HUB pushes for cycling network across Metro Vancouver region

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      Once, there was a time when one of Vancouver’s most influential cycling advocates felt trepidation about taking her bike on a main road. In an interview with the Georgia Straight in her office at HUB: Your Cycling Connection (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition), executive director Erin O’Melinn revealed that she primarily took her two-wheeler onto trails while growing up in Coquitlam.

      The thought of cycling on Lougheed Highway filled her with fear. “There was no way that I would ride on that road,” she recalled.

      Eventually, she signed up for a VACC cycling course, not knowing at the time if she was permitted to ride on sidewalks. Students practised on busier streets, boosting her confidence. “I never would have ventured out on my own,” O’Melinn admitted.

      Nowadays, O’Melinn is devoting her energy to making cycling safer across the region by trying to persuade provincial and municipal officials to create an integrated cycling network. She described Vancouver as the leader in looking at how cycling routes can be connected to enhance security.

      “Cycling happens to be the most affordable way of moving people beyond the one or two kilometres they can walk,” she notes. “It’s a great investment for them economically to get more people moving around for the least amount of money.”

      One of the most pressing issues in Vancouver, O’Melinn added, is the Stanley Park Causeway, where a 61-year-old woman was killed last year by a bus when her bike fell off the southbound sidewalk into the road. She said she’s pleased that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is working with the Vancouver park board and First Nations to create a barrier that will prevent this from happening again.

      O’Melinn explained that this is the only road connecting Vancouver to the western half of the North Shore. She also said that there are several factors that make this an especially dangerous area: fast-moving traffic, a higher-than-average sidewalk, poor lighting, and the fact that pedestrians share the sidewalk with cyclists moving in both directions.

      “It’s very loud,” she added. “If you’re trying to communicate with other users, they can’t hear you.”

      Another HUB priority is connecting the end of the Central Valley Greenway to the northeast sector. O’Melinn said that large numbers of people use this greenway because it’s relatively flat with few lights and it’s mostly separated from motor-vehicle traffic.

      “Then it gets to the edge of New Westminster and there’s no
      connection over to Coquitlam,” she stated. “There’s this big gap, which has been called the death trap of United Boulevard.”

      That’s been a long-standing concern of HUB, but it’s become even more pressing with the likelihood that improved cycling facilities over the Port Mann Bridge will be in place by the summer of 2015.

      “There is nothing that can take you east to connect you to the Poco Trail or any of the Mary Hill connections there,” she said.

      Meanwhile, HUB would also like cycling improvements between the Queensborough and Pattullo bridges. That would link this area with the B.C. Parkway, which goes through Burnaby and into Vancouver.

      Speaking of bridges, O’Melinn described the Pattullo as “very dangerous” for cyclists because they must share a narrow lane with pedestrians. The same problem plagued the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing for decades, but the provincial government is taking action there. “The sidewalks that are shared with bikes and pedestrians are being widened to allow people to pass on both sides, which is really important.”

      Unfortunately, connections on the north side of the Ironworkers bridge and the North Shore are not ideal, she added, in part because of a lack of good signage directing people as they cross between different municipalities. O’Melinn praised the City of North Vancouver for recently approving a plan to create a “triple-A all-ages and abilities cycling plan”.

      “They haven’t approved construction of any particular projects, but their cycling plan says: ‘Here’s the network; we want this to be accessible to all these people,’ ” she said. “That’s a really big and important step.”



      Alex T

      Mar 5, 2014 at 12:56pm

      <<The thought of cycling on Lougheed Highway filled her with fear. “There was no way that I would ride on that road,” she recalled.>>

      Has her class changed anything? I get that some places are worse, but Lougheed Highway is still pretty rotten. The cars are extremely fast, there's little separation, whenever cars need right turns the bike lanes just end leaving bikes to do what exactly, and the grating of the storm drains all go parallel with travel so if cyclists aren't careful they will get flipped into traffic. There are very good reasons to be nervous of cycling that road, and it's a "designated" bike path.

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      Mar 5, 2014 at 3:43pm

      @Alex T,

      I used to bike down Lougheed Highway from Mary Hill to Lougheed Mall (and back) every day for work about 5 years ago. I found that there was plenty of space on this stretch. The main problem that I had was the debris on the shoulder would give me frequent flats. It was annoying enough that I would often just bike over the hill instead. The road improvements in that area have probably impacted the usability since I last rode around there, but I'm not sure if it is better or worse.

      Now for Lougheed Highway from Coquitlam Centre to Mary Hill, the shoulder is far too small. I've biked that stretch once and won't do it again (I have biked through Riverview a bunch of times instead, which is far better).

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      Rollin Down The Highway

      Mar 6, 2014 at 8:49am

      Something about cycling on a thoroughfare dubbed a "highway" just strikes me as being a bit risky. Cycling on a raised sidewalk seems safer, unless you're a pedestrian. Falling off you bike into traffic is also not recommended as we found out with that one person last year. Makes me think, how many cyclists ride the causeway sidewalk/bike path each year? And how many fall off into traffic? Not many I would presume. So let's now spend millions making the path safer for the one in 10,000 cyclists that have a hard time keeping their balance. I've got a better idea, why not turn one of the causeway lanes into a dedicated bike path? Now there's a solution even Mayor Hoot Suite could get behind.

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      Mar 6, 2014 at 5:21pm

      "Cycling happens to be the most affordable way of moving people beyond the one or two kilometres they can walk"

      You think two kilometres (for reference: the Burrard bridge from Beach Ave to Chestnut St is one km) is the outer limit of a reasonable distance to walk in a city? No wonder you bikesters need your vehicles. Maybe someday you'll be fit enough for transportation walking!

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      Mar 7, 2014 at 2:20am

      Tell it to a motorist, most of them would never dream of walking more than one kilometer let alone two. It is the people that insist on driving everywhere, that you should worry about.

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      Mar 7, 2014 at 3:20pm

      Hats off to Erin. She has been an excellent advocate for bicyclists in the lower mainland. Those of us who appreciate safe cycling (BTW I walk, bike and drive a car) need to express ourselves to our local and provincial politicians. They certainly hear a lot from those who feel that it is their right to always drive their cars and to have that privilege subsidized.

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      Mar 7, 2014 at 5:25pm

      Donald made a strawcar! Let me tell you something; I've never had a car drive up to me on a sidewalk and expect me to get out of their way. Bikesters? They think us pedifolk are suppose to yield to them on the s'walk.

      It's vehicle culture in general-car culture, bike culture acolytes-that think walking as transportation is only for the poors and the pensioners. People fit enough to bike are fit enough to walk 45 minutes to brunch, for god's sake. You don't need to buy tools and equipment to get around your city. Or maybe buying the kit is the attraction....

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      Mar 9, 2014 at 11:06pm

      ya Walker
      Agree, not only do cyclists expect bipeds to get out of their way on sidewalks, they also expect it in crosswalks on a walk light. How dare the lowly peds hold up the royal cyclist for a fraction of a second - seconds count for the cyclist. I had a woman cyclist swear at me for walking through a cross walk with vehicles stopped. She didn't stop, barreled though and after almost clipping me had a few choice words to say over her shoulder. There is no more entitled group in Vancouver than the cyclist. I tell people new to the city: don't worry about vehicles, use common sense, they're mostly predictable. The cyclist though are completely unpredictable, using road, sidewalk, crosswalk, opposite side of the road, pedestrian path whatever. Just remember they come first. Don't ever get in their way be you child, elderly, cane user, walker, wheelchair, or dog.

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      Mar 11, 2014 at 4:02pm

      HUB is mostly on the right track but as several have pointed out, cyclists do have to watch out for a greener-than'-thou, entitlement attitude and HUB has to avoid endorsing any more hare-brained schemes like the Park Board's proposed bike freeway through Kits Beach and Hadden Parks greenspace. Fortunately the VPB saw the light on that one.

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