City council had a second debate about a new $1.3-million bike lane on Albert Street, but voted to keep it in the budget.
The project wasn’t a staff recommendation and wasn’t in the city’s project plans until 2026, but council voted to move it up the queue during financial planning meetings earlier this month.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, who hadn’t been in council chambers when the bike lane was added to the budget, asked for it to be brought back to the table for discussion at a meeting Monday. She said pedestrian improvements such as sidewalks and flashing lights at crosswalks are a higher priority for her and said she’d rather see safety upgrades on Lost Lake and Extension roads, as well.
Coun. Ian Thorpe agreed, saying he’d rather see the money put toward a number of smaller pedestrian improvement projects or safety upgrades at problem intersections for vehicles.
Thorpe said he’s heard a lot of opposition since a newspaper headline about a $1.3-million bike path, though Coun. Ben Geselbracht said he’s heard a lot of support for the project. Geselbracht argued that the Albert Street bike lane is about trying to build a minimum grid of active transportation.
“Not the maximum grid, not bike paths all over the place. The minimum grid to allow people to go from VIU to downtown to the hospital safely so that you don’t have to be Joe Kamikaze on the road and worry about [getting] hit,” he said.
Coun. Don Bonner described his challenges in cycling to Monday’s meeting and said if motorists had those sorts of challenges with their commutes, they’d be demonstrating outside city hall.
Coun. Zeni Maartman voted against the bike lane earlier this month, but said Monday that she was changing her vote. She said supporting pedestrian improvements and bike lanes “isn’t a matter of either-or, this is a matter of adding another one” and said she thinks e-bikes are the way of the future.
The $1.3-million bike lane had been originally pitched by Coun. Tyler Brown and he said the budget is council’s action document and budget decisions determine what kind of community Nanaimo wants to be.
“If you care about climate justice you have to fund the things that are not just plans and they’re not just positions,” he said. “It has to be hard infrastructure to drive real change. That’s what this is.”
Council voted 6-3 in favour of the bike lane with Thorpe, Armstrong and Coun. Jim Turley opposed.