A Terrace teacher has decided to turn safety for cyclists into an ongoing school project after finding some students felt unsafe during Bike to School week last May.
“They’d agree that most of Terrace is a safe place to ride a bike, but they have to go through certain areas on their route where they don’t feel safe,” said Trygve Sort, a Grade 9 Skeena Middle School teacher.
Eighty-two students and staff cycled 1,131-kilometres over the week from May 28 to June 3. Most students who cycle to school within the Horseshoe area felt safe, he said, but students who cycled in from the bench, Thornhill and from the southside part of town said safety was their biggest concern.
“They don’t feel safe coming down Kalum or Lanfear, they don’t feel safe coming in from Thornhill coming over the new bridge, and when they get over the old bridge, they don’t feel safe in the downtown core where they spray painted bicycle lanes.”
While painted lanes work in areas where there isn’t a lot of vehicle traffic, Sort argues they provide a false sense of security in areas where the speed limit is over 50-kilometres an hour. He said he’s been involved in a vehicle collision while biking himself twice in the past year, once on Lakelse Avenue.
“The kids going to school from the southside, there’s high traffic at that time,” Sort said. “They believe most of Terrace is safe, it’s just these places where they’re going where they now have to be put in unsafe places.”
Instead, he said he believes separated or protected bike lanes can help cyclists feel safer. He pointed to European cities like Copenhagen as an example, where a line of car parking spaces and the occasional tree create a makeshift barrier between the cyclists and cars.
“Usually in Europe, they have a sidewalk for the pedestrian and a sidewalk for the cyclist and then they have the road. Just in places where there’s high traffic and higher speeds. That’s where you start,” he said.
The city has made commitments to improve the current cycling network over the next 10 years in their 2016 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which includes filling in existing gaps in routes and building bike lanes annually as part of road projects. However, Sort said he would like to see a more specific approach.
Up until the next Bike to School week, Sort said his Grade 9 students will be mapping out the city’s bike routes with a plan to present what they’ve learned to city council next spring. With the project, Sort said he hopes to encourage more students to skip the bus and cycle to school instead.
“When kids get off their bikes in the morning, they’re upbeat and ready to go. When kids get off the bus, they’re still sleeping. Science knows that healthy body and oxygen to the brain [means] better learning goes on, you’re more alert.”