City says new bike lanes will not block ferry overflow lane

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, November 27 2019

The City of Nanaimo is proposing to change Front Street so that the lane closest to the harbour will be a bidirectional bike lane; and the lane furthest from the harbour will be on-street parking.

This will reduce the four-lanes of road between Chapel and the Nanaimo Harbour terminal to two driving lanes.

Jamie Rose, Manager of Transportation for the  City of Nanaimo said the long term plan is for the bike lane to extend past the Nanaimo Harbour terminal  - but that won’t happen until BC Ferries does the redevelopment of the terminal. 

The bike lane, and other changes, are part of the City of Nanaimo’s Downtown Mobility Hub Project. When the bike lane goes in, there will be a physical barrier of some material between it and the northbound driving lane of Front Street.

Concerns from ferry users about the proposed bike lane came up recently when the City Council voted to fast track the bike lanes to be created in time for next spring and summer.

If the bike lane was to continue past the traffic lights at the exit of the Gabriola terminal - that would mean eliminating the vehicle lane where the overflow traffic from the terminal typically lines up.

Rose said, “what we’ve deemed to be the quick win will terminate near the Gabriola terminal.”

That means the ‘overflow’ lane will still be in place, until the terminal is redeveloped.

Rose said BC Ferries has been part of the stakeholder team and has been at the table for all the discussions around the changes being made to Front Street and the rest of downtown.

“Looking forward, the terminal plan does account for a cycling facility off-street, so the combination of that, plus the way they are reconfiguring the terminal, should allow for the linkage.”

He pointed to plans by BC Ferries to bring in new ships to increase the number of vehicles transported per hour - and the redevelopment of the terminal.

With those factors in place, the ‘new’ terminal should be able to accommodate all the BC Ferries customers without having to overflow into Front Street.

Rose said, “what they’ve [BC Ferries] identified as the plan for the ferry terminal is what we’re envisioning integrating into the system.

“The primary driver of this project that we’re going through is taking a holistic look at land use and mobility in the downtown core. Need to be complimentary.

“Walking, biking, transit, seaplanes, ferries, and whatever else we can reasonably think of at this time.”

He said those Gabriolans who cycle to work in Nanaimo should find the bike lanes as valuable as the city residents.

“The value this facility brings is a commuter-type facility linking Stewart Ave to Port Drive - it creates that continuity across the downtown.

“The second phase of the cycling upgrades for the rest of the downtown are planned for 2021.”

Rose said there will be traffic control (lights or signage) on the bike lanes where they cross through intersections.

The plans for the intersection at the Nanaimo ferry terminal have not been finalized.

Rose said the ones at Bastion and Church streets will have indicators for cyclists to follow.

The other item of interest from the City for ferry riders is the announcement that the Transit Exchange will be staying down at the waterfront area permanently.

Rose said the Transportation department is now committed to keeping the transit exchange in the vicinity of where it is now - adjacent to Port Place Mall - but that the current location and layout may not be what is done for the long term.

“We are still working on those details - fully expect there to be more consultation to get to that fine grain aspect.”