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Friday, September 29, 2023
Sept. 29, 2023

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Vancouver wants to see a safer 34th Street

Stretch of east Vancouver road has no bicycle lanes and narrow sidewalks

By , Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
In a six-year span, there were 86 accidents, including three between a car and a pedestrian, along Southeast 34th Street in east Vancouver.
In a six-year span, there were 86 accidents, including three between a car and a pedestrian, along Southeast 34th Street in east Vancouver. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The city of Vancouver is searching for ways to make its streets safer as traffic congestion increases.

Vancouver’s current focus is on Southeast 34th Street between Southeast 162nd and 192nd avenues — a corridor that has a history of collisions.

In a six-year span, that stretch saw 86 crashes, including three between a car and a pedestrian, said Emily Benoit, Vancouver senior transportation planner. The narrow sidewalks and the lack of a bike lane make the stretch dangerous for those commuting without a vehicle.

Project leaders envision improving Southeast 34th Street by repurposing two of the four lanes on the corridor to create bike lanes, installing vertical barriers to separate cars from bikes, and expanding sidewalks, said Kara Hall, a Fehr and Peers transportation consultant. They also want to incorporate high-visibility sidewalks along the road, including one with a beacon at Southeast 162nd Avenue.

It is the most recent example of how Vancouver is reimagining how people can safely commute throughout the city. And the Vancouver City Council has shown eagerness to make road systems less messy.

Councilor Sarah Fox suggested incorporating trees along the road to increase Vancouver’s tree canopy and add to a commuter’s experience. Mayor Pro Tem Ty Stober, Councilor Diana Perez and Fox showed interest in using roundabouts to reduce street racing.

Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said further conversations with C-Tran must occur before creating a design.

Staff will seek community feedback on a final design in September and expect the process to wrap up by October. Construction is scheduled to unfold during summer 2023, coinciding with the pavement treatment of Southeast 34th Street.

Upgrades on Southeast 34th Street do not currently require large investments and may be eligible for grants; the staff has already begun that application process, Hall said.

No dedicated bike lanes

Even through 40 percent of commuters along Southeast 34th Street walk or rely on a bicycle, the four-lane street lacks a dedicated space for cyclists. There is only an on-street lane westbound on Southeast 164th Avenue, leaving eastbound cyclists in an unsafe situation.

As a result, many end up biking on the sidewalk.

Sidewalks on either side of the corridor can be as narrow as 4 feet wide, giving pedestrians little room for comfort as vehicles zoom past at up to 45 mph. Commuters and residents along the street relayed their fears of walking along the corridor to staff, as gleaned from a city-led survey.

In the 500 survey responses, participants posed concerns about a repurposed travel lane leading to increased traffic congestion and travel time.

Traffic will not be affected in the near term if a lane is repurposed, according to traffic estimates. Conversely, if no action is taken, congestion will inevitably worsen, Benoit said.

More corridors are slated to be upgraded in the coming years to support Vancouver’s accessibility goal, including sections of Northeast 112th Avenue, Fort Vancouver Way and McGillivray Boulevard.

Safety and mobility improvements along these corridors are organized under Vancouver’s umbrella Complete Streets program, which aims to create a transportation network that is available to anyone regardless of how they commute.

Vancouver Moves projects

  • McLoughlin Boulevard: Speed cushions, flashing lights at crossings and pilot bike lanes.
  • Columbia Street: Westside Bike Mobility Project and paving.
  • East Fourth Plain Boulevard: Pavement project and repurposing a travel lane.
  • Southeast 34th Street: Paving and adding bike facilities.
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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.