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Bicycle Network Plan spurs council debate

Cyclists rejoice; a proposed bike path was presented to council on Nov. 13 that would see an extensive upgrade to the current pathway system in Cochrane, but not all were sold on every detail of the plan.

Cyclists rejoice; a proposed bike path was presented to council on Nov. 13 that would see an extensive upgrade to the current pathway system in Cochrane, but not all were sold on every detail of the plan.

“What bothers me is that we didn’t have any public input in this,” said councillor Ivan Brooker, “and yet we’re all talking about this like it’s going to happen.”

Brian Patterson, an active transportation practice leader with Urban Systems, presented the Bicycle Network Plan to council.

The plan underscored several findings to council, highlighting what was seen as a need to expand Cochrane’s current off-street pathway system as well as incorporating on-street bike lanes to encourage increased use of the environmentally-friendly transportation option.

Research conducted by Urban Systems found that in Cochrane, 1.4 per cent of residents utilized a bicycle to get to and from work; this was higher than both the provincial and national averages and equal to Alberta’s two major cities.

Brooker’s main concern, however, with the plan was the intention of incorporating on-street cycle lanes on various existing and pending roads within the community, mainly because of what he perceived as problems that may arise from that venture.

“We’re talking about instituting this with future development of our roadways,” said Brooker, “and we haven’t had any consultation with the development industry on how that would affect them.”

On-street bike lanes proposed by Patterson to council included one between River Ave. and Mitford Middle School, running along Railway Street West, Glenbow Drive and Quigley Drive.

One of Brooker’s main concerns was the loss of street parking on Quigley for those who live in the area and for the influx of vehicles during church services, something Coun. Ivan Davies echoed.

“It would be a monster issue,” said Davies, making the declaration that Cochrane residents are ‘vehicle people,’ who often own numerous modes of transportation to accommodate their needs. This led to a rather satirical retort from Mayor Truper McBride.

“If only there was a solution to everyone having to own a vehicle,” he said, referring to the proposed transit system for Cochrane. “We’ll have to look into that.”

Additional on-street bicycle lanes being proposed in the Bicycle Network Plan are on Centre Ave., which would run through the future Quarry site; Grande Blvd. and along Griffin Rd.

Costs attached to implementing bike lanes on the on-street routes Patterson labeled as the highest priorities – Railway St., Quigley and Glenbow Dr., River Ave. and Grande Blvd. – would be $25,000 per kilometre, amounting to just under $150,000, which incorporates repainting the street where no roadwork is required. In areas where roadwork is needed, further studies would be required to determine the total cost.

Bike lanes are broken up into three different classes, the first of which being an off-street pathway system, which is considered the most desirable to all types of cyclists, from newcomers to experienced. Class two are on-street lanes, while class three is simply the use of the shoulder area of the street – the least desirable for those who are more timid on two wheels.

The Bicycle Network Plan also identified certain areas for the betterment of Cochrane’s current off-street pathway system, including short-term goals of paving, improving crossways and gaps in the system and providing more amenities along the pathway, such as benches and garbage bins.

Long-term goals include constructing additional pathways, more shortcuts across the Bow River, railway tracks and Highways 1A and 22, and creating what is called a ‘cycle super highway’ from Cochrane to Calgary.

The focus of the plan is to target those making short trips within the community – to school, downtown or the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.

Funding sources for the Bicycle Network Plan identified by Urban Systems would stem from provincial outlets such as Infrastructure Canada, Green Municipal Funds and other grant programs from Environment Canada. Municipalities can also look to the private sector, service clubs and advertising to raise funds.

Though Brooker did not support on-street bike lanes, he was fully behind off-street pathways, as were all members of council.

McBride assured council that the plan being presented to them by Urban Systems was not being brought forward for final approval, but rather as a starting block to move forward with a possible future plan once the public has had a chance to provide input and more avenues had been looked at.

“No one’s losing their parking,” he said. “This is just a public talking point.”