The first public consultation on a controversial bike lane in Halifax’s south end was held Wednesday at Dalhousie University in light of some very vocal opposition to the project.
Jerry Reddick (known as The Dawgfather), who attended the meeting, has operated a hotdog selling business on University Avenue for 18 years. He has filed an injunction in an attempt to stop the project because he says he was not consulted during the project’s planning stages and claims the bike lane would put him out of business.
“Nobody took the time to consult with me, and that’s why it’s a problem,” Reddick said.
“University Avenue is not a place where a bike lane is needed,” he said. “You could find other places for that bike lane if you truly want [one].”
The first of its kind in Nova Scotia, the lane would run between Lemarchant Street and Robie Street and would be jointly funded by the provincial government and the university.
The project has been in the works since last spring, and although the bike lane would only be 400 metres long, David MacIsaac, a member of the project’s planning and implementation team, hopes it will inspire more would-be cyclists to get on their bikes.
“We would like to have more of these protected bike lanes because these are the types of facilities that attract new cyclists, people who are perhaps scared to bicycle right now and would prefer to have some kind of separation between themselves and motor vehicles,” he said.
Dal Bike Centre employee Meghan Doucette echoed MacIsaac’s sentiment. “I think the purpose of it is to increase bicycle ridership,” she said. “It’s a good space [for] a pilot project, just to learn from this and see if they can implement this on other streets around Halifax.”
Halifax regional council initially approved the proposal in September, but that approval was withdrawn last month following the legal roadblock.
Apart from concerns about his business, Reddick said he’s also concerned about the reduction in parking along University Avenue and how it will affect people with disabilities.
“They lose direct access to seven buildings from University Avenue if that bike lane goes in,” he said.
Although construction of the bike lane would result in a net loss of 24 parking spaces along University Avenue, Nathan Rogers, the project’s lead planner and Dalhousie’s assistant director of capital planning, said the university has ample parking to make up for the loss.
“On-street parking just represents one piece of the parking picture,” he said.
The project’s planning team will now take public feedback into account and determine if any changes to the project are necessary before seeking approval from council before the end of April. If approved, construction could begin as early as May.
Rogers acknowledged the current legal proceeding against the project, but he is hopeful that council will once again give the project its support.
“There’s always obstacles and challenges associated with any project, so it’s not surprising that there’s opposition out there,” he said.