The town held an Ideas Fair on May 1, 2019 as part of their consultation process with the public for their Active Transportation Plan. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Town pushes forward with Active Transportation Plan, postpones Third Street bike lane

The Strategic Priority Committee made a number of recommendations at their June 2 meeting

As the temperature warms up and more people begin to venture ourdoors as COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, the Town of Smithers is looking at ways to enhance transportation options for residents in line with its Active Transportation Plan (ATP), finalized in December 2019.

At the June 2 meeting of their Standing Committee on Strategic Priorities the committee made a number of recommendations that will be passed forward to council for a final decision.

The committee is recommending the Town find a way to prioritize the re-establishment of the decommissioned Perimeter Trail section behind the Alpine Village Estates. In the final version of the ATP this “missing link” was highlighted as a major goal to improve connectivity.

“This gap, which is approximately 800m in length, results in uncomfortable cycling and walking conditions,” the report notes.

READ MORE: Town approves active transportation plan

They also recommended adding a north-south cycling spine on Main and King Streets that would section off a portion of the streets nearest to the curb for cyclists.

“The Town does not currently have a designated north-south cycling route, which results in cyclists having to take multiple routes to access a destination,” the ATP notes.

The ATP implementation of this new bike lane, which is shown as 1.8 metres wide — half the width of a car lane — will require the removal of on-street parking on both sides of King Street.

Members of council and the committee that voted in support of the measures said they will help to address connectivity issues in the area and significantly improve access to local destinations and cycling networks.

The committee also recommended that the Town postpone a plan to create a protected bike land on Third Avenue, from Queen Street to King Street, until 2021.

The ATP recommends the implementation of this protected lane — referring to a bike lane which is physically separated from vehicles and pedestrians — on Third Street between Queen and King as it notes research has found protected bike lanes are the safest kind of biking infrastructure and that the presently-existing sharrows can create a false sense of security for bikers and that on busier roads can actually be less safe than having no pavement markings at all.

In addition to the above resolutions, the committee also discussed a number of other elements highlighted by the ATP as beneficial that could still be implemented in the short-term.

These include developing a Bike Count program and improving safety at Highway 16 crossings. The ATP highlighted a number of issues with the King Street, Main Street, and Queen Street highway crossings, namely inconsistencies in crossing experiences, signals that were not loud enough and crossing times that were too short.

At the end of September, nearly four months after a Smithers resident was struck at Hwy 16 by a truck turning off Main Street onto the highway, the town upgraded a number of its highway crosswalks to timed signals.
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