Cycling Infrastructure Needs Better Maintenance
Improved maintenance of shoulders and paths on highways and bridges is badly needed. With 26 of 28 highway maintenance contracts up for renewal in the next 19 months, this is an ideal opportunity to ensure that Provincial facilities that are used by people cycling are well maintained and safe year round.
"This is one of the biggest issues of safety we hear all the time, and it is obviously a very real concern," said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena. "I've asked that we improve the maintenance standards, so they will be higher, and the maintenance contracts will have to live up to them."
Many BC communities are starting to keep bicycle routes clear of ice and snow in the winter. The Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MoTI) should do the same to ensure that the entire route that people need to travel, including sidewalks and paths on and connecting to MoTI bridges, are kept clear. Ensuring that people can cycle and walk 365 days a year can help reduce congestion and decrease travel times for those that use motor vehicles.
Shoulder and path maintenance outside of the winter months is also critical. Vegetation can over-grow paths and shoulders, reducing usable width and sightlines and increasing risk to those cycling and walking. Debris from a variety of sources, including winter sanding, sloughing from roadside slopes, tracking by motor vehicles and fallen from passing trucks ends up on the shoulders throughout the year. The “sweeping” action of motor vehicles pushes debris that has fallen on the travel lanes onto the shoulders. Roadside barriers and rumble strips can trap debris on shoulders and also limit users’ ability to avoid debris. In addition to keeping shoulders clear it is important that pavement damage on the shoulders be repaired in a timely manner just as is expected on the motor vehicle lanes.
Reports from our members indicate that in various parts of the Province, including the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, debris from winter sanding remained on some shoulders until the summer. Debris sloughed from roadside slopes and tracked onto the shoulder from construction and industrial sites was often not cleared. Vegetation obstructed access paths and shoulders. Pavement damage on shoulders was left unpatched while at the same time repairs were made on adjacent travel lanes.
These are safety issues. Cyclists risk damaged tires and falling. In order to avoid these risks they must often ride close to or within the traffic lane. This in turn increases the risk of cyclists being hit by motor vehicles and the potential for crashes caused by motor vehicles attempting to pass cyclists where there is insufficient sight distance.
Responses from contractors to maintenance requests varied from good to non-existent. These experiences speak to the need for not only improved maintenance standards but also improved oversight and accountability.
We are recommending that:
- highway shoulders and paths be kept reliably clear and in good repair for people using non-motorized transportation; and
- mechanisms be put into place to ensure timely responses and accountability on the part of maintenance contractors.