Wheels in motion

Erica Butler tries to bike to Bedford

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This past spring HRM council budgeted the largest amount yet toward implementing its bike plan: $200,000. While an improvement on the $120,000 spent last year, it’s still well below the $300,000 minimum recommended in the 2002 council-approved bike plan, and still sadly not enough to even come close to completing a major bike project.

The full bike plan fund this year, besides $25,000 set aside for a multi-use trail in Sackville, was devoted to the Bedford Highway bikeway. Or at least 1.2 kilometres of it. Over the summer HRM paved the shoulders of the Bedford Highway from Millview Avenue to Larry Uteck Boulevard, a first baby step toward making the eight-kilometre commuter corridor safe for cyclists. To help the bikeways budget go farther, the shoulder paving was timed to coincide with a resurfacing project on the same stretch of road. Even so, it cost about $100,000 to lay down asphalt on each side of the 1.2km section, says Ken Reashor, acting manager of traffic and transportation. Reashor plans to spend the other $75,000 extending the west shoulder another half a kilometre towards Bedford and possibly also inching closer to Halifax, until either the money runs out or the snow flies. “If we get into weather then I’ll just wait till next year and spend the money,” says Reashor, “plus whatever we have next year, to extend along the Bedford Highway as far as we can.”

Luckily, there are ways to pay for bike infrastructure besides the HRM capital budget. With money from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund, local consultants CBCL are looking at ways to make the Macdonald Bridge bikeway more accessible.

Right now, cyclists coasting down North Street towards the bridge have to veer right, go downhill, circle underneath the bridge, and pedal back up a steep incline to get on the bikeway. Same thing on the way back, just in reverse. It’s a longstanding source of irritation for those using the bikeway daily, and an outright obstacle for those not quite hearty enough to make the steep climb regularly.

Last month, about 25 members of the HRM cycling community gathered to come up with potential design solutions. Among the ideas were two different bike bridges, one dropping down on the North Street median giving cyclists access to North and Brunswick, and another heading northward and dropping cyclists beside CFB Stadacona on North Street. CBCL actually did a similar study about five years ago, with the strict goal of getting cyclists onto Brunswick Street. This time around, they asked cyclists where they want to go when they get off the bridge. “Barrington remains a primary point of contact,” says Gordon Smith of CBCL, partly due to a growing movement to build a trail along busy Barrington into downtown. “But I think one of our primary criteria is to get people to North and Gottingen,” says Smith. “It gives people the same choice drivers have.”

Of course progress in one part of the SuperCity doesn’t mean progress everywhere. In fact, there’s even potential for losing ground. “Last spring we were told there was a potential for the bike lane on Brunswick Street being plain old removed,” says councillor Sheila Fougere, a cycling advocate and member of the Bikeways Advisory Committee. “We had a discussion about it at the BAC and Ken Reashor agreed that rather than just remove it they would do a functional review of it with bicycle counts and all that. We haven’t got that back yet.” Reashor says that some data was collected this summer, and more bike counts are scheduled for the coming weeks.

Switch gears. Email: ericab@thecoast.ca.

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