PUT the bike lane back on Keith Road: that's the message cyclists, including the victim of a nasty crash, want the District of North Vancouver to act on.
Sam Lupton was rear-ended by a car as he cycled west up Keith Road East at about 6: 45 p.m. on Aug. 14. The collision destroyed his bike and left Lupton with a banged-up right arm, chipped teeth and a head injury. The accident has left the father of two unable to work, drive or cycle, and his doctors have told him it will take several months to fully recover.
Lupton, a 39-year-old lawyer who lives in the Grand Boulevard neighbourhood and regularly bikes to work in Port Moody, said he's had "numerous close calls" on the uphill stretch of road, where there is little space between the curb and lane of cars.
"I've never liked that hill, and I've always been dismayed that they don't have a bike lane on it. . . . The difference in speed between you as a cyclist and the other vehicles is just astonishing," said Lupton.
A bike lane did briefly appear on Keith Road back in the fall of 2011. It replaced one of the westbound traffic lanes, and was part of a proposed lane change on the stretch between Brooksbank and Sutherland. The new road configuration was meant to improve a persistent speeding problem and provide a safer route for cyclists.
But neighbourhood residents complained that removing the lane slowed traffic and made it difficult to turn onto and off of Keith Road, and district council decided to reverse the change in October 2011. Much to the chagrin of cyclists like Antje Wahl, the bike lane was pulled out.
"I was actually almost rear-ended last year and I stopped using Keith Road because I just find it too dangerous," said Wahl, a 41-year-old forest products researcher.
After hearing of Lupton's accident, Wahl was inspired to start an online petition with two goals: put the bike lane back onto Keith Road, and improve cycling infrastructure throughout the District of North Vancouver. Along with Keith Road, there are whole areas of the district Wahl avoids biking, such as Lynn Valley.
"I've tried to see if it works by bike, and from my personal level of what I'm comfortable with," said Wahl. "If I'm too scared and I think it's too dangerous, I just don't use my bike there."
Wahl put her petition up on Aug. 24, and by Aug. 30 had reached her goal of 500 signatures. She now hopes to get 1,000 signatures and plans to present the petition to district council in early September.
The district is committed to putting in proper cycling infrastructure, but it takes time and money, said Coun. Roger Bassam.
"The arguments that are put forward by the cycling community are legitimate," said Bassam. "It's the direct route, they'd like it to be safe, it's just a matter of when is the appropriate time to put in that infrastructure."
Bassam would prefer to keep the two lanes of westbound traffic and create a separated lane for bikes on Keith, a much more expensive option but one which would add capacity overall.
In July, District of North Vancouver council decided to keep the lane configuration as-is on Keith Road for at least the next 18 months, as construction on Low Level Road is expected to add more traffic volume to Keith Road.
"The nature of the District of North Vancouver is, we are a carcentric community," said Bassam. "Despite the ability that we're going to have in our town centres to become much more friendly for walking and cycling, we still are a very sprawling geographic community."
In the meantime, Bassam advises cyclists to use other routes, like Fourth or Third Streets, which will likely add time to commutes but will keep riders safer.
"Right now we can give you safe routes, we can give you direct routes, but the direct safe route just isn't there yet," said Bassam.