Nanaimo’s first two-way bike lanes protected from motor traffic by barriers are coming to Front Street as the city moves to make streets safer and more welcoming for all users.
Work is expected to begin this month and be finished by summer.
The number of vehicle lanes will be reduced to two from four, and new transit islands are being built along Front Street, which parallels the waterfront from the Gabriola ferry terminal to Maffeo Sutton Park.
“We want to double the amount of trips that have been taken by people walking and people using bikes by the year 2040,” Coun. Don Bonner said in an interview Friday.
“We need to build the safe infrastructure for people to get from point A to point B on a bike. So that’s why we are trying to connect these partially connected bike lanes into a grid, so that people can get pretty well anywhere in Nanaimo on a bike.”
New bike lanes will link to existing cycling lanes in the city. Eventually, the Front Street cycling lanes will be part of a route linking Maffeo Sutton Park to Vancouver Island University and downtown, Bonner said.
The goal of doubling the number of trips on foot and by bike — part of the city’s transportation master plan — could rise as a result of the Reimagine Nanaimo process now underway, which is looking at what the city could be in 20 years, Bonner said.
With many more e-bikes on the streets, the street changes will help improve safety for cyclists, said Bonner, who owns an electric bike.
“It’s just a great way to get around.”
A “complete streets” plan is also being developed on Metral Drive, which runs between Mostar Road and Aulds Road. Complete streets is a design approach that focuses on safe and comfortable travel by all users, whether walking, cycling, driving, riding public transit or making deliveries.
When that work is done, cyclists will be able to get from Woodgrove Centre to within three blocks of downtown, Bonner said.
The $1.2-million Front Street project has received $605,000 from the federal gas tax program. Windley Contracting Ltd. of Nanaimo was awarded the construction contract.
Construction was originally supposed to start last year, but was delayed because of COVID-19.
Plans include a new elevated crosswalk near the Nanaimo Law Courts and another new crosswalk near the temporary transit exchange. New on-street parking spaces will be placed on the west side, while the cycling lanes will be on the east, Bonner said.
Also coming is new asphalt paving, road markings and upgrades to electrical hardware at the signalized intersections.
The protected two-way cycle track was identified in the Nanaimo Downtown Mobility Hub project, aimed at developing an integrated downtown transportation network to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, commercial vehicles and private cars.