Seventh Avenue in New Westminster makes up the bulk of the Crosstown Greenway, one of New Westminster’s cycling routes. It cuts straight across mainland New West, avoiding most of the major hills that make cycling in New West a little more difficult than in other areas. Nearly the entire route is marked with sharrows, with no separated bike lanes on it, other than one small part in Uptown.
Because most of Seventh Avenue has on-street parking on both sides, the central “lane” is often shared by bicycles and cars driving in both directions, which often leads to rather crappy results. There are a number of roundabouts along the route as well, which are good for calming traffic but are bad for cyclists as lanes get constricted and cyclists get pinched out by cars.
It’s time for New Westminster to revise Seventh Avenue and make it safer for cyclists of all ages. And here’s how.
First, let’s look at Seventh Avenue as it currently exists. I’m focusing on the stretch between Cumberland and Sixth, as this is used by children cycling to Glenbrook Middle School and the Canada Games Pool. This stretch is 8 metres wide with a 1.5 metre sidewalk on the north side only. It has two nominal lanes with sharrows. Street parking is allowed on both sides of the street.
This stretch is unique in New Westminster in that while it’s through a residential area, there is only one driveway on the south side of the street. Every other home has a driveway with laneway access behind it. There are no streets crossing Seventh along this stretch, with only two streets intersecting with it on the north side. Also, if you look at the parcels map for the street you’ll see that there are wide grassy areas on either side of the street that are not part of the properties on either side. This is all city land, and can be used to expand the street.
So let’s expand it! We only need to increase the total width by 2.1 metres, just under seven feet. Then, we reduce the road lane widths to 3 metres, add a 0.6 metre divider (which could include flower planters or even a spot to plant trees), and add two 1.6 metre bike lanes. Allow street parking on the north side of the street, along the sidewalk, as is currently the case. Drop the speed limit on this stretch from 50 km/h to 30 km/h.
We can allow the driveway to remain by opening up the divider for the stretch right in front of it. Add a traffic bollard or two at either end of the opening to make the “car possibly crossing the bike path” location visible and obvious, while also protecting the ends of the divider.
This proposal fixes a lot of problems. First, by narrowing the travel lanes we make them safer. Second, by reducing the speed limit we make the streets safer for everybody — pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. We can add additional traffic calming such as speed humps to keep cars slow while not needing additional police traffic enforcement. Third, by eliminating street parking beside the separated bike path, we eliminate dooring.
This proposal does come with a couple of minor challenges, mostly concerning what happens at either end of the separated bike lane. At the western end, Seventh Avenue crosses Cumberland Avenue and enters the parking lot for the Canada Games Pool. This isn’t much of an issue as the Crosstown Greenway continues behind the CGP, and can easily tie into the bike lane. Crosswalk call buttons are already installed on the north side of Seventh; they can easily be installed at the south side. At the eastern end, Seventh Avenue meets with Sixth Avenue. Judicious use of green road paint can denote bike paths to access and exit the separated bike paths.
I’m not saying this is a perfect solution. It doesn’t address the problem of pinch points at traffic circles, and the interface with either end of Seventh Avenue is a little difficult to engineer, but I think it’s the ideal location for New Westminster to install the Crosstown Greenway’s first proper separated bike path.