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Burnaby cyclists want bike path changes

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Reported by Anna Tilley

willingdon-greenway-sketch
Willingdon Greenway shared pathway sketch, submitted by ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd.

A Burnaby cycling organization is urging the city to redesign a proposed 1.2-kilometre new greenway that it says is dangerous and likely to lead to cyclist-pedestrian collisions.

HUB Burnaby, the local branch of a non-profit organization that promotes cycling, voiced its criticism on the lack of a separated bike path in the Willingdon Avenue Greenway that will link Hastings Street and the Brentwood mall area.

HUB believes that a shared pathway system is an unsafe design, as it treats cyclists as pedestrians and in no way encourages cycling growth.

“Essentially just getting people to cycle out of the way of cars and putting them on sidewalks doesn’t work for increasing cycling,” said Moreno Zanotto, a HUB Burnaby member. “There won’t be any growth in the future if we continue this system.”

Zanotto said Burnaby’s approach with shared pathways is one of the reasons why the proportion of the city’s cycling trips has been stuck at 0.7 per cent for the last 30 years, while Vancouver has ten times the amount.

But Burnaby Coun. Anne Kang said that, while she appreciates the cyclists’ input, the city has designed the path to provide an enjoyable green park space, not as a fast-paced commuting route.

Cyclists will need to slow down

bc-parkway-shared-pathway-example-of-current-shared-path-in-burnaby
BC Parkway shared pathway – example of current shared path in Burnaby. Photo: Submitted by City of Burnaby

“If you specifically want that path from the Heights to Brentwood, then you’ll have to just share and really slow down and be cautious because there will be 13 blocks of people on playgrounds, people having zen time, and beautiful gardens designed for people to look at,” Kang said.

The Willingdon greenway, planned for 2017 construction, will be a linear park and active travel corridor along the east side of Willingdon Avenue connecting Brentwood Town Centre with Hastings Street and community amenities to the north. The design includes a four-metre-wide, mixed-use path.

Burnaby has approximately 70 kilometres of shared bike pathways on 15 routes, 50 kilometres with nine bike-only routes on quieter streets, and less than 10 kilometres of separated cyclist paths.

Concerns about collisions

The grade along Willingdon Avenue means cyclists will move at higher speeds, up to 40 kilometres an hour, say HUB representatives. That creates the possibility of a higher risk of collisions between bikers and pedestrians.

Another concern for HUB Burnaby was the city’s lack of community engagement.

“They didn’t consult with HUB Burnaby, they didn’t consult with the cycling community. They presented it at an open house, with a week before they posted a note on their website. That was the extent of their community engagement here,” Zanotto said. “We could have prevented a lot of these issues.”

Dylan Huang, an employee at Dandy Horse Cycles in Burnaby, rides the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver frequently and finds that separated isolated pathways in any city provides safety for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

“Not every cyclist knows how to control their bikes. If something were to happen on a separated bikeway, at least it wouldn’t be a collision between a fast, heavy bike versus a person on foot,” Huang said.

what-it-could-be-willingdon-greenway
The finalized shared pathway could look like this. Photo submitted by ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd

James Lota, Burnaby’s assistant director of engineering, said that while the city is taking the cyclists’ input into consideration towards the final design, the idea was to create more of a park rather than a transportation path.

“It’s more of a public realm, an enjoyable, living space,” Lota said.

Kang noted that there are other bike pathways cyclists can use, such as the North-South Bikeway, and another along Kensington that follows a north-south alignment connecting into east-west bike routes near city hall.

“One does exist, it’s just not the one that they want,” Kang said.

HUB Burnaby launched an online petition objecting to the design in early October with a goal of 100 signatures. It has 77 now. The group is planning to present the petition to the city and council in November.

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