Rendering of a proposed bike lane along Front Street. (City of Nanaimo)

City of Nanaimo looking at closing two lanes of Front Street, adding bike lanes

City councillors to discuss $400,000 project at finance and audit committee meeting Oct. 16

Front Street in downtown Nanaimo could be reduced to two lanes to make way for a bike path sooner than planned.

At an upcoming finance and audit committee meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 16, Nanaimo councillors will vote on whether they should move the start date for a proposed $400,000 bike lane project in the city’s downtown from 2021 to 2020. Councillors will also debate and vote on whether to allocate $220,000 for various “public realm” improvements including purchasing a five-foot high 3D ‘Nanaimo’ sign for $10,000, installing decorative lighting and lasers on the Port Theatre for $10,000 and eliminating the right turn lane or “slip lane” at the Front Street and Commercial Street intersection at a cost of $1,000.

Decisions made by councillors during finance and audit committee meetings are considered recommendations. Councillors must approve all finance and audit committee recommendations during council meetings.

Front Street would be reduced from four lanes to two in order to make way for the bike lane. One northbound lane would become a dedicated bike lane that is somewhat separated from vehicle traffic while one southbound lane would be converted into on-street parking.

The bike lane is slated to be completed by 2021; however, staff are suggesting the project begin earlier to be completed by early 2020. Should council opt for the early start, designs would be ready by year’s end and construction would begin in the first quarter of next year, city documents show.

The proposal is part of a larger city initiative to expand and improve the bike lane network. It’s also part of a city plan dubbed the Downtown Cycling Loop project, which aims to create a “bike loop” around the downtown area, the staff report notes.

Jamie Rose, transportation manager for the city, said the Front Street bike lane will stretch from Cliff Street to the 1 Port Drive area. .

“That’s what we expect to be able to do for that price,” he said.

Rose said the Front Street bike lane fits within the city’s transportation master plan. He also said the city’s Downtown Cycling Loop project, once completed, will function similar to hub and spoke models by connecting to other bike lanes throughout the city.

“[The downtown bike loop] would link into all the different spokes of the hub,” Rose said. “Out to the university, north out to either central Nanaimo or Departure Bay, south to Chase River and other areas.”

Costs associated with the Downtown Cycling Loop project have yet to be determined, said Rose. 
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