May 11,2011 Tyee

Port Moody tackles suburban cycling plan

By Jamie Williams May 11, 2011 12:00 pm

Port Moody hopes to take its "City of the Arts" image and add a splash of green to it.

The project, called the Master Cycling Plan, could result in an integrated cycling network that stretches over 40 kilometres, running from the University of British Columbia all the way to downtown Coquitlam.

Public consultation begins in earnest on May 12 with an open house in Port Moody. The new system of cycling lanes would service the municipality as well as the entire region. Goals include: increasing overall municipal ridership, heightening environmental awareness and developing safe biking routes that connect to surrounding neighbourhoods, such as Burnaby, Coquitlam and Vancouver.

"This is really our first big step to go out into the public and show them where we think the route should be," said Port Moody transport engineer Jeff Moi. "We're trying to get connections between all of our neighbours and to Vancouver -- trying to have a complete east-west connection."

The initial strategy is to simply listen to what people have to say and figure out the best infrastructure plan. An online survey is also available on the city's website.

"Public consultation is key because it will really decide the entire project," said Moi.

Vancouver council member and key figure in the development of bike lanes in Metro Vancouver Geoff Meggs said that although consulting the public is important, how the city engages with its residents should be the real focus.

"I think it would've been good if (the City of Vancouver) could've emphasized to a wider public earlier how important it is to grow bike trips as part of the overall transportation infrastructure, so people understand why it was worthwhile to allocate space to cycling," said Meggs. "If you grow those trips, you save money on road investments, really supplement the transit system and produce a lot more really low cost travel.

"It's really worthwhile."

On the topic of infrastructure specifically, Meggs said focusing on development near transit systems is especially key.

"If I was living in Port Moody, I would see what could be done to make cycling effective alongside transit systems, so someone could get a bike trip to hopefully the Evergreen Line when it's built, whistle downtown or to the airport and use the bike at the other end," said Meggs.

In the end, though, each municipality is different and has its own cycling strategy. Meggs hopes that with Port Moody, a more connected bike plan can be implemented across all municipalities.

"What I would like to see is a stronger systemwide approach by Metro through Translink, so that we have an agreement across all municipalities about best practices," said Meggs. "If Port Moody comes up with a perfect solution to some of the problems we have in Vancouver, I'd like to implement it here."

Meggs said that although ridership is undoubtedly increasing in downtown Vancouver, safety issues around the separated bike lanes has slowed growth. The City of Vancouver will spend $125,000 on a study to look into claims that the lanes negatively impact business.

Thirty thousand residents live in Port Moody. Currently, 0.5 per cent of its commuters use a bike, in contrast to Vancouver's four per cent, according to the 2006 Canadian census.

The Master Cycling Plan open house takes place Thursday, May 12, between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. at City Hall Galleria, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody.