Top News

EDITORIAL: Will bike plan gain traction?

Charlottetown Coun. Mike Duffy suggested that it may be time to require cyclists to register and display a licence plate.
A marked bicycle trail. — 123RF Stock Photo

Here’s a weather report for you: it’s going to be stormy.

St. John’s city council is now reviewing the latest incarnation of the city’s Bike St. John’s Master Plan.

The plan recommends, as a top priority, converting three gravel trails to three-metre-wide asphalt-topped multi-use trails — with a half-metre shoulder on both sides, for a full width of four metres.

The trails? Kelly’s Brook from King’s Bridge Road to Columbus Drive, the Rennie’s River Trail from Portugal Cove Road to Prince Philip Parkway, and the Virginia River Trail from Quidi Vidi Lake to Penney Crescent.

You can only imagine that there’s going to be some pushback.

Homeowners who are already frustrated with trail users might not welcome wider paved trails with bicycle use — they can fairly argue that they didn’t sign up for a wider, paved trail.

Walkers who already use the trails might be less than pleased to find themselves on a commuter route for bicyclists travelling at considerably higher speeds, even if the vast majority of bicyclists are sensible and safety conscious.

There are responsible cyclists, just like there are responsible dog owners. There are also dangerous and inconsiderate cyclists, just as there are dog owners who refuse to clean up after their pets, allow their dogs off-leash, and who pitch plastic bags of pet waste into the bushes and trees. There’s no monopoly on responsibility.

Walkers who already use the trails might be less than pleased to find themselves on a commuter route for bicyclists travelling at considerably higher speeds, even if the vast majority of bicyclists are sensible and safety conscious.

And what’s next, in our short-daylight fall and winter? Will multi-use trails need street lighting? Is a trail really useful as a commuter link if it can only be used for part of the year? Will the routes need clearing of ice and snow buildup hanging around late into the spring?

There are other questions that come to mind as well. What kind of usage are existing multi-use routes getting? Is there significant usage on the bicycle trail built along Columbus Drive? Does the expected usage justify the $5.2 million that will be needed to create 11.8 kilometres of mixed-use trail?

Suffice to say, the plan is merely the beginning of a long process.

One small saving grace? Nothing is likely to happen right away.

Almost all of the trails that would have to be widened or paved are close to watercourses — right now, it’s taken years, and Eastern Health has still not been able to get permission to build a dike to keep floodwaters away from the province’s major hospital.

Paving and widening riverside trails is likely to require broad-based and extensive environmental assessment work, even more so because part of the trail area being looked at, along Rennie’s River, needs substantial work to deal with future flooding concerns.

That being said, the Bike St. John’s Master Plan affects a lot of people who aren’t travelling on two wheels.

It will be interesting to hear their point of view.

Recent Stories