Council to review usefulness of city street bike lanes

Josh
Josh Pennell
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St. John’s council has decided to review the bike lanes on city streets which were put in several years ago.

St. John’s City Council will review its policies and commitments regarding the continued use of bike lanes, such as this one on Frecker Drive, that have been in use since 2009. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

While council spoke highly about making St. John’s more bicycle friendly during Monday’s regular council meeting, several councillors questioned how useful and convenient the painted bike lanes on city streets have turned out to be.

“In the last five years there’s been two, two people riding their bikes up there,” Coun. Bruce Tilley said of the lanes painted in his neighbourhood.

A major issue for council and for residents in areas with bike lanes is that they take up parking spaces. Residents of areas like Frecker Drive and Canada Drive can’t park in front of their homes, Coun. Art Puddister said to The Telegram following the council meeting.

And the rules exist for the whole year, when Puddister said there was about six months out of the year when people don’t use their bikes.

“When you measure the complaints and the disruption to people’s lives versus how many people are actually using these bicycle lanes, council has decided to review and revisit.”

The cycling committee is to be revitalized to look at how the bike lanes have been working out, along with other options to make the city more bicycle friendly.

Coun. David Lane said some streets just weren’t cut out to have bike lanes, but it was important not to trash the whole plan just because parts of it weren’t working.

“I think this cycling plan is more a situation of an incompleted implementation,” he said.

“We’re experimenting with new ideas.”

Puddister suggested that once the committee met again and reviewed the cycling plan, it might be an option to compromise with some of the bike lane laws that now exist.

Some streets may have the lanes hauled out altogther, he said. Others may keep them, but parking could be allowed in them for six months of the year and even overnight.

“If we were to be somewhat flexible with the residential neighbourhoods I think residents would be more open,” Puddister said.

The bike lanes were put in using federal grant money. Council said it would have to look at the contractual obligations of using the grant money before it made any decision on whether the lanes could be removed.

josh.pennell@thetelegram.com

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  • Brad
    May 13, 2014 - 13:51

    As someone who commutes to and from work by bike, and having many friends and coworkers who do. Bike lanes are extremely important. Like stated the lack of a complete system is the real issue. Also there needs to be better knowledge of bike laws by drivers. Bike lanes are not meant to promote exercise but to increase safety for our large and growing community of bikers. I can say I'm thankful for the amount of times a painted line has saved me compared to being passed within inches of my life by a frustrated driver on roads without them.

  • Brad
    May 13, 2014 - 13:47

    As someone who commutes to and from work by bike, and having many friends and coworkers who do. Bike lanes are extremely important. Like stated the lack of a complete system is the real issue. Also there needs to be better knowledge of bike laws by drivers. Bike lanes are not meant to promote exercise but to increase safety for our large and growing community of bikers. I can say I'm thankful for the amount of times a painted line has saved me compared to being passed within inches of my life by a frustrated driver on roads without them.

  • peter
    May 13, 2014 - 10:09

    I don't think Coun. Bruce Tilley spends too much time on a bike, so he's really just blowing smoke here. As a compromise though, I suggest amending the law to allow for bikes on the sidewalks as a means of easing the situation. How many people are using the sidewalks up in Canada Drive?

  • JEROME DELANEY
    May 13, 2014 - 09:53

    I live in the Cowan Heights area, I have rarely see anyone using the bike lanes, the money would be better use for sidewalk clearing in the winter time. Bike lanes are a waste of money, how many people ride bikes in the city, I have at times, but the wind and the hills in the city, don't make it an easy ride. On the crosstown they paved a beautiful section that was once concrete, this is rarely used also, it would be great for rollerblading too, but as much as you see is a few walkers. Lets cut back on this insane spending spree, I pay enough taxes now.

    • Dave
      May 13, 2014 - 13:39

      I bike the Cowan Heights everyday so you must have seen me more than once. You can indeed bike the city it may not be the same straight easy ride like other cities but after a summer of hills you will be in the best shape. I also bike the paved trail on the crosstown as well and I'm not really sure what beautiful section you are talking about. All I see is dirt, garbage, fences and industrial buildings. This insane spending spree that you think the city is on is actually a grant from the federal government to be used for bike trails. So don't worry it won't take money away from the other important things in town like not cleaning snow in the winter.

  • peter
    May 13, 2014 - 09:37

    I don't think Coun. Bruce Tilley spends too much time on a bike, so he's really just blowing smoke here. As a compromise though, I suggest amending the law to allow for bikes on the sidewalks as a means of easing the situation. How many people are using the sidewalks up in Canada Drive?

  • Right On, T!
    May 13, 2014 - 09:07

    T hit the nail on the head. It is about turning St. John's into a bike-friendly city that is less dependent on cars as a means of transportation. The people who want those bike lanes taken out so they can have more room to park their cars are the same people who complain about their being too many cars on the road, and how the city isn't doing enough to remove traffic congestion. This city needs to get serious about public transit and biking, like other cities are doing.

  • Dave
    May 13, 2014 - 08:58

    I happen to bike Canada drive almost every single day to commute to work. So I can say there are more than two people biking in that area. If the lanes are taken away in that area then people will still use that road to bike it just won’t be as safe. What’s the other option? take Topsail road? No thank you. People who complain about not being able to park in front of their house on the street need to not have 3-4 cars in a 2 car driveway. In the area Bruce Tilley is talking about the bike lanes run out far enough from the sidewalk that there is an area for people to park their cars close to their houses. They may have to walk a couple of feet or cross the road. Hardship I know. If St John's wants to call itself a bike friendly city then it needs to actually maintain and improve not take away. If you take the lanes away from this area where are you going to put them to replace them? Or are we just going to give up on the bike lanes all together for any area other than downtown.

  • robert
    May 13, 2014 - 08:43

    You can count on two hands the number of bicyclists I have seen over the past two years.

  • Anna
    May 13, 2014 - 08:11

    When our councillors go to meetings in other provinces do they ever speak to the councillors there? Why don't they find out how they make it work ie the sidewalk clearing, garbage collection, bike lanes. The lanes around town now are mostly useless, they stop in the middle of nowhere so where is the rider supposed to go next, they weren't installed with alot of thought or communication with riders, they got a grant from the Federal Government and started to paint. We will never be so affluent again and yet when you drive around this City and see the state of the roads and the garbage everywhere, it makes sense that people wouldn't want to live here.

  • Sara
    May 13, 2014 - 08:03

    Bruce Tilley claiming that only two people have used those bike lanes in the last five years is ridiculous. Is that outrageous statement based on his opinion or actual data? I use those bike lanes and see different people on there all the time. The people living on those streets have driveways for parking. It's not like they are living downtown where a large number of residents don't have a driveway.

  • RJ
    May 13, 2014 - 07:50

    The majority of the people on Canada Drive and Frecker Drive have driveways. Aside from when they have company come over they shouldn't need to be parking on the road. Aside from that the bike lane is only on one side of the road. So there should be ample parking on the opposite side of the road for both those who may not have a driveway and those who have company over. I drive Canada Drive regularly on my way to and from work. There is one house in particular (year round) who park in front of their house in the bike lane despite the fact that they can very easily park on the other side of the road. In the winter time these same individuals end up parking half in their driveway and half on the sidewalk. I think it has a lot to do with a lack of respect and thinking too highly of oneself. The bike lanes are a wonderful idea and should be continued. I do not use them myself but I would imagine it gives those who do choose to bike an added comfort and piece of mind that they are less likely to get hit while on their bike.

  • T.
    May 13, 2014 - 07:18

    I think council may be missing the point on this one. It's not really about bike lanes. It's about creating a bicycle-friendly city and developing a bicycle culture. It's about the idea that the bicycle is a viable form of transportation. The bike lane is a symbol of this. It tells people that yes, bikes are welcome on city streets. To simply paint some lines on a street and remove them when they're not being used is to miss the point. But then again, the bike lanes missed the point right from the start. Look at the bike lanes around the Village Mall. You know, the ones that go up some of the steepest streets in the area. No wonder it isn't being used - there are better, easier ways to get around that area unless you live at the top of that damn hill. This isn't just about bike paths - it's about encouraging people to ride bikes instead of driving. And that takes time, thought, and planning beyond painting some lines on a road and saying you have a bike plan. Installing some bike racks around town would be a good start. So would talking to the city staff and council of Vancouver, where they have a vibrant bike culture and an established, effective bike path network. As for winter bike paths, of course the rules should be seasonal. If the city can't even keep the sidewalks clear, how can they expect people to ride in bike lanes during the winter?