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St. John’s spends $122,509 on another bike master plan

Fading bicycle lane markings on Cowan Avenue just past the turnoff from Topsail Road heading north toward Canada Drive.
Fading bicycle lane markings on Cowan Avenue just past the turnoff from Topsail Road heading north toward Canada Drive. - Joe Gibbons

City council taking another crack at making bicycling work

The City of St. John’s is spending $122,509 for a bicycle strategy and master plan, replacing another study conducted almost 10 years ago.

At Monday’s council meeting, the tender was awarded to Moncton-based Trace Planning and Design, an urban design firm.

It’s not the first time the city has studied how to make St. John’s more bike-friendly. In 2009, a bicycle strategy and master plan was conducted by Hatch Mott McDonald that resulted in a $7-million, 20-year plan. The 2009 plan saw 43 kilometres of bike lanes painted, with another 73 kilometres of roads designated as bicycle routes.

Of the $7 million allocated for the 2009 plan, about $2.7 million was spent as of 2017.

Coun. Dave Lane, who sits on the Bike St. John’s task force, says it’s been difficult to get bicycling to catch on in St. John’s like it has in other, larger cities across Canada, but this time the city can make it work.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons from the last go at the Bike St. John’s master plan,” said Lane.

“In the last council, we set up a bike task force to take a look at it and see what we learned. We know there’s a lot more people cycling in the city. It’s evolved as a community.”

Of the $122,509 allotted for the new master plan, $90,000 was left over from previous bicycling projects, with $35,000 coming from the 2017 capital budget.

A 2016 poll conducted by the city regarding bicycle usage revealed 39 per cent of respondents used a bike in the previous year recreationally or as a primary mode of transport, while just six per cent said they used a bike solely for transport. Another 27 per cent of respondents said they used bicycles just for fun.

Lane says while the new master plan is being formed, some new initiatives will come together during the summer.

The city will launch a bicycle rack design contest over the summer. In the 2017 Bike St. John’s Task Force final report, the committee recommended approximately $10,000 in prizes for that contest, though that amount has yet to be approved by council.

“You might want to bike somewhere, but if you can’t secure your bike when you get there, you’re less likely to go,” said Lane.

“To have bike parking is one thing, but to have some that’s uniquely St. John’s and you can pay an artist to contribute, that’s important.”

The city is going to spend $50,000 on upgrades to the T-Railway over the summer, largely to signage.

In another effort to get people on their bikes, the city is planning a Bikefest event, where a section of the downtown is closed to traffic to allow bicyclists to come together. Lane says a lot of public engagement will take place at that event, which will be fully rolled out at a later date.

“Finally, we’re going to be seeing some action with all the planning and talk that we’ve been doing. I think we’re really moving in the right direction.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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