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Active transportation in spotlight at City of Powell River meeting

Changes to sustainable official community plan recommended
BYLAW AMENDMENT: Alterations to the City of Powell River sustainable official community plan are being recommended to more fully address work done by the province and the city regarding active transportation, such as biking and walking.

City council will consider amendments to the sustainable official community plan bylaw to more fully incorporate active transportation.

Manager of planning services Daniella Fergusson, at the January 18 committee of the whole meeting, said the purpose of her presentation to councillors was to talk about City of Powell River sustainable official community plan (SOCP) bylaw amendment for active transportation.

Fergusson said in 2019, the provincial government published the BC Active Transportation Design Guide, which provided for new design standards for active transportation, including walking and biking infrastructure. She said in 2020, the city adopted the parks and trails master plan, followed by the bicycle network strategy in 2021. She said the provincial plan, along with the two local ones, work together to create a new vision regarding how active transportation could look in the community.

Fergusson said the bicycle network strategy came with some funding contingent on making a plan that could influence the SOCP.

“Staff are bringing forward some amendments to the plan to meet the spirit of the funding requirements,” said Fergusson.

“We’ve been doing engagement on active transportation since 2019. On the parks and trails master plan, we did extensive engagement over two years involving hundreds of people to inform the plan. The bicycle network strategy also had an extensive engagement process that collected more than 180 comments on a map about places where people feel unsafe cycling, plus 70 in-person engagements.”

Fergusson said council directed staff to do some early engagement, because this is an official community plan amendment, and the city is required to engage the public before going to a public hearing. A public information meeting was hosted on December 7, 2021, attended by five people, who were passionate about cycling in the community, she added.

“Members of the public who came were supportive of the direction we’re going and had a couple of ideas of things to add,” said Fergusson. “Staff also had some internal meetings with our infrastructure and parks colleagues. They did express some concerns that increasing the standard of active transportation infrastructure in the community would increase the amount of operational requirements of staff. Staff have not quantified what impact that might have on the budget but that is something that could be looked at in the future.”

Fergusson said in the SOCP, the recommendation is to change a section title from cycling network, trails and greenways, to active transportation. Staff recommend some changes to objectives and policies, and also, combining two previous maps in the SOCP into one.

The request for council is to consider giving the amendment bylaw first and second reading and directing staff to hold a public hearing, according to Fergusson.

Councillors support plan

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman offered thanks to all staff who had made input into the SOCP amendment.

“This has been quite a bit of work but it’s great to see these updates,” said Leishman. “I like amalgamating the two maps into one cohesive map because I never quite understood why there were two. I fully support this direction.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she thought it was amazing that city staff had made such progress on the SOCP and that she was in favour of everything proposed.

She asked if the plan proposes more safety for bicycles, such as bike corrals or places to lock up cycles.

“One of my biking friends says they don’t use their bike to go shopping because security is an issue,” said Elliott. “Is that part of the plan?”

Fergusson said the language in the SOCP had some language about end-of-trip facilities, which is planner jargon for where one puts their bike when they get to where they are going.

“We beefed that up a bit, especially for commercial level and family buildings, so there is not only outdoor parking, but some secure indoor parking,” said Fergusson. “We also note on our to-do list when it comes to looking at multifamily and commercial development permit guidelines, to really increase the requirements for safe overnight parking of bicycles or other mobility aids.”

Councillor Rob Southcott said as an avid cyclist, he rides everywhere, and is still locking his bike to trees and benches, and once in a while gets into trouble where he locks it. He said it is exciting to see the SOCP amendment and he is constantly appreciative of this developing plan and the promise for the future.

Councillors gave unanimous consent to forward the matter to council for consideration.