Proposed bike lane raises debate

The proposed bike lane stretches across most of the town, from Montreal St. near Smithers Secondary east to 16th Avenue by Canadian Tire.

A proposed Third Avenue bike lane pilot project met with mixed reactions during an open house held at Smithers town hall June 26.

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

Three options were proposed for the bike lane by the project’s consultant, who ultimately recommended having parking on only one side of the road in the residential areas to make room for the bike lanes.

The proposed bike lane stretches across most of the town, from Montreal St. near Smithers Secondary east to 16th Avenue by Canadian Tire.

Third Avenue residents seemed to be split on the whether the bike lane was the best solution.

Lee Storie, who lives across from the Smithers Civic Centre, said she rides her bike all over town and feels a bike lane is not necessary.

“Educating people first and reducing the speed on Third. Avenue is the most important thing,” she said.

“My feeling is, let’s reduce the speed on Third Avenue and let’s educate people,” Storie said.

“Let’s try that first.

“To put in bike lanes, to reduce the much-needed parking, I think that would be adding to the issues on Third Avenue.

“It’s a busy street.

Leslie Oliver lives on the other end of Third Avenue in the Willowvale subdivision.

Oliver, a self-described “timid cyclist,” said she would welcome a dedicated bike lane.

“I absolutely support the idea of having a special space for me to ride my bike that isn’t on the sidewalk,” Oliver said.

“If there was a dedicated bike lane in a highly visible space, like Third Avenue, it would open up a conversation in the community around bike safety.”

One thing receiving unanimous agreement was the need for education, of motorists and cyclists, about the rules of the road.

Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said the idea of a bike lane is seen as an affordable first step to increase the number of people riding their bikes in the community.

“The ultimate high-bar solutions for bicycles is not bike lanes,” Bachrach said.

“The ultimate solution is to have what they’re doing in Europe where they’re building separate bike lanes that are fully protected and separated from traffic.

“Then you see cycling rates explode… but we’re trying to start out with something that’s achievable.”

Comments from the open house are being summarized for presentation to town council at the July 9 meeting.

The report will be available on the town’s website, prior to the next council meeting.