A group of UBCO students may have found a way for cars and cyclists to get along on the dangerous route to the campus.
Just before reading week, several committed commuter cyclists organized a rally, inviting dignitaries from all three levels of government and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to see the risks associated with riding to the school.
The students identified three requests they believe can provide a modicum of safety for those who want to save on gas and environmental emissions by riding in each morning.
“I was so excited because these young people have identified interim solutions on their own,” said Mayor Sharon Shepherd.
“…They seemed to be very aware that we do have long-term plans for the area and we are looking for solutions.”
Shepherd said she believes the students’ ideas could provide immediate improvements and operate as a test-case for highway issues around the province.
The group’s chief request is for something called an intelligence electronic sign, which operates off a switch and lets drivers know when there is a cyclist on the Ellison flyover leading into the campus.
It is the only route off the highway into the institution and is “extremely dangerous,” the mayor admitted.
“There’s just no room to move over,” she said, pointing out the shoulder is narrow and cars already can’t see a cyclist at the crest of the ramp.
The flyover was built with the understanding an off-road bike path onto the campus would run alongside the road below.
Despite funding from the city and province, however, the bike path has never materialized because The Canadian National Railway Company, which owns the lines, backed out of a commitment to extend the city’s Rails With Trails project from it’s current end at Clement Avenue and Spall Road to the university.
The funding was in place for this final stretch to UBC, which was to be the second constructed phase of the three-part project.
As a result, a strip of blacktop has been poured, but the documents needed to complete the job never signed—though the mayor is optimistic it will happen.
Shepherd said she has spoken with the company who leases the line, KnightHawk Rail Ltd., and believes she may be able to secure their support to work something out with CN.
“We actually brought a resolution to UBCM and FCM for access to rail lines across the country,” she said, indicating the city wants to get other municipalities across the province and country on board to build a powerful lobby.
In the meantime, the students have given MoT manager Murray Tekano the product number for the sign they want to see implemented, sourced from a New Zealand-based company, and the ministry’s highway engineering and safety group are assessing the product to see how it stacks up against similar signs available in North America.
Tekano said they are also looking into requests from the students to have the highway swept earlier in the season and more frequently to make the route easier to travel.
There is also a move afoot to check out how the bus system can accommodate more bikes on buses, according to the mayor.
Access to the campus via Glenmore remains before the courts as residents along the private road leading to the school do not want it used for commuting. The city and university contend there is an easement on the road, which allows cyclists and those on foot to access the campus.