Departure Bay Road is a scenic place to ride a bike and now it will be getting a dedicated cycling lane.
Nanaimo city council approved the project, along with two other active transportation projects in other parts of the city, at a special council meeting Monday. The city will reallocate $170,000 from other transportation projects to build the cycle lane on Departure Bay Road and a walking lane on Boxwood Road, and reduce speed, calm traffic and enhance intersections on Georgia Avenue.
Staff reported that Departure Bay Road isn’t wide enough for cycling lanes in both directions, but can accommodate one southbound cycle lane up the hill between Loat Street and Montrose Avenue.
Mayor Leonard Krog said the city will pay attention to how much the bike lane gets used, but said the idea is ‘if you build it, they will come.’
“You have to provide an infrastructure that is welcoming for people who are going to ride their … e-bikes or bicycles or ancient three-speeds, if that’s their choice,” he said.
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) July 14, 2020
The Boxwood Road walking lane will replace parking on the west side of that street between Tulsa Road and Dufferin Crescent.
A staff report noted that a parking study concluded that parking demand can still be accommodated in the area, but adds that “despite this information, when the community was surveyed, there was opposition to this project.” Krog asked if council should anticipate protest from businesses there, and city manager of transportation Jamie Rose acknowledged there is a risk of pushback.
Coun. Ian Thorpe was the only member of council to vote against the Departure Bay, Boxwood and Georgia roadway reallocation options.
“I support active transportation, but I always have the caveat that I do not support it at the expense of impeding vehicle traffic or reducing parking,” he said. “When we choke down roads, drivers just get more frustrated and take more chances.”
Other councillors supported the measures, with Coun. Don Bonner calling them “a great start” and Coun. Ben Geselbracht calling them “a great few initiatives to flex our active transportation muscles.”
Geselbracht said supporting active transportation requires funding active transportation.
“One of the biggest barriers to moving forward with active transportation and building infrastructure that’s going to get people to walk and cycle more is this perception that reallocating road space is a hassle and a disruption to drivers,” he said. “I think what we really need to do is start working on the process of actually creating proper infrastructure for active transportation and we’ll see that it’s going to make roads safer and more utilized by all users.”
The Departure Bay Road cycling lane will cost $40,000, the Boxwood Road walking lane will cost $45,000, and the Georgia Avenue improvements will cost $85,000. Rose said the money was previously allocated to Stewart Avenue complete streets design work, two transit shelters and a transit study delayed due to challenges around public engagement during the pandemic.
The vote was 7-1, with Coun. Sheryl Armstrong absent.