Advocates renew calls for separated bike lanes after death of cyclist at North Vancouver intersection

District of North Vancouver Coun. Jordan Back says more separated bike lanes are needed across the municipality.  (Janella Hamilton/CBC News - image credit)
District of North Vancouver Coun. Jordan Back says more separated bike lanes are needed across the municipality. (Janella Hamilton/CBC News - image credit)

Cycling advocates in North Vancouver are calling for infrastructure improvements following the death of a cyclist at a busy intersection.

On March 6 at about 10:30 a.m., a North Vancouver resident was riding her bicycle along Lonsdale Avenue at 23rd Street when she collided with a commercial dump truck.

In a news release, RCMP said the woman was pronounced dead by medical personnel soon after the crash.

"Umpteen times I've been through that intersection and ... it's just not a good spot to be," said Will Schuurman, an experienced cyclist who said he tries to avoid the intersection, a busy stretch of road without a dedicated bike lane.

According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), 136 crashes have been reported at that intersection between 2017 and 2021, with the latest incident being the fourth fatality in the city since 2017.

Bob Putnam is another North Vancouver resident calling for more separated bike lanes on busy routes.

"It's part of being in a livable community to be able to get on your bike and not have to worry about getting killed," he said.

Janella Hamilton/CBC News
Janella Hamilton/CBC News

Putnam said the District of North Vancouver has been planning to install a protected bike lane on the Mount Seymour Parkway, a major road connecting the west side of North Vancouver to the east, for close to 15 years.

"I had a colleague who came into work one day. She was crying, she was an avid cyclist. She almost got taken out by a big truck along this very road."

'There should be 0 deaths'

Coun. Jordan Back with the District of North Vancouver said the dangers facing cyclists exist beyond the City of North Vancouver and into the district.

"There should be zero deaths as a result of cyclist-vehicle collisions," Back said. "We're not there yet."

He said the separated bike lane along 29th Street East, another major road, is one of only a few in the district, and more are needed.

He added many bike lanes in the district end abruptly and are not connected to a wider network.

"People that are riding bikes are some of the most vulnerable road users," Back said.

"And until they are separated from traffic in a safe and connected way, they will always be the ones who lose."

Janella Hamilton/CBC News
Janella Hamilton/CBC News

Earlier this week, district councillors Betty Forbes and Lisa Muri introduced a motion to remove the bike delineators on 29th Street East to bring back residential parking spaces, following complaints from residents.

District Coun. Catherine Pope claims staff has deferred several mobility transportation projects, including the Spirit Trail extension, from the draft budget with the goal of keeping property taxes low.

However, she added, they have heard from some residents who say they do not mind tax increases to fund cycling infrastructure.

"We've heard from people who have come out to speak to us at the public meetings say, I want you to increase my taxes so we can have amenities like bike lanes and the Spirit Trail."

Spirit Trail extension deferred

The Spirit Trail, first announced in 2007, is a 35-kilometre mixed-use pathway that will eventually connect Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Deep Cove on the eastern edge of North Vancouver.

"The centre section of that has been completed by the City of North Vancouver over the last number of years and is an amazing piece of infrastructure," said Stephen Lake with the non-profit HUB Cycling.

"It's really accessible for all ages and abilities, it's safe, protected from traffic. That development essentially ends once you enter the district."

Pope believes deferring the completion of trail's extension from the community of Maplewood, just outside the city's boundaries, to Deep Cove is the wrong move.

Lake said the only way to cycle east in North Vancouver is on major arterial highways, and the trail would be vital for safety.

Janella Hamilton/CBC News
Janella Hamilton/CBC News

"It's a harrowing experience as a cyclist. We've got no space, cars whizzing by you ... it's completely unsafe and I can't even imagine having our five-year-old on her bike, riding down those roads," said Lake.

An online petition started by Schuurman to fund the trail's completion has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

In a statement to CBC News, District Mayor Mike Little mentioned new funding from the province but that no decisions about the trail have been made yet.

"We also received news last week that the community will receive $10.2 million from the provincial government through the Growing Communities fund," the statement reads, referring to a fund designed to help local municipalities improve local roads, among other community infrastructure projects.

The district will start voting on the budget on Monday.