A Bi-directional bike lane could one day be installed along a busy bridge connecting downtown Nanaimo with the rest of the city.

Staff with the City of Nanaimo are exploring the idea of converting one of the northbound lanes of Terminal Avenue along the Pearson Bridge into a bi-directional cycle track or bike lane, similar to the bike lanes installed throughout downtown Victoria.

According to a recent staff report on future infrastructure upgrades for the Terminal Avenue/Trans-Canada Highway corridor, the bi-directional bike lanes would be part of an “interim concept plan” focusing on improving walking and biking in the area.

“The concept re-purposes the existing northbound TCH curb lane from a merge lane into a bi-directional cycle track. This adds an all ages and abilities cycling facility and increases separation between cars and walkers. It eliminates the confusing merge lane configuration that exists today,” the report reads.

Trans-Canada Highway runs north-south through Nanaimo and is also referred to as Terminal Avenue or Nicol Street depending on where its located. The Terminal Avenue section of the Trans-Canada Highway links downtown with neighbourhoods north of the Millstone River via the Person Bridge. The bridge is roughly 100 metres from the Terminal Avenue and Comox Road insection, one of the busiest in the city.

According to the report, the Terminal Avenue corridor requires “urbanizing treatments” such as narrower lanes, wider pedestrian pathways, and increased landscaping. It also suggests that the section along and near the Pearson Bridge is viewed by the public as a “barrier” to biking downtown from areas north of the Millstone River and that the existing sidewalks are “uncomfortable” for pedestrians, despite the popular Harbourfront Walkway being nearby.

“It is clear that the TCH is a high priority for the community. Upgrading would serve to unite the east and west sides of downtown,” the report reads. “The community clearly expressed concern for the junction of Comox Road, Terminal Avenue, the Pearson Bridge, and Stewart Avenue.”

It’s unclear how much it would cost to install bi-directional bike lanes along the Pearson Bridge as staff did not provide any estimates, suggesting that upgrade projects to the bridge and nearby intersection would cost millions of dollars.

“Projects to upgrade the Pearson Bridge and this group of intersections are in the current
Development Cost Charge bylaw, however, they are multi-million dollar projects which require 40 per cent funding from city general revenue,” the report said. “This makes them cost-prohibitive at current funding levels with other priorities, and they have not been included in the current financial plan. For upgrades to this section to be viable, partnership or grant funding would be necessary.”

Nanaimo has been pushing forward with its proposed Downtown Cycling Loop, an ambitious project that aims to build bi-directional bike lanes throughout downtown. Earlier this year, city councillors approved spending $400,000 to build bi-directional bike lanes along Front Street.

Staff would like to incorporate the conceptual Pearson Bridge bike lane into the city’s 2021 – 2025 financial plan, provided funding levels are able to support it, the report notes.

Artist rendering of proposed bi-directional bike lane along Nanaimo’s Pearson Bridge. (Photo: City of Nanaimo)