The District of Kitimat will spend $50,000 on developing a cycling network plan for the town.
Leisure Services director Martin Gould confirmed that the DoK had received a grant of $25,000 from the province’s BikeBC program, to which it will add $25,000 of its own money to develop the plan.
To encourage healthy living and to help address climate change, the provincial government invites applications from municipalities in the province for grants for cycling infrastructure projects through the BikeBC program.
BikeBC provides up to 50 per cent of the project costs, and up to 75 per cent for communities with a population under 15,000.
“The forthcoming cycling network plan forms part of the development of an upcoming Leisure Services transportation master plan and the continuing growth and evolution of the Official Community Plan and the future traffic plan,” said Gould.
“Quality leisure amenities and services are vital to Kitimat. Not only do they attract new families, but they are vital to support the health and well-being and, thus, the retention of existing residents.”
He said cycling networks improve the community by providing an attractive living environment that attracts business investment.
“This improves economic vitality, public safety and the overall health of the community,” he added.
The grant will go towards appointing a consulting firm to conduct two rounds of public and stakeholder engagement to understand local issues and identify potential solutions.
“This will include all citizens, industry, and stakeholders from the business community,” added Gould.
Through stakeholder engagement and development of a cycling network plan, the DoK intends providing a cycling network that prioritizes cyclists’ safety.
Gould identified a number of potential problem areas that would need to be addressed by the plan, including avoiding interaction between motorists and cyclists at driveways and intersections.
“The plan will also look at identifying areas that are good candidates for placement of cycling facilities, target speed limits and potential traffic calming along potential cycling paths and improved signage and the use of multi-use pathways versus dedicated bike pathways throughout the community,” said Gould.
The plan will also investigate the possibility of using buffered or protected bike lanes along main roadways where speeds limits are higher than 50 km/h.
“The District understands the importance of promoting cycling in the community,” added Gould.
He said after the Cycling Network Plan (CNP) the District will support the plan through a number of measures, including providing free educational programs for children and adults on cycling safety, improving cycling skills and maintenance of bicycles, developing programs for people with mobility issues that may be using wheelchairs or electric-assisted scooters or bicycles and producing bicycle route maps that can be offered at multiple municipal locations and the Kitimat visitors’ centre.
According to a Statistics Canada health report, nearly one-third of youth and just under two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.
“Cycling for leisure or transport is a valuable form of exercise. Cycling is also good for the environment; helping to alleviate road congestion and noise pollution and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” reads the report.
District of Kitimat councillor Lani Gibson said she hopes the grant serves as the first step towards developing a safe cycling network in Kitimat.
“I hear from a lot of residents that they would like to bike to work but don’t feel safe on the narrow shoulder. We have a great sidewalk system for walking, but in order to commute by bike you need an efficient route without a lot of crossings and curbs,” said Gibson.
She said the 2019 Bike to Work and School event was a huge success in Kitimat.
“I saw a lot of new cyclists, young and old, out getting fresh air and exercise while also saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully with a better network more people will make it part of their daily routine.”