Life in the bike lane
Thursday, August 20, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
by Bill Phillips
Perhaps it was just coincidence.
Perhaps they were just ahead of the game.
But, the morning after Coun. Jillian Merrick delivered a notice of motion to council about cracking down on motorists parking in bike lanes, city crews were out dutifully painting new ‘bike lane’ markers in along Ospika Boulevard and other streets. (Luckily they weren’t using the same outfit that did the street lines so I could actually recognize that the paint was to mark bike lanes.)
Merrick may get a stick in her spokes on this one. If the outcome is to start ticketing and/or towing soccer moms who park on Ospika to watch junior compete at Exhibition Park, or concert-goers coming out of CN Centre, there will be a firestorm not seen since the renaming of Fort George Park.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with reserving bike lanes for cyclists. However, it’s an issue that has to be handled properly.
Frankly, the city’s approach to cyclists has been a little chaotic in the past.
Take a look around the city.
Boundary Road, which cuts behind the airport, has bike lanes. Right now it goes through a wonderful forest, but if the area is ever developed to it’s dreamed of potential, it will go right through an industrial area. And the other problem is that cyclists don’t use Boundary Road. If you’re in town, you have to drive to get there and if you live out in the Blackburn area, you already have miles and miles of rural roads to cycle on.
Yet, there’s bike lines on Boundary Road.
One of the most heavily used cycle routes in the city, Otway Road, however doesn’t have a bike lane. This despite the fact that last year, and the year before, the city repaved Otway Road. It was done specifically for the 2015 Canada Winter Games, which was absolutely great, but it would have been nice if someone would have looked past 2015 and said “hey, cyclists are constantly using that road, we should put a bike lane in.” But, that wasn’t to be and cyclists share the road with regular traffic as well as an increased number of tandem-trucks coming from, and going to, two asphalt plants and two gravel pits.
One might easily argue that the cyclists should go somewhere else, due to the heavy industrial traffic, but the reality is Otway Road is a long, reasonably flat stretch of road that a lot of cyclists can get to from their backyard. In other words, they don’t have to pack up the bike and drive somewhere to go for a ride.
There’s room for everyone on Otway, or at least there would be if there was a bike lane and the city missed a golden opportunity to install a bike lane when they repaved the road for the Winter Games.
Then there’s North Nechako, where they did install bike lanes, but only after substantial lobbying from the cycling club. The original plan was to leave it narrow and let the cyclists fend for themselves.
I don’t have any problem with the city making sure bike lanes are for cyclists … as long as we don’t end up with motorists getting tickets for parking in bike lanes that cyclists never use and routes that cyclists actually do use being left off the ‘upgrade to bike lane’ list.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at email@example.com