A local cycling advocate is praising plans to improve cycling along McKenzie Avenue.
Edward Pullman, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, says his organization supports the McKenzie Avenue upgrade.
“This section has been a major gap,” he said. “It is great to see the Saanich close that gap.”
The project calls for the construction of a one-directional, eastbound asphalt cycling track and a concrete sidewalk on the south side of McKenzie Avenue between Cedar Hill Road and Shelbourne Street.
Plans also call for the installation of a westbound on-the-road bike lane on the north side of McKenzie Avenue with some repairs to the existing concrete sidewalk.
The budget for the project is $750,000 and on Monday Saanich council approved an application for a provincial grant to cover half of the cost.
Harley Machielse, director of engineering, told the public that the project will proceed whether the district receives the grant or not. Should the district receive the grant, it would dedicate the received monies towards other transportation priorities, he said.
Coun. Vic Derman, who chairs the Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Advisory Committee, praised the project and predicted that it will make a “substantial improvement” to connectivity and cycling in the area.
“This is an extremely important project for cycling in Saanich, and indeed the region,” said Derman. “That small section of McKenzie has been known for a long time as the ‘missing link’ in terms of the opportunities for people to cycle safely to a variety of destinations, but in particular the University of Victoria…a very substantial destination in the area.”
Pullman agrees, noting that the proposed project creates a major east-west connection that also links the university with the north-south running Lochside Trail through Blenkinsop.
Coun. Judy Brownoff also noted that the project promises to improve pedestrian access.
Installing the cycling path along the south side of McKenzie Avenue will involve moving the existing sidewalk, which presents an opportunity to provide more accessible sidewalks where McKenzie meets Cedar Hill Road and Shelbourne Street, said Machielse.
While the project has received almost unanimous praise, it is not without limitations.
The cycling path on the north side of McKenzie Avenue between Cedar Hill Road and Shelbourne will not be of the same quality as the cycling lane on the south side, the public heard Monday.
Addressing those concerns, Derman said the eventual redevelopment of the University Heights shopping centre may eventually lead to a dedicated bike lane similar to the one on the southern side of McKenzie.
Machielse said in the meantime the district is looking into adding hazard paint where appropriate to ensure the safety of cyclists in the face of westbound vehicles turning onto McKenzie Avenue as they are leaving local area businesses.
Work on the project would begin relatively soon. “We are looking to start this early [in the first quarter] of 2017,” said Machielse. “It would probably take several months to complete and take us to the end of spring.”
He said one of the main challenges of the proposed design for the cycling lane will be the presence of several telephone poles on the southern side of McKenzie Avenue. These poles, located between the cycling lane and the road itself, cannot be relocated. “We will be working around that as part of the design.”