Can protected bike lanes get more kids cycling to school in Abbotsford?

Planners hope safer bike facilities can encourage pint-sized commuters to hit the road on two wheels

Abbotsford’s small number of pint-sized commuters represents a challenge and opportunity for transportation planners, a city committee heard this week.

With the city set to build a new north-south “bikeway” along Tims and Parkview streets that will link three different schools, Mike Kelly, the city’s senior transportation manager, said the initiative is one of a new breed of cycling projects aimed at ensuring young and casual riders feel safer on two wheels.

Many parents aren’t comfortable letting their younger children bike to school, Kelly said.

RELATED: New bikeway to link schools, rec centre and Discovery Trail with Abbotsford core

And a lack of riders mean that, if you look at local elementary schools, “There’s not a lot of bike racks in front of them.”

Kelly said transit planners hope to change that with new bike routes that are physically separated from motorized traffic. Those “all ages and abilities” (AAA) facilities go beyond the simple delineation of a bike lane on a road used by cars. In the case of the Tims/Parkview bikeway, that means creating a buffered route along rarely used residential street. Where a buffered lane isn’t practical, as on Charlotte Avenue between the Matsqui Recreation Centre and Discovery Trail, the city will cut the speed limit to 30 kilometres an hour.

Kelly told the city’s transportation advisory committee that even as work gets set to proceed on the new bikeway, staff are planning next year’s project. He said new bikeways will target areas with large numbers of potential users, with the goal of creating an integrated network in the years to come.

This year’s project will cost $600,000, with a provincial grant paying for half that sum.

Currently, just one per cent of Abbotsford’s commuters get to work by cycling. Ninety-one per cent use a motor vehicle.

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