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Opinion: I refuse to cycle in Burnaby because I don’t have a death wish

The City of Burnaby is making changes, but hasn't added much in the way of protection
gaglardi masala -fatal-5-web
The aftermath of the crash that killed cyclist Charles Masala on Gaglardi Way.

I was on vacation in October when more details about the death of Burnaby dad and cycling enthusiast Charles Masala came out in court.

Turns out the driver who killed him Masala soused at the time. Masala was cycling up Gaglardi Way on Burnaby Mountain when he was struck, leaving behind a wife and two young children.

This is just one of the reasons why I won’t cycle in Burnaby. I just don’t have a death wish.

Sure, you can accuse me of being overdramatic, but I don’t see it that way. My partner and I cycle at Stanley Park (I rent a bike) or other areas that include cycling areas that are protected from drivers.

I won’t invest in a bike or a rack just so I can go to the Central Valley Greenway, the one seemingly safe area for cyclists in the city (although even that is debatable).

No, the roads in this city are just too unsafe. If there was a protected bike lane on Gaglardi Way, Masala would likely still be alive today. Gaglardi is one of the busiest cycling routes in the city, with users ranging from SFU students getting to and from the campus to racers training or going up the mountain to then come down the mountain bike trails.

Instead, this road and so many others in our city only “protect” cyclists through painted lines – meaning no protection at all.

The city has made some improvements through the addition of “urban trails” on the Burnaby Mountain Parkway, Lougheed Highway near Gaglardi and on Kensington south of Lougheed, but these just aren’t enough for someone like me to invest in cycling.

I’m also scared off because of all the messages I’ve received from Burnaby cyclists detailing all of the dangerous areas in our city. See the tweet attached to this story for more.

The city has made active transportation more of a priority according to its new transportation plan, but who knows how long it will take to implement. And the fact is, we need protected bike lanes, not painted lines. Put up a barrier to block vehicles so they literally can’t crash into cyclists.

Roads like Hastings and Kingsway are just too dangerous. Sure, cyclists can take alternative side routes that are designated for cyclists, but then they have to deal with all of the ratrunners who are trying to avoid both roads during rush-hour periods.

The City of Burnaby and TransLink are partnering on a project aimed at speeding up transit along the “congested” Hastings corridor – a project that would also include improvements to benefit cyclists.

The proposed project would extend the full length of Hastings Street in Burnaby, from Boundary Road to Duthie Avenue.

The draft project objectives, according to a city staff report presented to council earlier this year, are to deliver “bus priority improvements to reduce travel time delay and variability for riders; improve business vibrancy by addressing access and parking issues in retail precincts; improve road safety and neighbourhood livability; minimize neighbourhood traffic impacts; and, improve active transportation facilities.”

A city staff report says TransLink will fully fund and lead the conceptual design phase of the work, including technical work and public engagement, expected to begin this fall. As for construction costs based on this process, that would be left up to further negotiations.

“Hastings Street plays a critical role in the transportation network supporting the safe and efficient movement of people and goods across Burnaby and the region,” says the report. “Notwithstanding the corridor's importance, the current facility's design is challenging for all users. Congestion on the corridor creates delays for vehicles and public transit, and the narrow public realm limits opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists and street activation.”

Well, at least that’s something. All I know is that if the city wants me to start cycling it needs to do a lot, lot, lot more to make me feel safe.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44