The draft of Sidney’s active transportation plan will be back before Sidney council Monday. (Black Press File file photo)

The draft of Sidney’s active transportation plan will be back before Sidney council Monday. (Black Press File file photo)

Sidney CAO says public will learn more about parking issues in early 2023

Questions about parking have emerged after Sidney received draft active transportation plan

Sidney residents will learn more about the downtown parking stock and current use through a study likely to be released in early 2023, said the municipality’s chief administrative officer after questions about a draft active transportation plan.

“It is important to note that the cycling and pedestrian networks outlined in the draft plan have not been approved by council,” said Randy Humble. “At this time, (council) is determining whether the draft plan is ready to share with the public for community input.”

Council’s committee-of-the-whole received the draft plan Monday, but did not pass any recommendations around it in deferring future decisions to Monday’s regular council meeting. Staff has recommended sending it to public review.

While several councillors praised the plan for its detail and tangible recommendations – especially but not just proposed sidewalk improvements – questions emerged about the potential impacts of cycling improvements on on-street parking and cycling safety.

Beth Hurford of Urban Systems said during her presentation she could not answer questions about how the addition of cycling infrastructure could impact routes with already high-traffic volumes such as Fifth Street and Resthaven Drive – based on current knowledge.

“I can certainly understand that the reduction of street parking is a top consideration for the town, for the people reaching those amenities and for the business owners,” she said in responding to a question from Coun. Steve Duck. “I think that there are certain design features we could incorporate as far as parking pockets. (Generally) the most important consideration is that this shouldn’t be looked at in silos, that this is only a cycling project because generally these improvements are going to improve mobility for all users, but it is unlikely it is going to improve the storage situation for motor vehicles in that area.”

That is the biggest trade-off that the plan needs to consider, she added.

RELATED: Sidney’s draft active transportation plan could disrupt parking

Duck responded by saying he is not concerned about parking but the safety of cyclists, especially at intersections requiring left-hand turns, the most dangerous types.

Mayor McNeil-Smith, meanwhile, asked questions about the projected loss of 60 to 80 parking spots along Fifth Street (most of them in the downtown core) and 50 to 70 parking spots along Bevan Avenue, another commercial zone.

“I’m fully supportive of us at some point having to remove parking and providing safer routes for people using (bicycles) because, quite frankly, we don’t have enough room for all the cars and at our current growth rate, it will become an increasing challenge,” he said. “(But) is there any baseline available now on the number of cyclists using any of these corridors?”

He also asked whether the draft plan has a target.

“If we are going remove x-number of parking spaces … is there a target in terms of increasing cycling?”

Sidney staff said they will report the available data on cyclist usage collected over the last two years and Hurford said the draft plan recommends the collection of additional data as the plan rolls out.

Hurford’s point about trade-off also appears in Humble’s answer in response to questions about how and who would replace parking spots lost downtown.

“The development of new sidewalks and cycling infrastructure could impact vehicle parking and traffic flow in Sidney,” he said.

“The intent of the (active transportation plan) is not to replace parking loss, but rather to create balanced streets with space for all transportation modes and encourage mode shift — where possible — to active means.”

Humble also promised that the public would learn additional details about the the potential costs of a north-south cycling corridor along Resthaven Drive terminating at the border with North Saanich, one of four items in the report but outside its proposed 10-year-window.

The other three items described as Big Moves consist of enhancement to the streetscape of Beacon Avenue, enhancements to the Lochside Trail corridor and a grade-separate highway crossing at the intersection of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue. The intersection is one of the busiest in the region for motorists, but also pedestrians connecting the West Side of Sidney — an area slated for additional residential growth — with commercial and institutional including an elementary school on the east side of Sidney.

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