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Plans to upgrade deadly stretch of North Vancouver road one year after cyclist’s death

Last Updated Jan 24, 2020 at 7:33 am PDT

Evidence markers on the ground beside a bicycle in North Vancouver after a cyclist was struck Sunday afternoon. (CityNews Vancouver)

There are finally plans to improve a deadly stretch of road in North Vancouver, a year after a 'dooring' death

HUB Cycling says it's working with the city on adding separated bike lanes to Esplanade Avenue in North Vancouver

Current painted bike lane on Esplanade is blocked on one side by traffic and the other by parked cars

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It’s been almost one year since a high-profile death on Esplanade Avenue in North Vancouver galvanized the community to demand improvements to bike infrastructure.

On January 26, 2019, 55-year-old Michael McIntosh was riding with another cyclist, westbound along Esplanade when the driver of a parked car opened his door and pushed McIntosh into the path of a dump truck.

Now, Navdeep Chhina, acting executive director of HUB Cycling, says improvements are in the works but the city needs to move faster to fund and implement them.

“Not much has happened but our local community on the North Shore has been working with city staff on a redesign of the entire street. We have been told that the new design will include separated bike paths but we’re still waiting to see the first drafts,” he says.

Currently each side of Esplanade houses a painted bike lane, caged on one side by moving traffic and the other by a row of parked cars.

“This crash also highlighted that the painted bike lanes should not be classified as safe cycling infrastructure. We must build infrastructure that is safe for people of all ages and abilities,” says Chhina.

After McIntosh was killed, residents wrote letters to council and newspapers highlighting their humanity over the label of “cyclist.”

“I’m not a cyclist; I’m not a pedestrian. I was just trying to get somewhere, whether that’s to work or home to my family…” writes advocate Brent Hillier in a letter he wrote for officials to read should he ever be killed while riding.

“So please remember me as the person I truly was, a husband and Partner to my amazing wife, a loving father who would never shut up about how amazing his son is. A brother, a son, a deeply devoted friend, a colleague, a teacher, a guide, a mentor and mentee.”

Hillier plans to “occupy” the Esplanade bike lane, riding up and down the route Monday morning

“The goal is to show our community that we are just people trying to get around like everyone else,” he says.

On Sunday friends will host a memorial ride for McIntosh, but say anyone who has lost a cyclist is welcome to join in the mass act of remembrance.

59-year-old Timothy Patrick Colwell has been charged with “unsafe opening of a car door” under the Motor Vehicle Act.

He is scheduled to appear in court in North Vancouver in June.

Chhina says the Motor Vehicle Act is in desperate need of an update to better protect non-motorized users.

“We are advocating for reforms and we are stressing that these need to be evidence based reforms that will modernize the rules and make the law friendlier and fairer to everyone who uses the roads, not just the people driving,’ he says.

They are recommending a legislated one to one and half metre of safe passing distance for a vehicle to overtake a bike, a default 30 kilometre per hour speed limit on all neighbourhood streets in the province and increased fines for dangerous behavior.

“We must make it very strict when somebody is indulging in dangerous behavior,” Chynna suggests a more appropriate fine for opening a door into a cyclist would be between $300 and $1000, plus demerit points, as Ontario recently adopted.