The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition conducted a count of non-vehicle crossings over the 5th Street Bridge on two days in August. The group hopes its findings can support the decision-making process for an improved crossing of the Courtenay River.
A total of 1,900 non-vehicle downtown crossings were recorded on the Tuesday and the Saturday.
“These counts will likely double as population and mode share increase,” coalition member Gregg Strong said Sept. 16 at Courtenay council.
Just over half the crossings were pedestrians and 45 per cent cyclists.
“There was a clear user preference for crossing on the south side of the bridge. All sorts and all modes of crossers are heading in both directions on both sidewalks, all day long.”
There are a number of approach issues at both ends of the bridge, such as the stairs on the downtown side that are unmanageable for cyclists, scooters, strollers and those with a cane.
Strong also noted that 6th Street, a block to the south via Anderton, is designated to be a bike boulevard in the City’s medium-term cycling improvement priorities.
“Sixth will be THE corridor west, with connections onto the riverway and Fitzgerald bike lanes, opening endless possibilities for both a 5th Street or a Sixth Street crossing,” he said.
Council is in the process of deciding how best to repair the 5th Street Bridge while considering information and opinions about a possible pedestrian crossing at Sixth. Council has voted in favour of including cantilevers in bridge repairs, which would add $2 million to an estimated $6.3 million cost to recoat and renew the deck, and two months to an estimated six-month construction period. Estimates to build a 6th Street pedestrian bridge range from $2- to $4-million.
“Are there minimal improvements on the 5th sidewalk that would make it better without doing a full upgrade, were 6th to be chosen?” Strong said, noting drivers who choose not to share the road.
“Can we make the 5th Street Bridge roadway safe for cyclists? Where else do you see an arterial road that recommends cyclists to ride the middle of the road? The City already knows this is dangerous here. I’ve yet to hear police enforcing the single file rules when cars do pass…Our single file sign is just not working.”
The coalition requests a variation in signage to clarify to motorists not to pass cyclists on the bridge roadway.
“Some experienced cyclists continue to ride the roadway, but it’s not clear we can make things much safer,” Strong said. “That likely means we must come up with a design for cyclists to ride in separated lanes on the cantilever sidewalks, or on any 6th Street crossing.”
Coun. Manno Theos said a backward step can sometimes be taken in the zest to make things safer.
“We’re talking about a very small bridge,” Theos said. “We’re talking about a few seconds to dismount and walk across the bridge.”
He feels the three per cent of traffic comprised of cyclists will continue as such in the future.
“We might have more cyclists on the road, but there’s going to be much more vehicle traffic, as there has been. The last number of times I’ve been going 5th Street, once you pass the bridge, you’re entering into a danger zone. Once you spill into the traffic, you’re on your own. And that intensified traffic — it worries me tremendously.”
Strong feels that regardless of the option chosen, the standards that are brought in to manage multi-modal, non-vehicle traffic are going to be much safer.