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LETTER: Bike plan pits pedestrians against cyclists

Charlottetown Coun. Mike Duffy suggested that it may be time to require cyclists to register and display a licence plate.
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I write to beg City Councillors to preserve our beautiful natural walking trails. The plan to put bikes on the walking trails is a dangerous idea that will destroy a valuable resource.
As a non-cyclist, I unfortunately did not engage with the bike plan, because I trusted that cyclists and city council together would create a much needed plan for cyclists.

As a motorist, I assumed there would be an impact on the city streets, because safe bike lanes should obviously be placed along road routes, but as a taxpayer and a motorist, I believed that it would be “worth it” to create a more bike friendly city.

I was even hopeful that I might be emboldened by the resulting new, safe bike routes to take up cycling for transportation and health. Living downtown, Duckworth Street and Water Street make cycling impossible for someone like me, with below average cycling skills and courage.
I am a stakeholder who was not aware of any conversation concerning the walking trails. I have run and walked over 20,000 kms on our Grand Concourse city trails over many years. It didn't occur to me that the resulting bike plan would be to destroy our walking trails.

Had the Engage process  indicated that the bike plan could result in this, I and many of the thousands of pedestrian trail users would have voiced our opinions.
Intentionally or not, the bike plan survey appeared to be directed at cyclists who want and need safe bike routes, and to have caught the attention of motorists who want to keep 'them’ off the roads. The City of St. John’s is about to implement a plan that will destroy our walking trails without consulting a large group of stakeholders who are the current trail users, namely, walkers, runners and hikers. l can’t understand how the city has come up with a plan that appears to be so insensitive to the amazing resource we have here in the Grand Concourse Trails.
Please consider the health, fitness, and safety of the citizens.

The best free-to-user, outdoor resource we have for fitness and health is our current trail system. As our population ages, access to lower impact surfaces, such as gravel, will become more important to pedestrians on the trails. Asphalt is not kind to our joints, and even interspersing paved sections will take away from the utility of the trails for an aging population.

Most people who participate regularly in the Tely 10 do a large portion of our training on the trails that circle and connect our city’s ponds. We brag to people from outside the city that we can run 16 km in the city, on groomed gravel trails, and delight in taking visitors to our city on trail walks and runs.

From a safety perspective, introducing bikes to a walking trail system will inevitably lead to serious accidents on the trails. Perhaps there are some open, straight sections running parallel to MacDonald Drive, that could be paved and shared without an unacceptable increase in danger to pedestrian users and loss of the area’s natural beauty. On most sections of the trail, however, collisions between cyclists and pedestrians will result in injuries to both. The danger to vulnerable pedestrian users, such as the frail elderly, unpredictable toddlers, people with mobility issues, and babies in strollers will be significantly increased.

Pedestrians will ultimately be driven from the trails due to the increased danger, with negative impacts on public health.
Many runners also cycle, so we are not opposing interest groups, we are some of the city’s most active citizens. Let’s seek a solution that does not pit pedestrians against cyclists, rather, one that supports people choosing an active lifestyle.
We have a world-class natural trail system and should do everything we can to protect it. Once a natural trail has been widened and paved, we can’t bring it back. It must be possible to create protected bike lanes without destroying our wonderful outdoor trail resource. Please reconsider this plan.
I recently offered to meet members of council for further discussion and a walk along our beautiful trails. I await a response.

Florence Kennedy,
St. John’s

 


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