The City of Nelson will apply for a $469,000 provincial government grant to create bike infrastructure in the city.
The estimated cost of the proposed project would be $670,000, with the city providing the difference of $201,000.
The proposed bike route would connect downtown with Fairview and Lakeside park via High Street and Third Street.
Components of the bike infrastructure plan could include bike lanes, shared bike routes, traffic calming options, recommended speeds, a signage and painting plan, and changes to intersections.
The proposed Third Street route from the bridge through Fairview would include curb extensions designed to reduce traffic speed. Third Street (parallel to Nelson Avenue and one block above it) is seen as a safer family bike route than Nelson Avenue, which would probably still be chosen by more experienced bikers.
The city is considering two options for High Street: either a one-way street with dedicated bike lane, or a two-way shared street with traffic calming measures.
Changes to the intersection at High Street and Anderson Street would allow the bike lane to progress from Third Street onto High Street.
In downtown Nelson there would be a covered bike shelter as well as the conversion of three stalls in the parkade to bike parking.
The provincial grant program supports active transportation (walking and biking) infrastructure in B.C. municipalities and its annual application deadline is Feb. 20.
So council decided last week to apply for the grant even though it hasn’t yet formally signed off on the plan, which is conceptual and incomplete.
The proposed changes came from a working group chaired by councillor Brittny Anderson that recently reviewed the city’s 2010 Active Transportation Plan and recommended council should prioritize cycling infrastructure over well-established pedestrian infrastructure.
That conclusion was influenced by the increasing prevalence of electric bikes in Nelson.
At the council meeting, Mayor John Dooley commented that the process seemed backwards: usually council will approve a project before applying for a grant.
“Is this project grant-driven or community-driven?” he asked.
City planner Sebastien Arcand agreed that it is driven by the grant deadline, but if the application is successful he said it will still be up to council to get public input and formally approve the plan or not.
Councillor Rik Logtenberg said cycling infrastructure is mandated in the Official Community Plan, which says that by 2040 active transportation should account for the largest share of local trips.
“We are going to need to do some work to achieve that,” he said.
Councillor Jesse Woodward said many people want to commute to work but “they are worried, they are waiting for that to blossom in our city.”
He said he hopes encouraging bike commuting will help parking problems downtown.
The working group that reviewed the Active Transportation Plan made four general findings that have driven this push for bike infrastructure:
• According to the 2016 census, the proportion of the population commuting by active transportation has remained stable at 30 per cent (25 per cent are pedestrians and five per cent are cyclists).
• The pedestrian infrastructure is well established. Focus should be on maintenance and upgrades.
• Cycling infrastructure is minimal. The plan should focus on increasing cycling infrastructure.
• Nelson has unique challenges due to topography and narrow streets. Any approach to active transportation infrastructure will need to be homegrown and adapted to our local context to be successful.