A request to reduce the speed limit along Chilkoot Way from 50 kilometres per hour to 30 km/h was read at a standing committee meeting of Whitehorse’s city council on Sept. 18.
There were no questions regarding the proposal, which will be voted on at next week’s regular council meeting. The speed limit change will “come into effect on approval,” according to a city spokesperson.
The proposed speed limit adjustment is a component of the Chilkoot Greenway plan. This corridor improvement project includes the construction of a two-way bicycle lane and reduced lane widths to encourage slower vehicular speeds.
“To reflect the new infrastructure and context of the street, an update to the traffic bylaw is recommended. The anticipated activity level, potential conflict, existing conditions and design elements warrant a change of the speed as noted from 50 km/h to 30 km/h,” Tracy Allen, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations, said during the meeting.
“This is intended to minimize impact to vehicles while realizing road safety benefits.”
The Chilkoot Greenway plan additionally calls for cyclist-friendly push-buttons at Chilkoot Way, a marked crosswalk between Save-on-Foods and Starbucks, and transit stops on both sides of the road, among other measures.
The origins of the Chilkoot Greenway project can be traced back to 2018, when the city developed its Bicycle Network Plan, which highlighted the need for a connection between the trails along the Riverfront and Two Mile Hill.
Currently, two-way bike lanes have been added next to the westbound lane of Chilkoot Way, as well as a cyclist push-button for the light signals at Chilkoot Way and Two Mile Hill.
While no one voiced opposition to the speed limit reduction at the city council’s recent standing committee meeting, some in the community are unhappy with the Chilkoot Greenway project.
A Change.org petition launched on Sept. 6 urges the city government to “take immediate notice of the overwhelming public concern regarding the proposed Chilkoot Greenway project.” The petition suggests halting the project to explore “alternative solutions” and outlines several safety and congestion concerns surrounding the project.
Among the alleged issues outlined in the petition are that the plan “fails to address potential bottlenecks and fails to provide viable solutions for the increased traffic volume” and that the RCMP has reported an uptick in incidents in the Chilkoot Way area.
The News could not independently verify the alleged increase in vehicle incidents, as the RCMP failed to respond to our inquiry by press time. Petition organizer Diana Rothgeb said the information came to her from an RCMP officer who is “no longer on the force.”
According to Rothgeb, she created the online petition after a near collision on Chilkoot Way following the installation of the bike lanes. She said that she encountered another driver who was apparently confused about the new road configuration travelling towards her in the same lane.
“We were looking right at each other, and of course, we were only doing about 20 or 30 km/h […] We were a little perplexed by the fact that, yeah, now you’re driving down the middle of the road to do a righthand turn and, you know, it’s dangerous,” Rothgeb said.
Rothgeb told the News that she left the petition, which garnered roughly 200 signatures, with the executive assistant to Mayor Laura Cabott. No mention of the petition was made during Whitehorse city council’s Sept. 18 standing committee meeting.
A city spokesperson confirmed that the petition was received by city staff and that they “will continue to review all feedback both positive and negative.” Asked if the city had a response to the points made in the petition, the spokesperson told the News, “Not at this time.”
Contact Matthew Bossons at email@example.com