Hastings Park bike paths get thumbs up

Bike coalition also wants improved community connections to reduce car use

The executive director of a local cycling advocacy group says the $905,424 earmarked for greenways and bike paths in Hastings Park by the provincial government is a great start, but adds there's lots more work to be done.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure earmarked the funds for Hastings Park through BikeBC, a cost-sharing program between the province and local

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governments.

"It's great that as they redevelop Hastings Park they're thinking about bike paths and greenways within the park," Erin O'Melinn. "But ultimately you want people to get there by bike rather than driving so it also has to connect to adjacent communities."

O'Melinn heads up Hub: Your Cycling Connection, formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, a non-profit organization established in 1998 to address cycling issues in Metro Vancouver. O'Melinn said separated bike lanes are the best option for keeping cyclists safe. To that end, she'd like to see an overpass built for cyclists and pedestrians connecting Hastings Park and New Brighton Park. O'Melinn also wants the park's bike paths to connect to Burnaby, creating an unbroken link between that municipality, Hastings Park and Vancouver.

The ministry announced last week it's providing $7.36 million to BikeBC with a goal to reduce greenhouse gases and encourage residents to get active by expanding and building cycling lanes, trails and paths across the province. Last year, the B.C. government committed $7.25 million in BikeBC funding.

Hastings Park is at the beginning of a massive redevelopment project estimated to cost about $310.5 million in total. Just some of the many projects included in the Hastings Park master plan include the expansion and greening of Playland, a new exhibition building, park upgrades and improved parking. A large part of the project includes creating more internal pedestrian pathways and connections to the surrounding community, including New Brighton Park. In total, the master plan includes 5.4 kilometres of pedestrian and cycling trails, including the creation of major east-west and north-south pedestrian/cycling routes through the park that link to existing and proposed city-wide greenways.

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Mary Polak said in a news release, "This funding will improve the quality of life for residents living in communities throughout the province. These projects will create a cleaner environment by providing alternative transportation options and will build a legacy of good health for generations to come."

The 21 projects across B.C. receiving funding this year include a new cycling track in Maple Ridge, new bike lanes in Terrace, intersection improvements to the E Rail Trail in Esquimalt, the UBC-Okanagan Connector Phase Two Rails with Trails and new bike lanes on Ladner Trunk Road in Delta. The B.C. government has committed more than $148 million towards cycling infrastructure since 2001.

sthomas@vancourier.com

twitter.com/sthomas10

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