New B-Line bus plans ignore bike lane safety

TransLink's new North Shore transit service will offer no significant improvement for cyclists

Cyclists ride in a protected, separated bike lane. Photo: Paul Krueger Flickr
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Reported by Roxanne Egan-Elliott

TransLink’s planned street changes to accommodate the new B-Line bus service in North Vancouver might marginally improve cycling in the city, but safe bike infrastructure remains nearly non-existent, say cycling advocates.

“The current infrastructure is not safe enough,” said Don Piercy, chair of the cycling advocacy group HUB North Shore. “If something goes wrong, someone driving, someone opening the door, the cyclist weaving a little bit, there’s no margin for error there. We need better infrastructure.”

Most of the planned B-Line route is currently along the same streets as an existing bike route. The cycling space is marked by either painted lines giving cyclists a small lane in which to ride, or by sharrows, meaning painted symbols on the road indicating that bikes can share the lane with vehicles.

North Vancouver residents have recently raised concerns about cycling safety in the city following the Jan. 27 death of a cyclist. A 55-year-old man was killed while riding in a bike lane on Esplanade Street, the main street that runs in front of the SeaBus terminal. The lane is marked by painted lines and is sandwiched between parked cars and moving traffic.

Police are still investigating, but witnesses said the man was forced to veer into traffic when someone in a parked car opened their door into the cyclist’s path.

North Vancouver lags behind

The most recent cyclist fatality was the third since July 2017 in the city of just over 50,000 people, and the second in under a year. By contrast, four cyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles in Vancouver from 2007 to 2012, according to City of Vancouver statistics. That’s an average of 0.7 cycling fatalities per year, compared to North Vancouver’s two deaths in the last year. According to ICBC estimates, an average of nine cyclists are killed in collisions each year on B.C. roads.

Martyn Schmoll, a cycling advocate based in North Vancouver, said the road construction planned by TransLink to accommodate the new bus service was an opportunity to resolve some of the safety issues.

“It’s hard to say whether a fatality like this shifts the winds of change, but I suspect not, based on previous history about how these things go,” said Schmoll, who is co-chair of North Shore Safe Routes Advocates, a group that lobbies for safe transportation.

Although the TransLink planning for the B-Line does add a couple of short sections of separated bike lanes that will improve safety, Schmoll said it’s a concern that the majority of the bike route will become a shared lane for bikes and buses.

“It’s never good to have people on bikes sharing space with trucks and cars, so I’m not in favour of any so-called infrastructure that puts those two people in the same space,” Schmoll said.

Piercy said that while HUB supports the new bus service, he thinks the city lags behind Vancouver in terms of safe spaces for cyclists.

“If you take a look at the infrastructure in North Vancouver compared to downtown Vancouver, they’re worlds apart. But are we making progress? Yes,” Piercy said.

‘It takes money’

Piercy said that, while the funding for the B-Line project is for bus infrastructure, and not a major push for bike lanes, TransLink has a program that offers 75-per-cent funding to municipalities to develop their bike network. The B-Line route corridor is part of that network. Piercy said HUB is working hard to get North Shore municipalities to take advantage of the money.

Schmoll is hopeful the council elected last October will make safe cycling infrastructure a priority.

“All of this stuff is skating around what we know we need to do,” Schmoll said, which, he said, is to take space from parking and drivers to create the space needed for safer cycling infrastructure.

North Vancouver city Coun. Tony Valente, who is also a former chair of HUB North Shore, said that he thinks the city has not moved quickly enough to implement adequate space for cyclists.

“Hopefully we can change that,” he said. He noted that the constraint is not just political will, but also financial.

“It takes money. It takes space. Who do you take that space from? It’s mostly parking that’s the thing that has to give way. Do you take away parking? That’s the tradeoff.”

 

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