By Emily Kitagawa
Plans for a system of new bike paths and end-of-trip facilities, such as bike lockers and showers, within the peninsula are currently being developed by the Cities and Environment Unit (CEU), a research team within the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Dalhousie University.
The Bikeways Plan is a collaborative effort between Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre. The project was initiated by the Transport and Demand Management working group, which represents the four institutions.
Ross Soward, a community planner with the CEU and avid cyclist, says the Bikeways Plan is geared toward “developing infrastructure and facilities that could attract the maximum number of riders.” He says the latest Statistics Canada numbers suggest 1 to 8 per cent of the population of HRM cycles. “It’s more the cyclists who are very experienced, and more aggressive, and confident who are cycling today,” says Soward.
Jeff Brown, a librarian at Dalhousie University’s Killam Library says Halifax “…is not the greatest place to be on a bicycle.” Brown, who has been a cyclist for roughly 25 years, referred to the intersection where Quinpool Road, Robie Street, Cogswell Street and Bell Road all meet as “the apocalypse of the Willow Tree intersection.” There used to be a willow tree growing in the center of this intersection, but today the area is a source of considerable traffic congestion.
Under the Bikeways Plan, a network of bike paths will connect the IWK Health Centre in the North, Saint Mary’s University in the South, and Dalhousie University in the East (Sexton campus) and West (Studley campus). Soward says facilities such as bike lockers (boxes that protect bicycles from theft and inclement weather), bicycle sharing systems and showers are also being considered.
“This is a really unique opportunity to grow cycling in Halifax from the centre out—seeing this as the nucleus of future cycling infrastructure. The development of further facilities and infrastructure and routes could then be expanded based on what gets done here within the institutional district,” says Soward.
Soward says the Bikeways Plan not only supports a more sustainable and environmentally friendly form of transportation, but it also promotes a more healthy and active population. Cycling is also beneficial economically; “you don’t need to be wealthy to be able to afford to cycle,” says Soward.
“The budget for the plan is quite small,” says Soward, who would not disclose the exact figures. He says the four institutions involved in the project have provided some of the funding, and a grant was also received from the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. The budget for the implementation of the plan will be much larger, although the cost will not be known until the Bikeways Plan is completed, says Soward.
Mark Nener, a community planner at the CEU, says he expects the plans will be finalized by mid-April. A draft of the Bikeways Plan will be presented at the Dalhousie Student Union Building on March 23. Nener hopes this presentation, which is open to the public, will promote awareness and discussion. “Hopefully we’ll get some feedback on the different elements of the plan and I think that’ll help inform the final draft of the plan,” he says. “We’ll go a long way to make sure the plan is used and implemented.”
It is unknown when implementation of the Bikeways Plan will be completed, as it is a long-term project. “The upside here is that because there are so many partners involved it’s easier to get things done as a group collaboratively than it would be for any one of the institutions to implement a segment of these (bike) routes within their own lands,” says Nener.