Undoing things

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Relax — it’s only money. Monday, St. John’s city council put the time machine in reverse and began looking at undoing work it launched only recently.
On Old Topsail Road, the city’s now planning to spend $10,000 to rip out the $45,000 traffic-calming roundabout it just finished installing — a roundabout that was part of summer-long street renovations that came close to driving the street’s residents roundabout right out of their minds. Instead, the city’s considering three-way stop signs — old-school, but effective.

On the same night, council started the process to review its bike lanes, suggesting that parking is more of a concern than the lanes. Work on the lanes was started in 2011, when the first tender — for signs and pavement marking — was awarded for 32 kilometres of streets, a tender worth $458,000. Bike St. John’s was a $3-million project that took five years to bring to fruition — but on Monday, the argument was that the bike lanes are taking up parking spaces, so that residents of areas like Frecker Drive and Canada Drive can’t park in front of their homes. Many of those homes have driveways, but let’s not let that get in the way of easy on-street parking.

“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,” Coun. Art Puddister said after the meeting.

“I think this cycling plan is more a situation of an incompleted implementation,” Coun. Dave Lane said, adding that the plan isn’t to get rid of the whole bike network. “We’re experimenting with new ideas.”

Observers can be forgiven for thinking it’s one step forward, two steps back. The irony is that all of the steps — in both directions — end up costing taxpayers money.

Meanwhile, the city’s line-painting crews are out on the roads starting from scratch, using white spray paint to re-measure and re-layout the lines, crosswalks and turning arrows that completely vanished over the winter, leaving not even the slightest ghost of their passing. To be absolutely clear here — city staff actually have to go out with measuring tapes and relocate lines from the ground up.

Does this happen in all cities? Does winter’s magic eraser leave every metropolis in the land with no trace of last year’s work?

There have been painted lines on streets for generations — is there really no paint product that actually lasts through a St. John’s winter? Just imagine how much safer March, April and May would be for the driving public if turning lanes actually had arrows on them, and if crosswalks were visible.

Instead, though, it’s council as usual, lurching from pillar to post to answer the latest complaint about this street and that bike lane, while effectively turning a blind eye to major developments that stand to change quality of life for larger numbers of city residents.

Can’t park? We’ll deal with that. Want to build a monster building? Just plunk down the permit fees and we’ll drool over the prospective taxes.

Round and round the roundabout, fiddling while Rome burns.

Geographic location: Rome

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  • ScottRAB
    May 14, 2014 - 19:44

    Correctly designed mini-roundabouts work well. Mini-roundabouts are less common in North America, but frequently used in the UK. They are all truck apron. Some examples: White Center, WA: http://tinyurl.com/white-center-mini Dimondale, MI: http://tinyurl.com/dimondale-mi-mini San Buenaventura, CA: http://tinyurl.com/sbv-ca-mini Anacortes, WA: http://tinyurl.com/AnacortesMini

  • ScottRAB
    May 14, 2014 - 13:28

    Correctly designed mini-roundabouts work well. Mini-roundabouts are less common in North America, but frequently used in the UK. They are all truck apron. Some examples: White Center, WA: http://tinyurl.com/white-center-mini Dimondale, MI: http://tinyurl.com/dimondale-mi-mini San Buenaventura, CA: http://tinyurl.com/sbv-ca-mini Anacortes, WA: http://tinyurl.com/AnacortesMini

  • Virginia Waters
    May 14, 2014 - 10:34

    You omitted the hundreds of thousands the city now plans to spend to uncover Bennett's Creek in Victoria Park - a river filled in by a previous council. It is a truism that governments spend money because they can. With property values rising rapidly, council is being handed an enormous tax windfall every year. Never mind that for the majority of owners who have no intention of selling their properties, these inflated values only take money from their pockets - not put it in. What happens when the oil boom is over and house prices drop, will city taxes drop in lockstep. Not likely. Like any government addicted to the power of spending other peoples money, this one will simply adjust the tax rate to keep up with their spending habits.

    • James
      May 14, 2014 - 12:25

      Bennett's Creek was the site of the first toilets in St. John's. Many homes in the area had an above ground sewer pipe running directly into the creek. The alternative to disposing the waste of indoors bathrooms was to dump it one the curb

  • Anna
    May 14, 2014 - 08:04

    I'd like to know do our councillors speak to other councillors when they travel out of town to attend the various meetings? Ask for advise on road paint, why does ours fade in December and not appear until June? This is the most affluent time we will have in this Province but if you drive around the City you would think we were in a state of depression. The roads are not fit to drive over with all the patched potholes. No lines on any of the roads for those drivers who are not familar with the areas. The garbage on every street and highway, all we have are huge developments with no thought given to the City's residents and their quality of living. The same problems appear year after year and nothing gets done to solve any of them. I just hope they have cancelled their idea for a roundabout on Carrick Drive, last year they put down speed bumps and had to remove a month later for snow clearing but it's only our tax money so why wonder where it is being spent?

  • guy incognito
    May 14, 2014 - 07:23

    Doc and the old council need to go away. Good to see that old mistakes are being addressed. Parking at Quidi Vidi, bike lanes, harbor fences, roundabouts, bloated communications staff, the loop....money that could be better spent....