Cyclists checked out the 216th interchange crossing the night before it opened to motor vehicles. The overpass has separated bike lanes for riders. (Mitchell Nurse/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Cyclists applaud bike lanes on new Langley highway crossing

The 216th interchange in Langley is the first to have physically separated bike lanes

Geraldine Jordan, a member of cycling advocacy group HUB Langley, is on two wheels far more often than on four.

“I’m a commuter cyclist,” said the Walnut Grove resident.

She also takes her bike for local trips to the grocery store or library.

“I use it as a primary mode of transportation,” said Jordan.

Every working day she gets on her bike and makes the five-kilometre ride to her job at Trinity Western University.

As of last week, she has a new option for that trip, thanks to the opening of the 216th Street Highway Interchange.

Most debate about the interchange before its construction centered on the impact of car and truck traffic, with some significant opposition from residents in Walnut Grove who were worried about noise, pollution, and the safety of children attending local schools.

But the interchange will also mean a new route for cyclists to cross the highway, and it’s one of the biggest changes to local cycling routes in many years.

Unlike the 200th Street interchange or the 208th Street overpass, this will be the first major crossing of the Trans Canada Highway in Langley to be built with separated bike lanes.

A small concrete median runs between car traffic and cyclists who are heading north or south across the overpass.

“That is super-exciting to see, basically the first barrier-separated bike lanes in Langley,” said Jordan.

Cycling advocates have been pushing for more barrier separation for cyclists for years around Metro Vancouver.

Barrier separation means there is more than a line of paint between motor vehicles and cyclists.

Last year, local HUB members made a delegation to the Langley Township council asking for an amendment to development rules that will encourage the creation of more barrier-separated lanes.

“Now we’re seeing the result of advocacy for safer spaces for cyclists,” said Jordan.

Local and regional governments, and the province itself, are all trying to encourage cycling as a way to help cut down on carbon dioxide emissions from car travel.

But Jordan said one of the barriers is safety, or perceived safety.

“I know a lot of people who say ‘I’d bike if it was safer,’” she said.

Separated bike lanes do create that extra level of safety.

In addition, more bike lanes and connectivity can help new and casual cyclists find places to ride.

“If you don’t have the infrastructure, people won’t come,” she said.

And there are a lot more cyclists than there were this time last year in Langley.

While numbers are hard to come by, the continent-wide shortage of bicycles and bike parts has hit Langley, as people took up cycling to keep fit and get outside during the spring and summer, when many other activities had to stop due to physical distancing.

At the same time, there were fewer cars on the roads, Jordan noted.

“There was this real option for people to feel safe, because there was less traffic,” she said.

Now that traffic is almost back up to its pre-pandemic levels, the new cyclists are contending with more cars.

She’s hoping that the opening of a new overpass that’s cyclist friendly will give those new riders the encouragement to stick with two wheels.

Safe cycling infrastructure will help keep people riding after the pandemic, she said.

“I think that’s a key to having our cyclists feel like there’s momentum,” Jordan said.

Local cyclists discovered the overpass in the days just before it was completed.

Jordan noted that while barriers were still up to car traffic, a few cyclists, pedestrians, and even skateboarders were seen test-driving the interchange.

By last Friday, Sept. 4 the interchange fully opened to traffic and to drivers heading on and off the highway as well.

In Langley, bike lanes were added to the 208th Street overpass after it was widened, a project that wrapped up in 2018. Before that, the 200th Street interchange, developed in the late 1990s, has non-separated bike lanes, but is not a popular option with cyclists.

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