Powell River cycling infrastructure upgrades can proceed in diminished capacity

Even without provincial grant funding, there is work to be done

City of Powell River did not receive its provincial grant funding for the fifth phase of the city cycling plan, but work can still proceed on connecting Marine Avenue to the network.

City engineering technologist Brett Osualdini said the provincial grant, if allocated, would have covered 75 per cent of the total money for the complete phase-five plan. The city still has its 25 per cent commitment in reserve, drawn from the community works fund. The city had applied for a total commitment of $460,000 from BikeBC, with the city’s portion being $118,000, which is available for cycling improvements.

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“Of our 25 per cent that was allotted, we are hoping to use it for other improvements that will improve the bike lane,” said Osualdini. “I’m hoping part of it could deal with the issue that we are hoping to deal with as part of our phase five application, that being connecting the Willingdon Beach area to our existing cycling network on Joyce Avenue, and ultimately to Manson Avenue and the rest of it.”

Osualdini said the work for the city would potentially include a gravel path through the forested area behind Powell River Historical Museum and Archives, connecting Abbotsford Street to the Willingdon Beach area.

“That’s where I am hoping to spend part of the money,” said Osualdini.

Other items outside of what the city applied for in phase five would be great to expend the funds on as well, said Osualdini. These items include: improving paths; painting and signage on cycling lanes; public consultation; as well as education. That would be great to do because the public has its opinion on where it would like to see bike lanes and where they wouldn’t like to see bike lanes, he added.

“Hearing from the taxpayers would be great, as well as educating, so, for example, kids are not riding on the wrong side of the road,” said Osualdini.

The cycling plan the city created years ago paved the way for where the city has been putting all of its cycling infrastructure. Because the cycling plan was created a few years ago, it can use some updating as well.

There are more phases in the cycling plan than what the city currently has developed. The plan shows a network throughout Powell River and the city has phased the development for what it can expend.

“We piece it out so we are not spending millions of dollars on one phase,” said Osualdini.

What the city is looking to achieve with this next phase is to achieve connections to the existing infrastructure.

“The city has connected Westview, Cranberry and the Townsite, but there is a lot of traffic along the highway and bringing those people from the highway to the city’s bike lane infrastructure is something that I think everyone can support,” said Osualdini. “It doesn’t have any impact to any parking or any businesses along the way, other than just improving traffic through the Willingdon Beach tourism area.”

Osualdini said he anticipates the city will apply for more provincial funding in the future to complete the fifth phase and beyond.

He said with the BC Bike Race coming through the Willingdon Beach area each year, it would be beneficial for Powell River to complete the route from the beach up through to the Joyce Avenue area.

Osualdini said it is hoped the city can get going on the improvements this year. He said Powell River Cycling Association has been great to work with on the cycling network. The group has helped with the city’s consultation with the cycling community, he added.

“It gives us perspective on the cycling community’s needs and what they are hoping to achieve,” said Osualdini. “Just like the city and other levels of government, they are hoping to push more active transportation. It’s almost a buzz word but it’s what we are trying to achieve. Luckily, the provincial government is putting out these grant programs to help that.”

Osualdini said the city would not have been able to build as extensive of a cycling network without assistance from the province. As the grants come up the city will continue to apply for them, he added.

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