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MOVE ON: North Shore cycling master plan suffers from municipality overload

Hard to plan safe and connected bike routes when dealing with three different local governments
29th street
The cycling infrastructure on 29th Street demonstrates the difficulty in co-ordinating routes on the North Shore, as the street falls right on the boundary between the city and district of North Vancouver. This photo was taken in June at the corner of 29th Street and Tempe Crescent. The project is awaiting completion by the city. photo Carli Sussman

It maybe doesn’t look like it, but we do have a bike network master plan on the North Shore.

It’s called the North Vancouver Bicycle Master Plan. The last version was minted in 2012. The plan outlines where bike lanes will be built when money and inclination can be mustered. What the program lacks is a prioritization schedule.

Throw in the fact that the three municipalities must co-ordinate their approach, and the result is, well, “spotty.” Spot improvements in all three towns have led to some excellent cycling facilities, but rarely does one “spot” join up to another to create continuous, safe bikeways. It’s not that staff don’t co-ordinate their efforts. 

Take, for example, the new bike lanes on 29th Street. This project was prompted by a District of North Vancouver safety review for people walking along 29th and crossing 29th. This street encouraged high vehicle speeds due to a lack of full stops, two lanes in each direction from Royal westbound, and a lack of deliberate traffic calming.

A lot was crammed onto this arterial: parking on both sides, sidewalks in some spots and a bus route to boot. For students attending École Boundary Elementary, the road presented a tricky and dangerous crossing. District staff identified that in addition to improvements for pedestrians, there could be improvements for people biking for transportation as well. Although the 2012 Bicycle Master Plan marks 29th as a route, it was by no means flagged as a priority among people who cycle. But district staff intelligently piggybacked the cycling lanes onto the project to improve safety for all road users. 

The 29th Street project led to one of the largest parking removals in the district, stimulating a bit of controversy along the way. There was that watershed moment when district Mayor Mike Little declared the need to move cars and other vehicles, including bicycles and buses, trumped private car storage. So awesome! 

Now we have a decent-ish bike facility from Lynn Valley Center up the hill to Tempe where the City of North Vancouver has jurisdiction. 

Here begins a tale of two cities. The boundary between the City of North Vancouver and the District happens to be 29th. The north side belongs to the district. The south side from Duchess west belongs to the city.

There was good co-operation between the two munis on the hill because although the south side of 29th from Duchess west belongs to the city, the district performed the work. From the top of the hill at Tempe, however, no improvements have been made by the city. Why? Because that route is not a priority for the city.

The rest of the route, which moves along Tempe and 27th to Lonsdale, will not be built anytime soon. I am not saying it should be either because there are other more critical priority bike routes. So whereas the 29th street route was not a cycling priority, the district fixed it for all users, including people on bikes. It now seems illogical that the route suddenly stops at Tempe. But now you know how it happens. This is one of the reasons why bike lanes stop and start across the North Shore, lacking the crucial ingredient for success: continuity

North Shore cycling advocates are calling on all three municipalities to prioritize segments in their purview to create three safe, continuous routes across the North Shore. The first is from Dundarave to Maplewood across the bottom (Main to Marine). The second is from Lonsdale Quay up to Lynn Valley Center (Harbour to Headwaters). The third is from Lynn Valley center to the Ironworker’s Memorial Second Narrows Crossing (Peak to Creek). These routes span all three municipalities. While there will eventually be more than three, the idea is to get the munis to concentrate on creating safe continuous bikeways as a starting point instead of creating spot improvements that lead to nowhere. 

It’s not that easy. Council in the district has directed staff to create safe bike routes between their town centers at Lynn Valley, Lynn Creek, Maplewood and Lions Gate. Parts of these routes could form portions of the proposed three safe, continuous bikeways. Parts of them won’t contribute. Which doesn’t mean they don’t form part of the bike network. Just that they will be spot(ty) improvements which may or may not contribute to safe, continuous bikeways.

Council in the city has directed staff to work on a midtown route, which could form part of the Quay to Lynn Valley route. The new First Street bikeway will form part of the Dundarave to Maplewood route. Heck only knows what is happening in West Vancouver. They don’t participate in the North Vancouver Bicycle Master Plan and have their own historical document from 2012 outlining where bike routes may be built. 

It’s almost enough to get a person thinking about amalgamating the three municipalities.

I said almost. 

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for more than 20 years. She’s looking at getting an e-bike and maybe a jetpack next.