When groups and individuals come before Nelson City Council, it is usually because they want to ask for something (like funding), complain about something (like parking) or market themselves (here’s how great we are).
But the West Kootenay Cycling Coalition, formed last September, came to council on Feb. 25 with none of those reasons.
Their reason is they want to help.
“We are a new and energetic non-profit and we are your friend,” Anna Lamb-Yorski told council.
Helping Nelson implement its Active Transportation Plan is part of the coalition’s official mandate.
Active transportation means walking and biking. It also includes skateboards, wheelchairs, push scooters, cross country skis – anything human-powered.
City council adopted its plan in 2010 and it has lain dormant ever since. For several years it has appeared on the city’s monthly Action Items List, always pushed into the future.
The coalition wants to change that, and has suggested some ways it could help the city in the short term:
• Update the existing plan, and find some small, doable projects even while the update is being done.
• Come up with one or several cycling infrastructure projects with funding from Bike BC, which will fund up to 75 per cent of a project for communities with populations less than 15,000.
• The ParticipACTION Community Better challenge would give the city a chance to win $150,000 to use toward an active transport initiative. This is a project where community members download an app and it tracks all your active hours on a per capita basis.
• Promote a designated commuter cycle route. The 2010 plan already has some proposed routes.
“Try to come up with a designated cycle route and broadcast it to the community,” Lamb-Yorski said, “and they can have confidence that it will be in a certain condition and will be safe for them, and motorists will know it will be safe for them.”
She said designated routes would have priority for snow clearance, street sweeping and speed control.
The routes would provide long term linkage, for pedestrians as well as bikes, between the three neighbourhoods (Rosemont, Uphill, and Fairview) and the waterfront and downtown.
Lamb-Yorski said Nelson has never been especially promising for cycling, because of steep narrow streets, “but electric bikes have changed that.”
Sales of electric bikes worldwide are increasing, there were at least 118 sold in Nelson to local people in 2018 and they are a solution to Nelson’s steepness.
“Suddenly people in Uphill have an opportunity to bike to work.”
She said bike lanes could work in Nelson with the creation of some one-way streets with two-way bike lanes.
Nelson is a natural for active transportation, Lamb-Yorski said, because it is a dense urban area with some multi-use trails (Lakeside and the rail trail) and a community of active environmentally minded people.
She said the public health benefits and the environmental benefits of cycling are well documented, and it reduces congestion and noise.
“And within cycling also comes the solution to one of Nelsons most contentious problems, parking. Fewer cars on the road leaves more space for parking.”
Lamb-Yorski reported that in the 2016 census, 31 per cent of Nelsonites walked or biked to work, as compared with nine per cent province wide. Driving to work: 51 per cent of Nelson residents and 71 per cent province-wide.
The city’s Active Transportation Plan will be on the agenda for city council’s strategic priority setting sessions on April 12 and 13, at which they will decide on their priorities for the next four years.