I’d like to add my two cents to the debate on the new city bike plan.
I’ll declare my interests: I run on the trails in question pretty much every day, provided the snow cover is not too deep. I’m also an occasional cyclist — but only occasional.
Cycling in St. John’s is a dangerous business.
I’d like to make the following points:
The potential conflict between cyclists and pedestrians on a properly designed multi-use trail has been seriously overstated.
We already have trails in St. John’s that are used by both cyclists and pedestrians: the T’Railway, from downtown to Octagon Pond, and the upper Virginia River trail from Torbay Road to Windsor Lake. I’m not aware of any problems arising from conflicts between users on either of these trails. The rule is, bikes yield to pedestrians. This rule is in my experience generally respected.
Almost all trails in the city are now reserved for pedestrians; I don’t know of any trails that are reserved exclusively for cyclists. The city plan involves turning three of the trails that are now pedestrian-only into multi-use trails. Pedestrians will still have the vast majority of trails in the city for their exclusive use; cyclists will still have none.
I’d have to advise those who object to this that maybe they should check their privilege.
Most cities in North America have bike paths that are shared with pedestrians without incident. When out of town, in an unfamiliar area, the first thing I look for a place to run is a bike path.
People who do not cycle have no idea how dangerous it is to bike on city streets in St. John’s.
Creating bike-only lanes has made no appreciable difference. There are a significant proportion of drivers in St. John’s for whom cyclists are totally invisible.
That is why we see cyclists (illegally and dangerously, but also understandably) riding on sidewalks. Getting cyclists off the streets (and the sidewalks) can really save lives.
A trail that can be used by cyclists is also available to those who use a wheelchair. Usually, pedestrian-only trails are not wheelchair-friendly (although there are some exceptions).
We have a social obligation to make accommodations in their favour.
I’m a pedestrian, but I’m willing to share.