Construction of a controversial bike lane along 32 Avenue in Aldergrove has been given the green light by council.
On Monday evening (Dec. 12) Township council voted 6-3 in favour of continuing the project to install bike lanes along 32 Avenue from 264 Street to 276 Street, and up 276 Street from 32 Avenue to Fraser Highway, as part of the Five-Year Cycling Improvement Plan.
Councillors Kim Richter, Bob Long and David Davis were opposed.
The 32 Avenue connector is meant to be part of a regional cycling corridor that connects Surrey, Langley City, Langley Township and Abbotsford. The Aldergrove project is designed to allow cyclists to divert from the busy Fraser Highway by using 32 Avenue from Station Road to Highway 13.
However, many residents were outraged that the project would also require the removal of 110 on-street parking spots, and as a result, a 140-name petition was presented to council in July by Aldergrove resident Wade Rayner, asking that a public forum be held “to allow the voices of the taxpayers and voters that will be directly affected to be heard.”
That forum was held in September, and despite many residents voicing opposition, the majority of council agreed that the project should move ahead.
“To me, leadership is about providing what we need for right now but it’s also about looking into the future and looking at what we need down in the future,” said Coun. Blair Whitmarsh. “Cycling is an important part of our community and it needs to be enhanced and grown, and safe routes are critical.”
As Whitmarsh pointed out, according to the Township’s project update report, a parking survey showed that only 19 per cent of the 273 parking spaces available on 32 Avenue and 276 Street were being utilized. After the removal of spots for the bike lane project, staff predict the remaining parking spaces will have a 32 per cent utilization rate.
“We don’t need to provide that parking, we are not obligated to provide additional parking beyond what they (the residents) already get in their own homes,” Whitmarsh said.
“And so, for that matter, we should be moving straight ahead. It’s crazy that we’re back here discussing it. And we should be moving quickly to get this done as quickly as possible.”
“I really agree with the idea that we are trying to be leaders, looking at our community in the future, so we do have to have a vision,” Coun. Petrina Arnason added.
“I think there’s been a lot of work and, honestly, I really appreciate the feedback from the community members because they do live there, it is important that we consider that. But our job is to balance interests.”
Other members of council said that 29 Avenue, as suggested by several of the opposing residents, would be a better route.
“I attended that open house and the residents in the area are not opposed to cycling. They are really much keener on having it down where the high school is, and the library is, and the skate park is, and where the new pool will be. And I think they’ve got a very valid point,” Coun. Kim Richter said.
“I just think we should be listening to the residents of the area. It’s their home, it’s their neighbourhood, and I trust their opinion when they say that it should be down on 29th not on 32nd.”
“If you cycle down that street (32 Avenue) you have no problem negotiating that road and navigating through there because it’s a big, wide, straight road,” said Coun. Bob Long.
“(Bike lanes are) not required on 32 Avenue, it’s a waste of money to go there. It doesn’t even connect on either end, it should be located to the south of Fraser Highway to service far more of our facilities and I think it makes much more sense on the south side.”
Prior to council’s vote, members of the Langley chapter of HUB Cycling spoke to council, asking for their support on the project.
“Improving transportation cycling in the Township of Langley is not exclusively about bicycles, but it is about how bicycles are a tool for achieving additional city goals,” said Stanley Yntema, a HUB Cycling member.
“This vision for better multi-modal transportation bicycling infrastructure can be realized more fully to a commitment not only to the 32 Avenue project, but much further beyond to Abbotsford and Surrey as out region continues to grow and develop.”
— with files from Dan Ferguson