Courtenay City Hall staff praised for measured approach to bike lanes

Staff at the City of Courtenay is focusing on doing things the right way — even if it takes longer — when it comes to proposed bike lanes on Fitzgerald Avenue.

A proposal for offset bike lanes along Fitzgerald Avenue between Second Street and 26th Street was presented to council in February.

Staff at the City of Courtenay is focusing on doing things the right way — even if it takes longer — when it comes to proposed bike lanes on Fitzgerald Avenue.

A proposal for offset bike lanes along Fitzgerald Avenue between Second Street and 26th Street was presented to council in February.

A public meeting was held in April, and in June, council agreed that the proposed cycling lane concept be subject to further refinement based upon input from the public open house and technical recommendations from a cycling consultant, according to a report from deputy municipal engineer Alan Hampshire, which council received last week.

Staff is reviewing the proposal for cycling infrastructure along Fitzgerald Avenue, according to Hampshire.

“I think one of the things that should be recognized in looking at Fitzgerald Avenue is it’s a retrofit design, which is inherently more complicated than a brand-new road,” he told council.

Since the June report to council, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has issued the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, and Courtenay staff is currently working with this document to refine the proposed Fitzgerald design, which will then be reviewed with the technical consultant, explained Hampshire.

“This refined design, together with recommendations from the cycling consultant, will inform the next set of cycling infrastructure proposals, which will be subject to further public comment,” he wrote in his report.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard was happy to see the plan moving forward in this way, for the sake of the neighbourhood and for cyclists.

“I really appreciate the thoughtful plan that’s in place continuing forward,” she said. “I know there’s been some resistance to it, and the opportunity to keep going back to the public, I think, is really important.”

Coun. Jon Ambler was also pleased with staff’s approach.

“When we first started discussing this many months ago, I made a comment — and I stick with it — that it’s a more complex problem than people first think,” he said. “I was taught to always beware simple solutions for complex problems.

“I appreciate what staff is doing; they’re basically looking at what are best practices, what’s worked elsewhere. It’s particularly important because if we get this wrong, if we set up a bike system there and it fails, then that’s going to have a negative and poisonous impact on all the things we try to do to change transportation here in the Comox Valley. But if we get it right, then it becomes the springboard to further such things.”

Coun. Manno Theos was heartened to see there would be meaningful public consultation, as he felt this could lead to finding compromises.

“Doing a retrofit on an existing road is much more complicated than just going from scratch, so I think we’re going about this in the right way because it’s very important to be sure our roads offer safe opportunities for everybody wanting to utilize those roads,” he said.

Coun. Doug Hillian wondered if this process could include the feasibility of a cycling/pedestrian bridge across the Courtenay River, which was proposed by Ed Schum of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition last week.

The city is providing staff time to look at some initial survey work, according to operational services director Kevin Lagan.

“We are moving forward at a staff level,” he said.

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