Dear #StCath cyclists – which is better? A token 570m of bike lane, or KM’s of a new bike network?

An interesting night at St. Catharines City Council, as always. The biggest issue for me tonight was a report detailing spending $350,000 on bike lanes on McGuire St, in front of the new Meridian Centre and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

The issue, of course, is not whether we should be installing bike lanes or not. I’m in full agreement that we should be putting in bike lanes, wherever feasible, to make it easier for anyone in this city who wants to ride their bike to be able to do so safely.

The issue here is . . . if you’re going to spend $350,000 of taxpayer dollars on bike lanes, would it not make sense to get as big a bang for your buck as possible?

What Council approved (I voted against, but I was the lone voice against) was to spend $350,000 on approximately 570m of bike lanes in front of the new facilities in the lower level. While some tried to argue that it was an economic driver, I would point out that these bike lanes will actually allow people to completely bypass the new and improved downtown; they will actually take people away from the private sector investment.

I suggested that maybe directing lanes through the new facilities and their parking areas might be a much less expensive alternative than building an addition to the road on the bank, but was told that no, absolutely not, they had to be on the road (never mind that some communities have embraced off-road cycling infrastructure – Ottawa, in particular, has a fantastic bike path network that isn’t on a roadway).

What Council could/should have done was use that $350,000 to make a real difference for cyclists. What kind of a bike-friendly community would that $350K have made? With it, we could have hired a consultant to look at our roads, determine the best routes to create an integrated network, AND paved who-knows-how-many kilometres of new bike lanes!

As an aside – earlier in the night we approved putting in bike lanes on part of Eastchester at a cost $2/m. The bike lanes on McGuire? $600/m + (give or take a few bucks per metre).

Tonight Council made a short-sighted decision. While some may want to try and rally cyclists to their cause, the reality is that cyclists lost tonight. There was $350,000 worth of bike lanes to be built, and Council chose the flashy bike lanes in front of the shiny new facilities, instead of the significant bike lanes that could have been built running north-south, east-west, into and out of our downtown.

Another example of hard-earned taxpayer dollars being spent very poorly. Remember this when election day comes in October.

ADDENDUM: I should also point out that the money ear-marked for this comes from the 2015 Capital budget. So not only are we spending our money poorly, we’re spending the next Council’s mney poorly as well.

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8 comments

  1. Well, it does seem, on the face of it, a distortion of logic. On the other hand, it makes sense to put bike lanes where the people are. The expectation is that the new spectator facility and PAC will create a lot of people traffic, is it not? (And as an aside, is there a map of the St. Catharines bicycle system, for those who want to find calm routes for crosstown bicycle commutes?)

    • Rowan, I agree with the idea of bike lanes where the people are, but if the choice is between what we got and what we could have had, I have to go with more lanes this time.

      • We have degrees of agreement here. I read into subsequent comments that a coherent system with safe, calm routes that allow for efficient transit across the city is more agreeable.

        I know that the addition of bike lanes or share accommodations is opportunistic, and depends on the schedule of road reconstruction or rehabilitation (and that of Niagara Region as well).

        I like the rationale from the report (Number: TES-173-2014) that was presented, that the dedicated section will connect Centennial Gardens (but how?),Twelve Mile Creek, and the west via Burgoyne Bridge.

        Now if only we could find a way to cross the railroad tracks and stay on the Merritt Trail ….

    • Hi, The Niagara Regional Bicycle Map highlights the bicycle system for all roads and streets. It shows a very fragmented system that in 20-50 years will connect. The development practice has been to add lanes when road work/projects is on the agenda. The better practise? Not necessarily.

      Virginia
      Cyclist

  2. I agree that we should be encouraging cyclist to ride
    St.Paul St. , particularly touring cyclist from the Bike Train & Wine Route cyclist. I suggested years ago that the bike logos be in the centre of the driving lanes which they now are. I hesitate to comment further without seeing the actual proposal along with a plan.

    Paul Pattison

  3. Hi, I understand that SC will be appointing an Active Transportation Advisory Committee for the next term of Council or as soon as Fall 2014 to develop a bicycle master plan, which I hope will address the diversity of bicycle needs, e.g., bicycle lanes/trails/corridors (connectivity). I am very familiar with Ottawa’s trail system, but it’s not an either or, it’s about connectivity to our destinations, getting to where we cyclists need/want to go, e.g., from my home to the arts centre whether I’m using a bike lane, a trail or tourism corridor. SC has a reputation for lack of connectivity to get from here to there. Great to see a bicycle lane being incorporated, but will it get me up to the door of the art centre or arena (the convenience of cycling) and then maybe up to St. Paul for a bite to eat afterwords before I head home off Westchester. Thank you Councillor Siscoe for questioning the logic.

    Virginia Stewart

  4. This is a tough nut to crack. I live downtown and am a cyclist. I welcome a route that takes me off of St Paul Street or King Street when I’m passing through downtown (parallel parking and cycling are not always complimentary activities). I would also like to think that these lanes are the start of a formal connection between the northern section of the Merrit Trail, downtown, Centennial Park and the southern section of the Merritt Trail. However, I agree with you on three points. St Catharines needs a strategy to develop a complete network of bike lanes. McGuire should be rerouted so that it ceases to be a convenient downtown bypass for motorists and cyclists (that is what Westchester is for). And, that is a lot of money for not a lot of bike lane.

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