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Causeway safety options under review

Ministry examining sidewalk changes after cyclist's death in May

CHANGES to make cycling the Stanley Park causeway safer for cyclists are being fast-tracked by the province after the fatal crash of a cyclist two months ago.

Cyclists lobbied for safety improvements after a 61-year-old woman from North Vancouver was killed May 25 after she fell off the sidewalk while riding her bike and was struck by a West Vancouver transit bus.

Following the accident, HUB, a cycling advocacy organization, created a petition demanding sidewalk improvements and gathered more than 600 signatures.

Now it appears those calls for change are prompting action.

Recently, B.C.'s Transportation Minister Todd Stone met with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Parks Board to discuss short and long term safety solutions for cyclists on the causeway.

"The tragedy that took place on the Stanley Park Causeway obviously gave us all pause," said Stone in public statements this week. "The Ministry of Transportation is absolutely committed to developing a plan for improvements."

Stone said those improvements could include barriers, sidewalk widening, and separate pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.

"Certainly, my instructions to my staff have been to expedite these discussions and make sure, in concert with the city of Vancouver and Vancouver Parks Board, that we're in a position to actually implement some improvements as soon as possible," he said. "The review our ministry undertook several weeks ago is very close to being done."

Antje Wahl, North Shore committee chairwoman for HUB, said her group is happy plans for the safety improvements are moving ahead.

Wahl said she is hoping the ministry will include some public input when they finalize changes.

"The number 1 priority is to have some kind of barrier between people on bikes and car traffic because there is just no room for error right now," she said. "The second thing is to then also separate pedestrians and cyclists because the current sidewalk is quite narrow and speed difference is so large."

Wahl said even having a bell on a bike does not work, as most pedestrians cannot hear them over the car traffic. "It's very difficult to communicate," said Wahl.

The results of the ministry's review will be released soon, said Stone, hopefully by the end of the summer. The ministry will be meeting again with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Parks Board to "review and discuss the options that have been identified," said Kate Trotter, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transportation.

"The review will look at multiple variables including effectiveness of each option, impact to environment and current infrastructure, constructability and cost."

The improvements could be an opportunity for the North Shore to get more people cycling from Stanley Park to the Spirit Trail, but signs and safer connections have to be made first, said Wahl.

"Right now the causeway is really a missing gap, and other routes leading to the bridge are not signed either and they're mostly not really safe," she said. "The issue is that there are more and more people riding their bike to work or wherever and there are more people using the causeway."

Wahl said it took the death of somebody to get the ministry to look at the causeway safety issues and the quicker they can make the changes the better.

"We just don't want something else to happen in the mean time," she said.