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Council strikes bike lane balance

Smithers town council has struck a balance in developing a bike lane across the community.

Smithers town council has struck a balance in developing a bike lane across the community.

At the regular Town of Smithers council meeting on July 9, a motion was approved to add markings and signage along Third Ave., from Montreal St. near Smithers Secondary School to 16th Ave., indicating the road as a shared biking lane and to reduce the speed limit from 50 to 30 km/h.

“I think it’s a real win-win for the people of Third Ave. who said speed was a real concern and for bicycle users who want a cross-town connector that’s safer than some of our other streets,” Mayor Taylor Bachrach said.

“This is an achievable first step and it’s a way of providing some safety.”

The idea of a bike lane on Third Ave. was proposed by the Bike Friendly Community Task Force, after the committee was formed on the direction of council, aiming to make Smithers more bicycle friendly and safer for cyclists.

A public meeting at the end of June discussed possible ways to achieve this, including having a dedicated bikes-only route along Third Ave.

Councillors listened to public feedback coming out of that meeting and decided on a cautious course of action.

A recent report on the project done by a traffic engineer at ICBC also supported council’s way of moving forward.

Bachrach said he saw the decision as a great step toward making Smithers more bicycle friendly.

“Ultimately, I think it’s a long-term vision and we don’t want to start out with something that polarizes the community beyond repair,” Bachrach said.

“I think that would ultimately undermine what’s possible.”

Third Ave. resident Lee Storie, who was an outspoken critic of the pilot project at the open house last month, said she felt council’s decision was a good compromise.

“I think at this particular time, it was a good decision they made,” she said.

One of Storie’s main concerns was the speed some people people travel along the roadway, which was addressed.

“Reducing the speed in town will make cyclists feel more confident riding along with cars,” said Storie.

Councillor Frank Wray said the town will have to work closely with the RCMP to make sure the new speed limit is adhered to.

“Without enforcement, this won’t mean anything so I think we definitely have to meet with [Smithers RCMP detachment commander] Staff Sgt. Marshall and indicate we would like this strictly enforced,” Wray said.

The next step in the process is to officially change the speed limit, by way of a bylaw. Bachrach said he expected this to be completed in the next few weeks.

In the 2013 budget, $13,000 was set aside to pay for street markings and signage associated with the town’s bike routes.