New routes, new facilities, and an educational program proposed
New routes, new facilities, and an educational program proposed
On June 2, the Whistler Cycling Committee (WCC) released the first draft of a comprehensive bicycle network plan that will make it easier and more convenient for Whistler visitors and residents to walk and pedal their way around town.
According to committee chair Keith Bennett, a member of the municipal planning department and the current president of WORCA (Whistler Off Road Cycling Association), public input will play a large role in the formation of the final plan.
"At this stage, we want to hear from everybody what do they like about the draft, what dont they like, what help we can offer people and businesses to get people into bicycle commuting," he says.
"We tried to be as comprehensive as we could in the draft to give people something to think about."
The draft includes plans to expand and link sections of the Valley Trail system, plans to widen highways wherever possible to include commuter lanes, and plans to provide end-of-trip facilities at the most commonly visited areas of Whistler.
Some of the highlights include:
New sections of Valley Trail and bike paths to link Lakeside, Wayside and Rainbow Parks, connecting with the existing Valley Trail from Alta Vista to Lakeside; Alpha Lake Park to Function Junction; Myrtle Philip Community School to Highway 99 north of Spruce Grove, connecting with a lane that connects Nesters to Meadow Park; Spruce Grove Park to the Valley Trail at Nicklaus North; and trails connecting the Whistler Creek Development to Bayshores and the highway heading south to Function Junction.
End of trip facilities for primary destinations of the Village, Function Junction, Spring Creek Community School, Whistler Creek, Myrtle Philip Community School, Meadow Park and Whistler Secondary.
Improved facilities at Rainbow Park, Upper Village, Lost Lake Park, Nesters and Spruce Grove.
The map contains dozens of smaller additions, all designed to improve the flow of bike traffic and to cut down on trip times and inconvenient detours.
While Bennett says it could take a decade to put all the various components of the plan into place, enlisting the co-operation of the key players now will ensure that bikes will be considered by agencies like the Ministry of Transportation and B.C. Rail when they build or upgrade their own networks.
"I dont believe that this plan is going to be so specific, but more of a set of guidelines," he says. "Well definitely have recommendations to make when a road is rebuilt, whether were looking at a wider shoulder, bikeways, bike lanes, shared roadways we dont think of the plan in terms of deadlines, but say if a road is being rebuilt, lets incorporate the guidelines weve developed in this plan."
B.C. Rail has already agreed to accommodate and assist with Valley Trail expansions, notably one expansion that will connect Whistler Creek to Rainbow Park.
"At lot of the other trail expansions will occur with the development of private lands," says Bennett. For example, the new real estate development on the lands that separate Lakeside and Wayside parks could include a section of trail that would take away the hilly valley trail section that links up with Nordic footbridge.
Bennett says that people who visited the WCC booth on Discovery Day were generally supportive of the plan, and those who had suggestions were free to add their ideas to the master map. Emerald Estates residents, for example, wanted stoplights or stop signs to allow them to cross the highway to better access the Valley Trail.
"For the most part people are very enthusiastic," says Bennett. "Lets just say weve done a good job of capturing those people who are commuting and we have definitely, especially with this publication, put out a fairly good piece that should attract everyones attention."
The booth also featured bike lockers that are already in use at government offices in Vancouver as part of their own transportation plans, and a selection different bike racks that can be installed in the bike rooms that businesses have started to offer their employees.
Along with the actual groundwork and the installation of end-of-trip facilities, Bennett recognizes that there is a third component to the plan that poses its biggest challenge: selling the public on the idea.
"What we have heard through one of our members who was involved in a cycling plan in Vancouver is that, statistically, of the people who say if you do this, this and this I will cycle to work, you should cut that number in half. Theres a difference between what people say they will do, and what they will actually do."
The final cycling network plan will include an education program, an encouragement program, and programs that will discourage people from taking their cars.
For example, because employers subsidize parking spaces by up to $10,000 a year, cycling commuters who dont use these spaces could receive a bonus; or, as a disincentive, drivers who dont car pool could be charged. Employers can offer their own end-of-trip facilities with lockers and showers, and businesses could install bike racks in plain view of staff so customers could feel their bikes were secure while they shopped.
There are hundreds of ideas in B.C. Transits Travel Options program, and within the Resort Municipality of Whistlers (RMOW) own Transportation Advisory Group report.
"The success of this program will depend on how well we do raising awareness, the success of our encouragement programs, the impact that pay parking might have, or more restrictive parking in and around the village basically whether we can push people, or rather nudge people, to take transit or use their bikes," says Bennett.
"It doesnt just mean going back and forth to your place of work, it also means that when youre shopping, or going to the village for recreation, or going to Lost Lake to sun tan, you dont need to drive there, just ride your bike."
The bicycle network plan will eventually be incorporated within the Official Community Plan. The committee, which includes members from the municipality, WORCA, Whistler-Blackcomb, and the community, is also mandated to: "Create a recreational cycling vision and a policy that supports and enhances Whistlers position as one of the Top Bike Towns in North America," and "Assist in the formation of a community group that will become a voice of cycling in Whistler after the Cycling Committee is disbanded".
The ultimate goals are to decrease automobile traffic in and around Whistler, to reduce vehicle emissions, to enhance the livability of Whistler through less traffic, and to promote fitness for Whistler residents.
Copies of the draft of the bicycle network plan are available and the Municipality, Myrtle Philip Community Centre and Meadow Park, and the survey will be handed out to students, businesses, and municipal workers. A copy will also be available online at www.whistlercycling.org, and you can send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bennett would like to have all public comments by early July, and table a revised draft by August or a second round of public input.
The final draft could be presented to council for adoption in September. In October, the WCC and the RMOW will apply to the Provincial Cycle Network Program for Funding.
Unless there are obstacles, the plan could become official by the end of the year, at which point the WCCs focus will shift from the transportation side of cycling to the recreational and mountain bike side.
"We will have to have a strong public process in place because I suspect well get attention from a lot further afar than we would with our commuter plan," says Bennett.