Terrace residents take council to task for safer active transportation

Cyclists, pedestrians press city to take action on past commitments

Terrace residents are asking the city to create a task force centered on safer active transportation.

Amy Klepetar and her son, Finlay Beedle, spoke to council in November about ongoing safety concerns about cycling in Terrace. The presentation follows an initiative taken on by Grade 9 students at Skeena Middle School back in June, when they spoke on current safety barriers to active transportation in the city.

Around 45 cyclists and supporters showed up to City Hall on a cold, rainy night to vocalize their support for safer infrastructure.

“I really encouraged the city to go out and make the [Active Transportation Plan] a living document,” Klepetar says.

First published in 2009, the city’s Active Transportation Plan is now approaching its 10-year anniversary next month. The plan outlines several city objectives and commitments, including better connection between Terrace and neighbouring communities, and reduction in conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists through design, signage and education.

“I think almost every single recommendation in that document still stands — there has been a little bit of progress made, like on Kalum Street and more bike racks around town, but as [Mayor Carol Leclerc] acknowledged after the presentation, they’ve gone after the low-hanging, cheaper fruit recommended in that,” Klepetar says.

The Nov. 12 presentation to council focused on two areas where cyclists feel the most unsafe, including crossing the CN rail tracks at Kenney and Hwy16 and the Lanfear Hill crossing. The Lanfear crossing in particular is said to have really short sightlines and no crosswalk, but sees a lot of traffic from kids biking to and from school.

“I went there last Friday and observed for 30 minutes and saw about 50 kids darting across in between traffic. The days are getting shorter, there’s more darkness, people are going so fast… I feel like it’s a matter of time before there’s an accident there,” Klepetar says.

With population growth from industrial development in the region, Klepetar says she emphasizes that an economic boom also means busier roads and increased truck traffic, making the Sande Overpass “more dangerous than ever” for cyclists to cross.

Biking across the rail tracks daily, she says when turning onto the overpass either from Keith Avenue or from Greig Avenue, cyclists end up in a no-man’s land situation where they have to wait for oncoming traffic before merging onto the road.

“For cyclists, really the only safe way to get across the tracks is a level rail crossing. The overpass is not safe — if you’re on the sidewalk you’re a danger to pedestrians who have a lawful right to be on the sidewalk, or if you go in traffic… there are no bike lanes, there’s a ton of merging going on, and it’s unsafe.”

After the presentation, the city outlined their current efforts to secure a $10 million federal and provincial infrastructure grant to fund the entire reconstruction of Lanfear Hill, which would widen the road to 10 metres to accommodate new traffic lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks.

Though with the federal election of last fall, there has been no confirmation as to whether or not the city will receive the funding they applied for to complete the “critical” upgrade.

Mayor Carol Leclerc thanked Klepetar for the presentation, recognizing the city has gone for the smaller line items within the active transportation plan.

But the cost of building a pedestrian overpass at $11.6 million and reconstructing Lanfear Hill at around $10 million are too expensive for the city to take on its own. However, the city has spoken about active transportation safety concerns to several provincial ministers, Leclerc says.

Coun. Sean Bujtas also spoke about the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance’s (RBA) ongoing work to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement with the province when it comes to multi-million dollar industrial projects, like LNG Canada’s facility in neighbouring Kitimat.

“This is exactly why we’ve been fighting with the provincial government to share revenues in the Northwest, because these are the kinds of projects that this money would go to start funding,” he says. “It didn’t fall on deaf ears when the students came, and it isn’t now.”

While she understands the current financial struggles the city faces, Klepetar says she believes the city can move forward on small improvements to make cycling safer in the short term.

“A bucket of paint and two flashing lights would go a long way to make that intersection a lot safer, and kids are going to cross there no matter what. If we could do something now without having to wait for this grant that may or may not come — it needs to come soon,” Klepetar says of Lanfear Hill.

Council referred the request to staff, who will look into what is required to establish an active transportation task force.

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