You might think of Surrey as a city with heavy traffic with a few bike lanes scattered haphazardly here and there but according to cyclists, there’s a lot to be excited about.
While Vancouver has been making headlines by adding bike lanes on busy roads and bridges, Surrey has quietly implemented a nearly complete network of cycle paths in quiet neighbourhoods and "greenways" that experts say are safer and promote cycling.
"Whereas Vancouver has had to go in and retrofit busy streets with routes, the City of Surrey has used power lines and neighbourhood bike routes where there’s very low volumes of traffic," said Gordon Hall, co-chair of the Surrey, White Rock and Delta Bike HUB. He added that even though Surreyites might not see many cyclists on the roads, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.
"I guarantee if you go to 96th Avenue, the Green Timbers Greenway, it’s like rush hour with people."
The movement from four wheels to two is a result of Surrey’s ambitious Cycling Plan, adopted by council on July 23, 2012, and implemented in conjunction with the vision of the 2011 TransLink Regional Cycling Strategy.
Surrey’s plan was developed with the help of a 2009 cycling survey that found 89 per cent of the public prefer to have "off-street paths" as their preferred cycle route, with a further 85 per cent saying they would bike more if more of those kinds of routes are implemented.
Hall said these kinds of studies have shown the key to getting more people riding to school or work is to implement "AAA" bike routes for riders of all ages and abilities. Those three critical components include a safe network of connected cycle routes, good signage and maps that are easy for people to follow and secure bicycle parking for riders arriving at their destination.
Surrey recently received $791,747 from the province for cycling infrastructure grants that Hall says will connect some of the city’s remaining "missing links."
The bulk of that money will go to building the Fraser Heights Greenway, a shared multi-use path on 108th Avenue and a separated multi-use path on the former 154th Street. As well, the city will add bike lanes on 105A Avenue between University Drive and Whalley Boulevard, including green painted "bike boxes" at three intersections and bike push buttons at 105A and King George Boulevard. Both those projects are slated to get underway in the summer.
The improvements are part of a number of links in Surrey’s expanding bicycle network to connect "greenway" cycling routes in Fleetwood, Fraser Heights, Surrey Lake and other areas.
"When we were originally talking about missing links this all ties in to make a complete network," said Hall. "So there’s multiple areas where you can go to from and it makes cycling that much more pleasant."
Hall praised the city for working hard to connect these greenways not just for cyclists, but people on electric scooters, joggers, skateboarders and rollerbladers.
"There’s guys I know that work in Port Kells and in the past they just couldn’t bike in there. There was nowhere to bike. And now you’ve got a complete network that really connects the city."
Despite the success, Hall said there are still many improvements that need to be made to major roads to ensure they’re safer for cyclists, including a greenway along King George Boulevard.
That’s why HUB is pushing hard to support the upcoming "Yes" vote in the TransLink plebiscite to increase funding for critical cycling infrastructure throughout Metro Vancouver. Hall said more money will spur municipalities to create more incentives for people to get out of their cars and on two wheels.
"Maybe there could be a secure bike parking facility at Surrey Central so when people ride there they don’t get their bikes ripped off," he said.
King George SkyTrain station will open a new bike parkade at the end of May to allow commuters a safe place to leave their rides. And planned for the same month, HUB will be holding an event in partnership with Surrey Public Libraries in City Centre and Guildford to go over bike safety and anti-theft education.
HUB will also be prominent in promoting cycling during Bike to Work Week, slated for May 25 to 31 this year. For more information about Surrey’s cycling plan visit Surrey.ca.