Just as homeowners in residential areas benefit from quieter, family-friendlier streets and improved property values when streets are upgraded with bike lanes, the evidence is clear in case studies from across the continent that when streets through business districts are upgraded with bike lanes, then retail benefits big time, even though parking patterns may change.
“When faced with the prospect of losing some on-street parking outside a local business, it completely makes sense for business owners to be concerned about the impact on their customer base. But the on-the-ground evidence as well as nationwide data paints a very different picture. Rest assured that, if bike lanes are coming to your street and some parking spaces are disappearing in the process, local businesses shouldn’t see losses in profit. In fact, they’re likely to see gains.”
Think how downtown Brockville could benefit from wider sidewalks, bike lanes, more people traffic and more foot traffic through stores.
“Are Bike Lanes Good for Traffic?” is the title, yet the article is really a wide-ranging description of the progress being made everywhere as public roads are transformed to be safer for moving people regardless of choice of transportation. It was published in autotrader.ca and serves to both illuminate and describe the variety of approaches, designs, and social factors brought into play as roads built first for cars are now reshaped to serve moving people. Read the article here.
In Lanark County the Council of Smiths Falls is making an important first step toward joining Mississippi Mills as a bike friendly community. Town council has approved an initial priority list of cycling infrastructure projects as part of an application for provincial OMCCP funding. Read more here.
(May 29, 2017) The “Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program” (OMCCP) was announced today, deepening the province’s commitment to making it easier for commuters and families to get around by bike. In this year’s tranche of the multi-year program, the province is investing $50 million from its carbon market to fund this and other new initiatives that support commuter cycling infrastructure. The OMCCP will provide eligible municipalities with funding to build more bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure, or enhance existing infrastructure. This investment will help promote safety for cyclists and make cycling more comfortable and appealing for daily commutes and other frequent trips.
Of note for Brockville:
Only municipalities with a current cycling plan are eligible. Brockville does not have a current transportation plan, active transportation plan, or cycling plan. These were committed in the Official Plan, yet motions to move them forward have been defeated more than once at Council.
OMCC program funding may be used to develop a cycling plan, with up to 80% of the cost covered.
OMCC program funding may be used to develop cycling facilities, with up to 80% of the cost covered.
Program applications are open June 5th, with a deadline of August 18th.
This program is a follow-on to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program under which Brockville is receiving $325,000 for projects currently underway. (Read here)
See the Ontario announcement here.
See OMCCP details here.
Belleville city council has approved the next round of bike lanes to be installed, citing safety and encouragement of everday cycling, along with health benefits that will offset millions in healthcare costs over the next decade.
This blog reported recently on Belleville’s coming moves, as well as the report prepared by their regional health unit which used the World Health Organization’s model to monetize the health benefits. That study found that, “every dollar invested in related infrastructure for biking and walking could result in more than $2.78 to $5.56 in health benefits.”
Belleville is a city similar to Brockville, divided by Highway 401, the major rail lines and water courses. They also have some residents who went on record saying their street, Bridge Street, is too dangerous and they wanted to keep it that way, similar to a few residents on Laurier Blvd. in Brockville. However, “City staff indicated the street is wide enough for the lanes. Council voted unanimously for the project which will go ahead this year along with lanes on Adam Street and College Street East.”
What is notable in the reporting of the council meeting is the strong support from councillors to moving Belleville forward as a community in which public roads are safer for all, and their understanding that this is necessary for the future health and vitality of their city. As an example is Councillor Mitch Panciuk’s comment, “It is inexcusable that it took until 2016 for the city to have its first cycling lane and we have a long way to catch up.”
See the Intelligencer article here, and the Quinte News article here.
The Health Unit’s study can be found here (pdf).
A recent editorial in KingstonRegion.com outlines the process and plans for Bath Rd in Kingston, one of this region’s Bicycle Friendly Communities (which also include Belleville, Cornwall, Ottawa and Mississippi Mills). As the editorial notes, “…cutting one lane from the diet of motorists will not only extend Kingston’s waterfront cycling trail but make this west-end section of Bath Road safer for all users. ‘There’s too much speeding, too many collisions, totally inhospitable to pedestrians and all but the most experienced cyclists.’” Read the editorial here.
As reported previously here, Belleville is a recent recipient of Share The Road’s “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation. This city of 49,000, divided like Brockville by the 401 and railroads, has a city council that understands and supports the economic business case for making the city more walk and bike friendly. The cycling facilities in their active transportation plan are being implemented at a quick pace. An article in the Intelligencer describes the current activity underway and the support that the plan is receiving. Also of note is the environmental study conducted for the city by their regional Health Unit. Among other things it is one of the few studies that has used the World Health Organization’s economic modelling to quantify and monetize the health benefits of small numbers of increased cyclists and activity in a small city.
Read the Intelligencer article here.
The Health Unit’s study can be found here (pdf).
The Brockville cycling advisory committee, at its regular meeting in City Hall on Thursday May 10th at 5 p.m., will review the outcome of discussions for a holistic view of the cycling network that best fits Brockville’s neighbourhoods north of the 401. For background, please see the Brockville FAQs postings, including the report (pdf) unanimously approved by City Council in December 2015, and a revised work plan for the northern part of the cycling network later adopted by the committee.
As a gentle reminder, the cycling advisory committee is a formal Committee of Council that was established by unanimous vote of Council late in 2010. The committee’s terms of reference mandate that it advise Council and staff on ways to fulfill the commitments Council has made to residents through the Official Plan and other programs.
A brief history and context as well as a full discussion of the north-end cycling network is provided in the PDF document below, which is part of the agenda package for next week’s meeting. Anyone wishing to help support the committee in moving this forward is invited to attend the meeting, or contact them [this author will pass along messages].
It’s most evident at public meetings, where typically only the polarized show up. On one end of the spectrum are the few who are “confident cyclists”, content to tackle any street anytime. While no more than 1% of even a bike friendly community, their voices are generally ignored as those of a fringe element.
On the other end of the spectrum, public meetings are often overwhelmed with those opposed who come with strident arguments and misinformation showing their street is better left untouched, as unsafe as they might claim it is. Intimidation tactics are often used to push people to sign petitions. Municipal councillors are deluged with phone calls and email that’s downright nasty in tone and content. Sometimes, outright deceit is used, for example, meeting with the fire chief and learning that bike lanes pose no problem for emergency response, and then running ads and soliciting petition signatures based on the assertion that bike lanes will slow emergency response and cost lives.
The risk of course is that municipal councils be swayed by these vocal minorities, avoiding conflict, under-serving the majority of residents, and leaving the community languishing in the rearguard of economic progress.
In between those poles, however, lie the majority of the population who are “interested, but concerned”. Research repeatedly shows that this group will rarely attend a public meeting, wants to have the choice to ride a bike more for everyday getting around, or for recreation, and will shy away from having to mix with motorized traffic.
Being informed by this evidence from many municipal studies, the Brockville cycling advisory committee adopted as one of its design principle:
Everyday Cycling – The segment of the population targeted by the network is first and foremost the “everyday” cyclist – those people who would like to bike recreationally to start, perhaps with friends and family, and then venture to use their bike for everyday trips around town for appointments, work, school, shopping and visiting. Research shows this group is eager yet cautious – reluctant to mix with motorized traffic – and holds the greatest latent demand. Safety for all ages, all abilities is considered. The network will also serve, but is not specifically designed for, those comfortable with and skilled at mixing with traffic on Brockville’s busier roads.
Following the research and case studies, is an article posted on Planetizen by public engagement strategist Dave Biggs of MetroQuest, “The Wisdom of Engaging Nervous Cyclists“. He outlines the extensive outreach that Toronto did to engage people in that largely silent and less heard middle group. The results were outstanding and unequivocal, leading to design and plans much further reaching than might otherwise have happened.
“It was clear to the City of Toronto that engaging less confident cyclists that make up 60% of the population, yet seldom come to community meetings, might be the key to dramatic mode shifts in the city.”
And summarizing the results, “It’s useful to note that without careful consideration to the voices of the less confident cyclists, the results of the community engagement would have pointed to infrastructure suited to the 1% of the population who are already confident cyclists since they are highly engaged. Naturally it’s important to meet the needs of confident cyclists. By also accommodating those on the fence, planners can open up a massive opportunity for change.”
And an analogy worth keeping in mind, “A city without separated bike lanes and off-street cycling paths may be like a swimming pool with no shallow end. It’s fine for confident swimmers but intimidating for novices.”
(April 5, 2017) Almonte’s Ottawa St, the main east-west corridor through town, is about to be upgraded to become safer for all road users, with the addition of bike lanes. Read the report in the agenda extract below.
(April 5, 2017) Waterloo Region is set to follow the lead of Calgary and Edmonton, giving a big boost to transportation by bike by implementing, all at once, a network of separated/protected bike lanes. The article in The Record does a nice job of summarizing the pilot project. The report shown in the extract below does a great job of laying out the project rationale and objectives, as well as providing a summary of similar networks in other Canadian cities.
The results of upgrading streets to include protected bikes lanes are becoming so predictable they’re almost boring. The benefits are broadly multi-faceted and extend to many stakeholders. Of course, for those of us living in a community still in denial, it’s worth continuing to collect the evidence.
“Along nine blocks of Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, biking is up 78 percent since protected bike lanes were installed. Walking is up 100 percent. Meanwhile, the number of traffic collisions fell 40 percent. Retail sales in a district that has sometimes struggled are up 9 percent, thanks in part to five new businesses. And the median car speed is now the speed limit: 25 mph.” Read more here.
Following an 18 month trial, Calgary city council deemed the cycle network to be a success and voted 10-4 to keep it.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi, following the vote, said, “As we look at the data, more people are cycling, we’ve lowered the percentage of injury collisions throughout the core, and we’ve had pretty minimal impact on automobile traffic, so I’m quite pleased with where council ended up today.”
Read the Dec 19th article in the Calgary Sun here.
Further comments reported in another Calgary Sun article on Dec 20th:
“If you give people a safe and comfortable place to ride their bikes, they’ll do it.
“Bike lanes will probably always be controversial to a certain extent because this is a fundamental conversation about perceived rights and privileges. What it should be is a conversation about how to make the city work better for everyone.
“If you design a city for cars, it fails for everyone including drivers. If you design a multi-modal city, it works better for everyone, including drivers.”
When it comes to road safety, the paradigm still holds that convenience trumps safety. Ottawa decided to overrule consultants’ recommendations and install facilities that wouldn’t inconvenience those driving. The result is a less than optimal solution in which the street is safer than before and cycling volumes have climbed quickly, yet could have been much better. Fortunately, one councilor steps forward to say about the needed culture shift, “It is a shift that has to happen. And to be fair to staff, it needs to happen at the political level … it is incumbent upon us. We’re the leaders, we can change the culture, we have the responsibility.” Read more here.
Recently, Edmonton recovered from a false start by removing a poorly designed bike lane from a street, much to the delight of anti-laners everywhere who could now point knowingly to how bike lanes were failing “everywhere”. At the time, that city said they’d come back with a better plan. And they did.
Last week Edmonton city council voted unanimously to follow Calgary’s successful lead and implement a downtown grid of protected bike lanes. The plan leans not only on Calgary’s success, but also the known factor that building bike lanes one segment at a time does little to spur the uptake needed, and that a fully-connected network delivers. The plan also relies on being able to modify the grid with experience, solving problems in real time, instead of putting years of planning into trying to address all potential concerns up front. This is truly a plan which leans on global best practices and aims to take Edmonton directly from “not have” to “front runner”. Read more here.
Line painting on King St W and Cty Rd 2, along with new signs, clearly show Brockville’s first bike lanes. Some stencil and line painting remains, yet the lanes are marked and in force. This segment is part of the Ontario Waterfront Trail, and the eastbound welcome to Brockville for some 3,000 or more cyclist tourists each season. It’s also a popular route for local commuters and recreational riders.
The original four lane configuration has been upgraded to two bike lanes, two motorized travel lanes, and a centre left turn lane. The road continues to provide significant excess capacity for measured volumes.
First proposed and approved by council in the 2009 Official Plan, further reinforced in planning rationale in 2012, and once again approved by council and Leeds Grenville public works in late 2015, they are finally a reality.
“Every $1,300 New York City invested in building bike lanes in 2015 provided benefits equivalent to one additional year of life at full health over the lifetime of all city residents, according to a new economic assessment.
“That’s a better return on investment than some direct health treatments, like dialysis, which costs $129,000 for one quality-adjusted life year, or QALY, said coauthor Dr. Babak Mohit of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.” Read more here.