The Town of Smithers is getting things rolling on its Active Transportation Plan (ATP)
A draft of the plan was released by the Town on Oct. 31.
It found that despite an overwhelming majority of Smithereens using cars as their main commuting option (67 per cent) the 18 per cent of the population who chose walking and five per cent who selected biking are both significantly higher than provincial averages at 6.8 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.
Residents tend to spend less distances commuting as well.
Seventy-eight per cent of Smithers commuters take less than 15 minutes to get to and from their destination, while 12 per cent take between 15 and 30, in contrast to provincial figures of 29 and 33 per cent, respectively.
In short, Smithereens bike and walk more than the provincial average, albeit often over shorter distances than the provincial average.
The results come from a number of different participants, including 165 survey respondents, 70 ideas fair attendees, 31 photo submissions and 12 stakeholders involved in the process.
Four overarching goals of the ATP were expressed including improving the safety and accessibility of all active transportation users, maximizing the convenience of Smithers’ active transportation network and fostering a climate of active transportation within the town.
“Smithers strives to support residents of all ages and abilities in choosing to travel by foot, bike and all other forms of active mobility to safely and efficiently get to where they need to go,” the report states.
“Our future network is safe, cohesive and enjoyable, regardless of the season. Active transportation connects Smithers’s local and rural residents and plays a foundational role in contributing to community health and overall quality of life.”
In addition to these stated goals, the draft identified a list of “the big five moves” the Town will take to jump-start the enhancement of its active transportation network: implementing a protected bicycle lane on Third Avenue from Queen Street to King Street; designating King-Main Street as the north-south cycling spine; addressing the missing link on Railway Avenue; developing a bike count program and improving safety at all Highway 16 crossings.
The ATP also involves a self-monitoring element and notes the Town will evaluate it on a regular basis through monitoring walking and cycling statistics as a share of the population’s transportation methods via StatsCan.
These initiatives would be done through proposed pedestrian and bike count programs and are recommended to be reviewed, along with a number of other metrics, every two years to gauge the plan’s success.
The report also highlighted a number of comments, both positive and negative, heard from the public in the various consultation processes.
At an ideas fair held downtown May 1, the team was available to answer questions from the public about the project, as well as provide a venue for residents to voice concerns or issues they have with the current active transportation network within the town.
Some key takeaways from that presentation were how the biggest community motivators for choosing active transportation include health, enjoyment and environmental consciousness.
The Town also heard that core areas to address in an overall network plan include accessibility, connectivity, convenience and safety.
“Transportation choices are limited for vulnerable populations that cannot drive, including school-aged children, seniors and those with mobility impairments and is especially heightened during the winter months,” the report found.
Ice and snow management was also listed as a major concern for many active transportation users in the winter months, with a strong connection made between winter maintenance and the ability of users to access active transportation infrastructure.
“Participants cited icy [and] slippery sidewalk conditions as a top barrier to walkers and narrowed lanes a top barrier for cyclists,” the report said.
“Some participants identified the winter potential to pack snow to encourage fat biking and cross-country skiing on the Perimeter Trail. Spring dust control due to excess gravel left on the shoulders was also identified as an area to be improved.”
In terms of funding and how recommendations from the ATP draft can be implemented, the report notes that while some of the funding is anticipated to come directly from the Town’s capital planning budget, the Province’s BikeBC Program, Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program and Green Municipal Fund are all potential sources of revenue for the program.
“Smithers’s first Action Transportation Plan is a forward-looking, ambitious-yet-achievable strategic document that will enhance the Town’s overall transportation network by offering Smithers residents greater transportation choice, comfort, convenience and safety when getting around town,” the report reads.
“Committing to the recommended actions will help the Town reduce GHG emissions, increase the safety and use of active modes, and increase rural connectivity.”