The Town has released the findings from its first set of public engagement and consultation regarding it’s Active Transportation Plan (ATP).
The initiative, launched this spring, is centred around public consultation on the best ways to improve Smithers “active transportation” infrastructure and make it easier for people using human-powered forms of transport (biking, walking, etc.) to get around.
After a period of public engagement, including a public “ideas fair” and a number of other community engagement opportunities, council received a report at their July 23 meeting from the consulting company hired to summarize the results they heard.
They found that, while people choose active transportation for a number of reasons, health, fitness and reducing their environmental impact were all listed as key motivators for people in the area.
The report also found that existing transportation infrastructure, such as trails and pre-existing bike lanes, are very well used and valued by residents.
However, it also found convenience, connectivity and safety are three issues residents felt needed to be addressed.
“Transportation choices are limited for vulnerable populations that cannot drive, including school-aged children, seniors and those with mobility impairments,” the findings read.
“[It] is especially heightened during the winter months.”
As part of a “photo-mapping” initiative, the Town also received 31 different submissions from citizens about areas in town they feel are either very good for active transportation or could use some upgrades to address the above or other issues.
One of those submissions from a resident referenced a section at Main Street facing northeast and the “sidewalk to nowhere” law.
“Alongside Boston Pizza is a nice sidewalk that dead-ends in a big ditch. I realize this is because of the off-site works developments required of Boston Pizza, however … the sidewalk ends and leaves pedestrians with nowhere to go,” the submission reads.
“It would be great if there was a crosswalk leading to the other side of Main St. that would connect to the existing sidewalk [as] it’s at a natural location for a crosswalk and would improve connectivity and safety in the area.”
Connection to outlying rural areas, including improved infrastructure and connection to pre-existing trail networks, was also listed as a key theme that residents would like to see addressed in an ATP.
“Suggestions included a direct access link to the Bluff Recreation Area, either via improved paved shoulder or pedestrian/cyclist CN overpass.”
Safety was also a concern, with participants identifying things like vehicle speeds and a lack of physically seperated bike paths as two expressed areas of concern.
“Numerous participants indicated the need for traffic calming infrastructure in the community and suggested strategies, such as speed bumps, reducing speed limits [and] ‘soft’ design elements such as street trees.”
Other topics that were frequently brought up were the need for a cycling route through Smithers along the Highway corridor and addressing slippery sidewalk conditions in the winter, which many cited as a major deterrent to active transportation along with narrowed street lanes due to snow buildup.
At the meeting, council said the consulting firm is working to draft an official ATP document which will include things such as an overview of active transportation in building communities, visions, principles and goals for the ATP.
An extensive overview of existing infrastructure and implementation structure will also be addressed.
Staff added the draft plan will be presented for community feedback at a mid-September open house.