Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast (TraC), an advocacy group for active transportation, is asking cyclists and pedestrians to contact the Town of Gibsons and urge them to defer building cycling and pedestrian lanes on Gibsons Way until a better design is developed.
The Town has received funding to replace aging water mains under Gibsons Way, and as part of the project they plan to construct a multi-use path from Seaview Road to Bals Lane, and then a bike lane and sidewalk from Bals Lane to North Road. If the process goes as scheduled, construction will occur from August to October.
TraC wrote to Mayor and Council on June 19 to express concern about the road redesign, which provides an uphill bike lane, but requires bikes to share a lane with vehicle traffic going downhill. TraC member Jody Schick attended Council on June 20 to raise the issue.
“I know that this plan is developing rapidly because of timelines for getting work done in the summer and completion by grant deadlines, but I am concerned that we’re spending an awful lot of money on a plan which has potential to deliver great benefits to cyclists but without consultation,” said Schick.
Mayor Wayne Rowe agreed that the Town is working on a tight timeline, but noted: “This particular project has been part of submissions several times for grant applications over the last ten years and it’s only now that we’re perhaps able to do something, so it hasn’t been something that’s just suddenly popped up at the last minute.”
However, Schick, in a later interview, contends that the design has always been problematic, and that the Town was turned down for a provincial grant in 2009 because of it. “The main reason for not funding this project was that lack of any provision for cyclists travelling down hill, which would likely result in people cycling the wrong way in the up-hill lane.”
In their letter to Council, TraC urged the Town to solicit public input in the planning process before designs are finalized.
“Gibsons Way is the primary transportation corridor connecting Upper and Lower Gibsons, so it’s crucial that its design accommodates all road users,” said the letter.
“This is a route used by trucks and buses. Children cannot ‘share the road’ with these vehicles especially when going downhill and negotiating tight corners. We would like councillors to think of eight year olds who they know, then to imagine a route that they would feel safe sending these children to cycle on.”
Following the council meeting, members of TraC met with Town of Gibsons staff and then wrote to council again, asking them to postpone cycling and pedestrian improvements until 2018 so that a plan can be developed that provides safe bike and foot travel in both directions.
“We know that construction on the water mains has already begun but we just can’t support the plan that the Town staff showed to us,” said TraC director Nick Smith. “It doesn’t make sense to give kids a safe route to get to school then expect them to ride in front of trucks and buses on the way home.”
“We are asking cyclists and pedestrians in Gibsons to contact the mayor as well as individual councillors to express their concerns.”