Traffic and parking squeezes cyclists out from the Birch St. bike route beside the hospital, making the road more hazardous.
And one cyclist has a scar to prove it, after an accident left her with four stitches in her arm.
“I have lived on this stretch of road for 20 years and have never seen safety issues like these,” said Martha Melnechenko, vice president and director at large for the River City Cycle Club (RCCC).
Melnechenko and Kim Black, another RCCC director at large, raised the issue in a letter to the Mirror, saying that motorists “cannot safely pass cyclists on this stretch of Birch Street, and cyclists have no lane or shoulder on which to move over.”
With the construction of the new hospital, the city has allowed parking on the west side of the street on the route, which is part of Campbell River’s official cycling network.
“There is very little room on the road for two vehicles to pass, let alone two vehicles and a bicycle,” said Melnechenko, who lives in a townhouse across the street from the hospital.
Around the beginning of April, she was injured while riding southbound when two cars travelling in opposite directions didn’t allow her enough room and her handlebars clipped a parked car.
“I ended up with stitches,” she said, showing off a scar on her left arm.
Her 10-year-old daughter Emily Erickson has also had alarming experiences on Birch St.
She was riding next to the parked cars when a bus passed her, leaving a metre or less of room, an experience that she said was scary.
“She refused to ride her bike to school for about three weeks,” Melnechenko said. “She came home crying.”
And there have been other close calls as cyclists have tried to claim space on the bike route, with motorists coming up fast, slamming on their brakes and honking their horns.
Meanwhile, after the hospital has increased car traffic, the warmer weather is bringing out more cyclists.
Melnechenko said the city should disallow parking on the stretch between 2nd Ave. and Evergreen Road before something tragic happens.
“I worry that a significant accident will occur, and I really hope that it’s not a child,” she said, noting that several schools are located within a few blocks.
As for parking, the RCCC has argued that enough spaces are available in Island Health lots around the hospital.
But one patient said that parking at the hospital is a source of frustration.
“I find the parking terrible,” said Bob Price, who had just parked on the contested stretch of Birch Street when approached by the Mirror.
Price, who is undergoing chemotherapy, said it’s often hard to find a spot in the hospital’s three-story parking garage. The problem is worst around noon, he said.
“I come in midday, or just after midday, it’s a nightmare in there,” he said.
When he learned about the concerns of cyclists, Price said parking should be terminated on Birch St. – but after more parking spaces become available.
“When there’s lots of parking, then I would say it would be justifiable,” he said.
Still, he questioned how many people would use the cycling network.
“I wouldn’t come visit here on a bike,” he said. Construction of new parking lots are currently underway at the hospital, with about 185 new stalls expected by September. According to the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the hospital will have more than 430 stalls on site, along with 80 bicycle spaces.
In an email to the Mirror, Campbell River’s director of operations Drew Hadfield said “the city’s goal is to ensure safe, efficient transportation for multiple users along all city streets, and we share the concerns of cyclists.”
He said that parking on Birch near the hospital “will be reassessed” after construction on the parking lot north of the hospital on 2nd Ave. is complete and the lot is open to the public.
As part of that review, the city will consider improving bike route signage and pavement markings on that stretch, he said.
Currently, a couple of green “bike route” signs are practically the only indication that the stretch of road beside the hospital is part of the Campbell River’s bike route network.
According to the master transportation plan – a 2012 document guiding the city’s infrastructure design – cycling accounted for about 1.3 percent of all trips to work in Campbell River.
That leaves a lot of room for growth, especially for shorter trips.
More than 50 percent of trips in Campbell River — by all modes, including cars – are less than 5 km in length, while 83 per cent are less than 10 km, according to the document.
Municipal design standards require the street system “to allow for safe and efficient bicycle use on the roadway.”