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LETTER: St. John’s bike plan already has a puncture

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

I have just finished reading the newly released Bike St. John’s Master Plan and am frankly amazed at what is being proposed.

While I have no doubt the plan is being well received by the cycling community it possesses a fatal flaw in its preparation and proposed implementation.

Everything to date has been done in a bicycling bubble.

The terms of reference deal only with bicycling issues, the consultations were based and promoted on the basis of bicycling and the action plan is based on what cyclists want. Well, what about the 95 per cent of the population that can’t, don’t and don’t want to bicycle? The current Grand Concourse walking trail system in St. John’s is world recognized for its beauty and usability. It is used daily, year-round, by hundreds, and on fine days by thousands, of citizens, young, old, two-legged or four, to walk, run, stroll and recreate in a safe, peaceful and esthetically beautiful setting.

As one of those thousands who uses the trail system literally daily, it is fair to say our opinions were not sought and our voices were not heard in the creation of this plan.

Much of the plan is fine.

The issue is with the proposed “Catalyst Projects,” the first projects to be done to encourage bicycling in the city.

To mix a couple of pop music metaphors, the Bike Plan intends to “pave paradise” and create a “highway to hell.”

Specifically, the plan would see the Kelly’s Brook, Virginia River and Rennies River Trails converted to so-called “multi-use” trails. This would entail significant widening, straightening, filling and paving to create a 10-foot wide paved surface with 1 1/2 foot wide gravel shoulders each side plus a much wider area each side cleared of all vegetation, ostensibly to make users feel “safe.”

To mix a couple of pop music metaphors, the Bike Plan intends to “pave paradise” and create a “highway to hell.”

On the Rennies River trail south of Larch Park, a massive excavation will be required to overcome a significant grade change.

In addition, many areas of the existing trails along the Virginia and Rennies Rivers that have plenty of natural and naturally vegetated buffer zones between the trail and the water will see the “trail,” widened to the water’s edge with “walls” (concrete? rip-rap?) installed along the river banks and will see the existing flood zones reduced. This is not speculation, this is directly from the Bike Plan and its indices.

Besides the dramatic and deleterious impacts on the trail environment, there are other issues. The safety of walkers and runners would undoubtedly be reduced. Despite the city bylaw that prohibits bicycling on the Grand Concourse trails there is already a considerable amount of bike traffic.

As a daily trail walker I have seen many bicycling users, and some (well two, to be exact) are unfailingly courteous and will stop or dismount while passing walkers. The majority, unfortunately, not so much and I have seen and experienced a number of near misses.

These clashes will only increase and both the cyclists and the walkers will suffer as a result.

To resolve this the city should put an immediate hold on any further planning involving the Grand Concourse Trails until a proper series of consultations is held.

These consultations should be widely advertised and make clear, up front, the changes being proposed for the Grand Concourse trail system.

Robert Bishop,
St. John’s


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