Sarnia began seeking public input this week on a plan to add a pair of bike lanes to Cathcart Boulevard, part of a larger expansion of cycling routes outlined in the city’s Transportation Master Plan.
The project, now its final design phase, includes a painted cycling lane on both the north and south side of Cathcart, between Colborne and Murphy roads. To accommodate them vehicle parking would be allowed only on the south side of Cathcart.
“There has been some definite resistance to losing parking,” said Clinton Harper, a transportation technologist for the city.
The reconfigured stretch of Cathcart would have a single lane of vehicle traffic in each direction. Loss of north side parking would create the space for bike lanes, Harper said.
If approved, the work could begin by late September.
It’s the first in a series of proposed changes under the Transportation Master Plan, which also calls for cycling lanes and improvements on Colborne Road, Vidal and Brock, the Howard Watson Nature Trail, and Wellington and Talfourd streets, Harper said.
Dick Felton serves on Bluewater Trails and is a CAN-BIKE instructor. The cycling advocate said the pilot project is a good start but the momentum must continue.
“Part of the problem with cycling lanes like this is they start nowhere and end nowhere. If it were to connect Canatara Park to the (Howard Watson Nature) Trail, that would be ideal.”
The locations of the proposed bike lanes, which originated in a presentation Felton made to city council, would eventually give cyclists full east-west and north-south access through the city.
A $7-million investment over 20 years would be needed to upgrade and add sidewalks missing on Sarnia’s arterial and collector roads, as well as more than 35 kilometres of bike lanes, consultants say.
A plan endorsed by council budgets $250,000 this year for bike trail development and sidewalk improvements.
Felton and other cycling advocates began calling for improvements following a series of bike-vehicle crashes.
Cyclists Dennis Ross and Gerald Plain were killed in collisions in 2011 and 2012.
Felton said better education and awareness is also needed for cyclists.
“Lanes do not give cyclers any special privileges. You still have to follow the rules of the road. A bicycle is a vehicle.”
Bike riders were at fault in more than 75% of collisions with motor vehicles since 2011, according to Sarnia Police.
Felton said one of the biggest misconceptions is that it’s safer to ride on the sidewalk. According to police stats, bikes on the sidewalk are at fault in the vast majority of collisions.
Last week, police were seeking witnesses to a July 29 collision at Northgate Plaza that sent a 34-year-old female cyclist to hospital. She had been riding on the sidewalk, police said.