting vehicles, which is the idea of adding speed bumps, noted Arcand.
“That might make it not so much of an alluring shortcut anymore,” he said.
“I think before we start tweaking things I would suggest giving this a shot and then looking at the data. The data will inform us if we should make any adjustments or not.”
Staying active with the plan
The Primary Bike Route concept was brought forward in the updated Active Transportation Implementation Plan — adopted by council in 2019 — to provide a “safe, comfortable and connected bike route that would link all the neighbourhoods together, provide access to key amenities and converge in the downtown.”
As a result, High Street corridor and Third Street were identified as the first phase of this project.
“It would provide a link between Fairview and the downtown and would also provide a connection to Lakeside Park,” Arcand said. “It needs to be simple and predictable and continual throughout the city and that’s where we are going with designing these.”
In early 2020 an infrastructure conceptual design report was completed by Urban Systems Ltd., providing an overview of existing conditions, a summary of design criteria, concept plans and the preferred option for each corridor with a class “D” cost estimate.
Arcand said the community consultation supported moving forward with the project. This was not surprising considering the city has the third highest use of active transportation in B.C.
“And that’s really what this is all about is trying to find that middle ground,” said Arcand. “We are not trying to design this for the strong and fearless who get out and cycle, but how do we get others on their bikes … and how do we really make them make the jump to commuting.”
Creating the path of least resistance
The consultant’s report recommends that, if High Street corridor remains a two-way street, it will be important that the Anderson Street and Nelson Avenue intersection be modified to reduce traffic volume.
The report recommends a full access closure for cars in and out of the High Street corridor.
“In the event that grant funding is not awarded, staff will review the design to see if there are interim measures that can be implemented at a reduced cost to continue with implementation of this project,” noted Arcand in his report to council.
Source: City of Nelson