By Ken Wallingford
The Bicycle Action Committee met with members of the Halifax community on Wednesday, March 23, to discuss plans for several new bike paths across the Peninsula.
The committee was formed in November when city council voted to set-up a group that would guide discussions for bike path options with community members.
Mark Nener, a community planner with the Dalhousie Architecture and Planning Department and one of the leading members of the Bicycle Action Committee, presented several options for north-to-south and east-to-west pathways throughout the Halifax region.
One of the main routes discussed was University Avenue.
Mark Nener explains the plan for University Avenue as proposed by the Dalhousie Cities and Environment Unit.
The Dalhousie Sustainability Department proposed a different option for bike lanes on University Avenue. They suggest eliminating the grass median between the two lanes of traffic to make one roadway for the cars and a separate path for both bikes and pedestrians.
Rocky Lis, an avid cyclist from Vancouver who moved to Halifax seven weeks ago, says that Halifax is behind on its cycling infrastructure.
“Vancouver has been working on this for a decade, maybe more,” says Lis.
Lis lists several reasons for Halifax being behind Vancouver in this area, including climate, economy, and population differences.
“There’s a lot of people wanting to bike here, but they’re afraid because there’s no laid out bike paths, and drivers aren’t educated on how to deal with cyclists,” says Lis. “It’s only a matter of educating both cyclists and drivers.”
The biggest deal-breaker, according to Lis, is the lack of political support. She says with political support, bike paths could be be built much faster, as they were in Vancouver.
“Taking away parking … will raise big rejection from drivers, but if the government holds strong on its decision, then there will be no delay.”
Dianne MacPhee and Sally Wood both commute from home to work via bicycle almost everyday.
“I try to bike year round, but it depends on the year,” says Wood. “Usually January and February I don’t bike because of the ice and snow.”
Both women agreed that the city needs safer bike routes.
“There are people who say to me all the time that they admire me because I bike, and they are too afraid to,” says MacPhee.
MacPhee, Wood, and Lis all agree there needs to be more full paths that go from one end of the city to another. While some bike paths exist currently, Lis says they need to more connected.
“I’d like to see more cross-town connectors. There are efforts to make stretches of paths, but we need connections that flow,” says Lis.
Steve Bedard, the co-chair of the Halifax Cycling Coalition, also emphasizes the importance of a connecting path across the city.
“People are looking to commute with their bikes, but there is no way to penetrate to the high impact areas,” says Bedard.
He says he hears a lot of horror stories about biking that makes it sound much worse than it is.
“I think it’s scarier for cars,” he says.