Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)

City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Part of the Reimagine Nanaimo community planning process is imagining what active transportation will look like in the city’s future.

City councillors, at a governance and priorities committee meeting this week, received a progress report on the active transportation master plan, one of the documents being created as part of Reimagine Nanaimo.

The active transportation plan will overlap with the transportation master plan, but the city isn’t looking to “overhaul” that 2014 document, said Madeleine Koch, city planner.

“We do have the opportunity now to take a step back and look at how this plan has been serving us for the past seven or so years and if there’s any tweaks,” she said.

The transportation master plan set goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycle and public transit trips over a 25-year period. Coun. Ben Geselbracht suggested the active transportation planning process might be the right time to re-evaluate those targets.

“We’re not at a point of knowing how successful our strategy has been yet. We’re trying to extract that through this process,” responded Jamie Rose, the city’s manager of transportation, adding that the transportation master plan will be updated three or four years from now. “I think we’re looking at this more in the context of how can we adjust our strategies to better succeed in getting to those goals and then in three or four years’ time, then we’ll be able to revisit the goals themselves and see whether or not we’re actually succeeding in them.”

Koch added that the goals around walking, biking and bus trips might need to be adjusted if climate action planning suggests more aggressive targets are necessary.

READ ALSO: Active transportation plan coming, but it’s already a city priority

The transportation master plan identified some opportunities to add cycling infrastructure over the short term, and Koch pointed to progress being made.

“Even though it’s piece by piece, we’re slowly but surely building out this network and a lot of the people who we spoke to were understanding that this is a way that … seems to be working even if those gaps can be frustrating,” she said.

With active transportation projects, the city should be looking at what sorts of improvements can be built, whom they will impact and why they are being prioritized, Koch said.

“It doesn’t all have to be about infrastructure,” she added. “There’s also a big role to play with education, getting people out and using what we already have and learning how to do that safely.”

As part of its information-gathering related to the active transportation master plan, the city has held public engagement in person and virtually and has reached out to cyclists, trail users, skateboarders, neighbourhood associations, car-share groups, electric vehicle users and accessibility, environmental and reconciliation advocates.

The city contracted a third-party study on pedestrian projects, how they have been prioritized in the past in Nanaimo and how that compares with other jurisdictions and best practices. The city is also utilizing Strava cycle-trip data and is working with a university researcher who is studying cyclist stress and bikeability in Nanaimo. Streetlight data and maps of population demographics, socio-economics and walkability are some of the other research tools being used in crafting the active transportation plan.

The active transportation master plan was budgeted at $175,000 for 2020. The city’s chief administrative officer Jake Rudolph told councillors in November that the plan is anticipated to be completed for adoption by the end of 2021.

READ ALSO: Transportation plan could change city’s commutes


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