Sidney’s draft active transportation plan could disrupt parking

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Sidney’s draft active transportation plan proposes 20 improvements for local sidewalks and nine for cycling over 10 years totaling between $7 and $9 million — improvements that could help fight climate change, but also cause conflict over parking.

The plan also proposes improvements to 12 local intersections totaling $250,000 to $300,000 over the the same time frame.

In short, close to $1 million per year could go toward improving active transportation in the community if every identified proposal were to be realized. These projects would be competing with other priorities for staff resources, money and ultimately political support, a point which staff made in an accompanying report.

It points out that Sidney currently lacks ongoing funding for active transportation improvements, thereby requiring new capital funding.

“It should be noted that this is an ambitious plan and, if adopted, will require new funding and strong political support to implement the proposed 10-year priority project plan,” it reads. “Although developing this (active transportation plan) is a (council) priority, implementing certain recommendations within the plan will no doubt result in negative feedback from some community members.”

One issue likely to generate such negative feedback is the issue of parking, a theme that emerged during Monday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, when Urban Systems presented the draft plan.

One example is the proposal for protected bike lanes separating cyclists from motorists for a 650-metre-long stretch of Fifth Street — a key north-south link connecting Sidney with the region through Lochside Drive — as it runs through downtown. This would impact the intersection of Fifth Avenue with Beacon Avenue, leading to the loss of 60 to 80 parking spots in the heart of downtown.

A second example concerns the proposal for east-west bike lanes along Bevan Avenue paralleling Beacon Avenue. The report predicts that it would lead to the loss of about 50 to 70 parking spaces.

The question of downtown parking has long vexed local decision makers in trying to balance the interests of downtown merchants, their staff, residents and visitors. Staff point that a parking study is currently underway with results due back in early 2023.

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The report also identifies a handful projects outside the proposed 10-year implementation window, including a continuous north-south cycling corridor that would connect the downtown core, schools and parks.

“Lochside Drive, Fifth Street, and Resthaven Drive is the preferred alignment, although considerable planning and funding is still required to balance impacts such as parking loss and changes in vehicle circulation,” it reads.

Within this context, the report includes a map that shows a protected bike lane running northbound along Resthaven Drive from Amelia Avenue to McDonald Park Road at the border with North Saanich, alongside the nine priorities.

Urban Systems actually produced a high-level cost estimate for such a corridor, but did not include in its draft. Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith later wondered whether it might be possible to produce a separate page detailing the proposals outside the 10-year-planning window.

Overall, the report received praise. Coun. Scott Garnett, a longtime mail carrier, said the proposed sidewalk improvements match his while Coun. Richard Novek praised its tangible aspects. But he also later lamented the lack of a implementation time-table, comments challenged by McNeil-Smith, who pointed to 2024 as a possible starting date for substantial improvements.

Councillors accepted the presentation, but did not vote on sending the report to the public for feedback in voting to pick up the issue again at the regular council meeting on Dec. 19.

Black Press has reached out to Sidney for additional comments and information about the potential impacts of parking and the would-be cost of a north-south cycling that would include Resthaven Drive.