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Second Avenue reconstruction will include bike lanes, after all

With that stretch of road handing 15,000 vehicles a day, with traffic signals going in that area, and several residential projects planned for Minnow Lake, city staff said the lanes were needed to prevent chronic congestion.
Pictured is a cycle track in Iowa, which offers cyclists a measure of protection. Cycle tracks will be included when Second Avenue is rebuilt this summer. Supplied

With that stretch of road handing 15,000 vehicles a day, with traffic signals going in that area, and several residential projects planned for Minnow Lake, city staff said the lanes were needed to prevent chronic congestion.

But on Monday, Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett said staff had come up with a plan to not only include a lane for cyclists, but to extend the lane almost all the way to the intersection of Second Avenue and Bancroft Drive. All could be done while maintaining the five lanes from Scarlett to Donna, he said.

When asked what had changed, Kett said public reaction played a major role in getting the city to take another look at their plans.

“I think what changed was the attitude of staff,” Kett said.

He had several meetings last week with Infrastructure GM Tony Cecutti and Roads Director Dave Shelsted, where they explained the details of the revised plan.

“The last one was 5:30 Friday night,” Kett said. “So the plan is all brand new.”

Instead of sharrows – the term for painted bike lanes that are added to existing roads – Second Avenue will be getting a cycle track, which is a lane separated from the roadway by a curb, offering cyclists a measure of protection.

“From about First Avenue all the way down to almost Bancroft, we've got paved shoulders, so it shouldn't be that hard to make that into a dedicated bike lane,” Kett said.

Part of Second Avenue has key drainage ditches, he said, from First Avenue to Kenwood Drive. But the construction work includes plans to change the drainage system, which will allow the entire stretch of the roadway to be paved.

“So it's really a fortuitous situation, with everything coming together,” Kett said. “And the cyclists were adamant. They said you've got bike lanes on Bancroft, but we can't get from Bancroft to Silver Hills. We can't get from Bancroft to The Kingsway. Everything they said, to me, made perfect sense.”

He likes the move away from sharrows to the cycle tracks.

“So cyclists are separated from the traffic by this nice curb.”

The city's biggest road work project for 2014, $4.9 million will be spent rebuilding and widening the road, allowing for the new traffic signal and improved access to the Civic Cemetery and the dog park.

But when bike lanes were omitted from the plan, members of the Minnow Lake Community Action Network (CAN) called for revisions to include two bike lanes, two traffic lanes and a centre turning lane, instead, from Donna to Scarlett.

“This design would be … safer for pedestrians, as well,” CAN chair John Lindsay said in a release. “Eventually the whole length of Second Avenue could be built to this configuration, providing both for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in this heavily residential area.”

But roads director David Shelsted said heavy traffic volume meant five lanes were needed to handle the cars.

“When staff is looking at the number of lanes required for a project, it's traffic counts that drives some of that decision making,” Shelsted said, adding there is enough traffic already to warrant five lanes.

“But we don't just look at today,” he said. “There's also some additional new subdivisions going in the Kenwood (Street) corridor.”

Traffic lights will be installed at that location, which will regulate traffic flow, but will cause lineups during red lights. Having the full five lanes will help ensure congestion clears quickly when the light changes, Shelsted said.

Plans for the Second Avenue reconstruction also include putting in a centre turning lane, new curbs and gutters, street lights, watermains and storm sewers.

New proposal at a glance:

-Eliminate shared bike lanes and replace with raised and curb separated cycle lanes for the 5 lane section of 2nd Avenue
-Dedicated bike lanes on both sides of Second Ave. to Bancroft Dr.
-Reconstruction of 2nd Ave from 1st Ave to Kenwood St.
-New storm sewer - 1st Ave. to Kenwood St., eliminating a troublesome ditch and spring flooding
-Moving the pedestrian traffic light slightly to Kenwood, across from Birkdale Village
-Looking at the project as part of the Transportation Master Plan
-City statistics show traffic volumes of 15,000 vehicles daily from Donna Dr. to Scarlett Rd. and 10,500 vehicles daily for the southern portion.