Councillor Keith Page says the city’s new walking and biking routes should be given snow-clearing priority.
He emphasized that these are intended as routes for walking as well as biking and that he was referring to sidewalks as well as streets at Nelson City Council’s Jan. 21 meeting.
Page said clearing those streets early would indicate to the public that the city is serious about its walking and biking routes.
“If we are saying this an important priority, [we should be] making them comfortable in the winter for people to use, [by] getting out there and getting them cleared, inviting people out onto them.”
The city’s plan for a walking and biking route across the city to connect Fairview to Rosemont consists of three phases:
• Phase 1: a route along Third Street and High Street from the bridge to downtown (now complete),
• Phase 2: a route from the Highway 3 interchange to the Silver King campus of Selkirk College (now in the planning stages with completion expected by 2023), and
• Phase 3: a route that would cross downtown and Uphill to connect the other two (now in very early planning stages).
These plans are authorized by the city’s Active Transportation Plan. Active transportation refers to all non-motorized transportation including biking, walking and wheelchairs.
The city’s new snow clearing policy that came into place in November does not prioritize the active transportation routes for snow clearing.
Page said clearing those routes early in a snowfall would be a benefit to the residents living on those routes.
City planner Sebastien Arcand said such policies take time, with monitoring and adaptation, adding that city has to allow for the likelihood that there will never be much biking in the winter. Page responded that he was speaking as much about walking and sidewalks as about biking.
Page agreed that ongoing adjustments to transportation plans are necessary to deal with unintended consequences, citing a tendency for drivers to now use Third Street as a through street, thereby increasing its vehicle traffic because it no longer has stop signs since the implementation of the new route. Page said perhaps some of the stop signs should be restored on Third Street.
Mayor John Dooley said getting active transportation right will take time and ongoing adjustments.
“We are not building walking routes and biking routes in Vancouver, we are building them on the side of a mountain in a snow belt and there are difficult challenges that we face,” Dooley said. “This evolution of walking, cycling and sharing the road will take time.”
This discussion took place as part of an update by city planning staff on their current activities and plans for the upcoming year.