Being able to get around Salmon Arm safely without a car, no matter your age or ability, took a step closer to reality recently.
At city council’s last meeting before the municipal election, council unanimously passed an active transportation network plan for the city, called Connect Salmon Arm. Council’s action received a rare response: a round of applause from the gallery.
Active transportation was described as any form of human-powered transportation, which includes cycling, walking, jogging, skateboarding and using moblity devices such as strollers and walkers.
The plan resulted from the work and input of many citizens. The city’s Greenways Liaison Committee has been advising council for many years on maintaining green corridors throughout the city. In the summer of 2020, an Active Transportation Task Force was formed. Its mandate was threefold: to gather information and make recommendations on how to enhance the city’s active transportation network; to develop a master plan; and to position the city for future funding opportunities.
At the Oct. 11 meeting, Sarah Freigang from Urban Systems, the consultant hired to develop the plan, outlined key points, while resident Joe Johnson spoke on behalf of the task force.
Mayor Alan Harrison described the culmination of their work as “a special day, a big day.”
Freigang said the plan essentially documents the many years of hard work done by community members and stakeholders. “It really pulls together the work done to date.”
Its creation included gathering input from thousands of community members via two extensive surveys, meetings with focus groups such as seniors, students and First Nations bands, holding 10 in-person pop-up events and working with 12 meetings of the task force.
The top barrier to active transportation in the city is largely a lack of infrastructure, Freigang said. Issues are a lack of sidewalks and designated cycling routes; intersection safety; the speed and noise of vehicles; as well as steep hills. Although steep hills are difficult to address through infrastructure, she said having Ebikes and providing rest spots can help.
Integrating modes of transportation was also important, as was having more bike racks, making the network equitable to all ages and abilities, and maintaining it year round. More signage, more skills training and further developing bicycle tourism were also suggested.
Freigang said more than 20 kilometres of streets, sidewalks and trails were identified as short-term projects.
Johnson, speaking on behalf of the 17-member task force, thanked the Greenways committee, city staff Jenn Wilson and Chris Larson, and the consultants.
He said roughly $20 million is estimated for nine key infrastructure projects along with smaller quick-build strategies. But he said the projects will have far-reaching benefits.
“Projects will enhance everyday life for people of all ages and all abilities in Salmon Arm. Offering everyone an equal opportunity to move safely between home, work, school, services, shopping events and recreation.”
The task force had several recommendations for council, including dedicating staff time to implement the strategy and reforming the task force into a technical reference committee to be consulted on implementation and best practices.
Coun. Tim Lavery and Mayor Harrison co-chaired the task force. Lavery expressed appreciations, including the significant effort and time that task force members invested.
Harrison added the task force was very much a working task force. He said Lavery would provide homework at each monthly meeting and the members would do it.
Remarking on climate change, Harrison said he thinks the best thing the city can do is to get people out of their cars.
“They’re not going to get out of their cars unless they have a safe place to walk and bike.”
The Active Transportation Network Plan can be found by searching for “Long Range Planning” on the city’s website. Then look under Connect Salmon Arm Active Transportation Network Plan.
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