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LETTER: St. John’s bike plan needs more planning

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 have been running and walking on many of the trails in St. John's for over 40 years, but the one I use on a daily basis is the Virginia River Trail between Logy Bay Road and Quidi Vidi Lake.

Unlike most of the system trails, this one is different in that it has a steep grade with many blind curves and, in many places, it doesn’t lend itself to widening.

Although I am totally in agreement that cyclists should have safe places to ride their bikes, I believe it’s a very bad idea to mix pedestrians and cyclists on some of these trails.

My experience is overwhelmingly with recreational cyclists that I encounter on the Virginia River Trail, especially on weekends.

Unfortunately, many of them have forgotten what rules, civility and consideration mean. The attraction for most of them is to cycle downhill as fast as possible, and I’m not describing adolescents who are still a work in progress. Most of them are seasoned adults who should know better.

After several close calls I have taken to engage, or try to, these cyclists in conversation. Typically I’ll ask if they know that cycling is not allowed on this trail (that is, if they stop to talk to me).

I’ve received varying replies, from “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t see any signs” to verbal abuse and obscene gestures. On two occasions I approached a cyclist right in front of the sign that indicates “no bikes,” and they still claimed ignorance.

In a perfect world, pedestrians and cyclists should be able to share at least some of the trails. However, as we know, we are far from perfection.

When shown the sign, there followed a diatribe about their right to use the trails, in one case “because I pay my taxes.”

One gentleman, well into his 60s, told me with a straight face that city council had approved the use of bikes on this trail — this was years ago.

In a perfect world, pedestrians and cyclists should be able to share at least some of the trails. However, as we know, we are far from perfection.

If my experiences over the last few years is anything to go by, there are going to be very nasty situations. And let’s not forget that there are other wheeled “toys,” such as skateboards that will no doubt add to the traffic.

I have run trails in many cities in Canada, the U.S. and other parts of the world. My observation is that in the recent past sharing a trail or path has become hazardous to pedestrians. The Vancouver Seawall path is a case in point.

It is clearly divided in two, one half for pedestrians and one half for cyclists, inline skaters, etc. Twenty or 30 years ago this was a very safe path for pedestrians, be they walkers or runners.

The last time I ran it, though, in 2015, impatient cyclists and skaters, boarders, etc. who were going at top speed dipped in and out of the pedestrian half in order to pass slower wheeled users, and I had a couple of close encounters that unnerved me.

I suggest city council should start over again, consulting pedestrian users (including parents with little ones in strollers or on foot, dog owners, elderly walkers, of which there are many), walking the trails themselves and having a serious engineering firm do a study of the conditions.

Our trails system is a real gem that I have not found in many of the cities I’ve visited. Many people who were previously inactive, once they had the trails available started walking.

How many are going to give up using them once the cyclists take over?

If there are dozens careening down these trails now when bikes are not allowed, what will happen when they are allowed?

I agree that bike paths are needed, both for recreational cyclists and for those who use a bike as transportation (kudos to them!). But please don’t do it at the expense of the majority, who use their two feet only.

Elena Hannah,
St. John’s


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