Courtenay highly ranked among bike-friendly cities

A cyclist uses the Fitzgerald Avenue bike lane. File photo

A cyclist uses the Fitzgerald Avenue bike lane. File photo

An annual program that ranks cities in terms of cycling infrastructure/accessibility places Courtenay at number 77 out of 565 small cities in North America.

PeopleForBikes, in conjunction with Trek Bicycle, ranked a total of 1,058 cities of varying sizes. The program “highlights communities that embrace the bicycle as a tool for mobility, economic growth and recreation,” but it also suggests that most communities have not implemented simple changes to become bike-friendly.

“I think our rating is not so bad considering Courtenay was a bit late to the party,” Courtenay Coun. Wendy Morin said. “I can guarantee that our council wants to continually build out the cycling and multi-modal infrastructure. The more we improve on safety, the more people will get away from cars.”

Out of 85 large North American cities, Montreal is ranked number one and Vancouver number six. According to the study, there are more than 1,000 kilometres of bike lanes in Greater Montreal, roughly 40 per cent of which are segregated from cars.

Coun. Doug Hillian likes to think of the development of Courtenay’s cycling infrastructure in the context of traffic safety. He is pleased to see the city continues to work on pedestrian and cycling improvements such as crosswalks, intersection bulbing and bike lanes, while also working with the Transportation Ministry (MOTI) on motor vehicle issues such as the 17th Street Bridge intersection.

“Although some people still grumble about 5th Street (Complete Street project), I see it being well used every day and hear many positive comments,” Hillian said.

A discussion with staff acknowledged that the narrowing of the road has helped to slow traffic on that stretch of 5th, which was a Complete Street objective.

“Hopefully we can continue to improve our cycling infrastructure while also improve general mobility around the region,” Hillian said.

The city has obtained grant money for 17th and 5th streets, and hopefully the proposed 6th Street pedestrian bridge “will have similar success,” Hillian added.

During a staff update on the cycling network plan, council heard from a consultant that Courtenay’s progress on cycling infrastructure fares well compared to other B.C. cities of similar size.

The plan includes medium- and long-term plans for cycling infrastructure over the next 20 years and beyond. Council first adopted the plan in February 2019. Revisions were adopted later in the year based on public feedback. The plan has resulted in $227,655 in provincial funding through the BikeBC program for the Fitzgerald Cycling Corridor Project in West Courtenay, and the Hobson Neighbourhood Connector east of the river.

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