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No Bike Lanes on Herring Cove: "The Real Loss Here Is to the Community"

Council's vote is in spite of studies showing benefits of 'road diets'

by Ben Sichel

Cyclists battle cars for space on HRM streets (photo: Ben Sichel)
Cyclists battle cars for space on HRM streets (photo: Ben Sichel)

All across Nova Scotia, municipalities are making progress in promoting cycling as a method of active, low-cost, sustainable transportation.

Except, it seems, in Halifax Regional Municipality.

Communities from Glace Bay to Yarmouth to Bridgewater and even Guysborough County – the least populated in Nova Scotia – are working toward building cycling infrastructure.

But in a 13-9 vote, HRM council recently scuttled a plan to remove lanes for cars and put a bike lane on a 900-metre stretch of Herring Cove Road – despite studies indicating that the plan would not significantly slow down car traffic flow, and would even be good for business in the area.

The plan was “not just about traffic, painting lines. It’s a much bigger thing,” says Susanna Fuller, a consultant for the Nova Scotia Bikeways Coalition. “It’s getting at the meat of issues of poverty, weight, unhealthiness.”

Despite city planners’ support for the plan based on a study and community consultation done for HRM in 2005, the Spryfield & District Business Commission (SDBC), which represents “all the businesses in the area,” according to executive director Bruce Holland, mounted a campaign against the ‘road diet.’ The SDBC feared reducing lanes for cars would negatively affect their businesses.

It was a “knee-jerk reaction,” says Steve Bedard, co-chair of the Halifax Cycling Coalition (HCC). “For the past 50 years we’ve been locked in car culture. Business have the model that the motorist is the customer. A lot of studies in Toronto are showing that’s really not the case.”

Narrower Roads, More Business

Bedard said he and other members of the HCC did a “comprehensive search” of studies related to ‘road diets’– intentional reductions of traffic lanes for cars in exchange for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets - to gauge their effects on local business.

In other cities where road diets have been implemented, “businesses by and large have benefited from it” says Bedard.

In addition, he said the design would result in a safer city street. "Herring Cove is a relic of an outdated plan to make a series of freeways. Right now the limit is 50, but motorists are tearing down the street. The road diet would have really calmed that down.”

Bruce Holland did not offer much detail to the reasoning behind the Business Commission’s opposition to the road diet. “Well obviously we didn’t feel the same,” said Holland curtly. “We felt that it would not be good for business.”

When asked if he knew of traffic studies that backed the his point of view, Holland said the Commission “didn’t refer to any particular studies, but the general consensus of the community was that it would not be good for business.”

Steve Bedard arranged a meeting with Holland on the Friday before council’s vote to discuss their differences, but Holland didn’t show due to illness. That weekend, the SDBC collected 2,639 signatures on petitions at 14 businesses in the Spryfield area opposing the road diet.

Council chooses who to believe

Spryfield-Herring Cove councillor Steve Adams, who signed the petition himself before presenting it to council, argues that the 2005 study of Herring Cove Road, which involved extensive community consultations, did not actually justify reducing car traffic in favour of bike lanes.

“Many of the people who supported [the study] clearly didn’t read it,” says Adams. The study “was clear: residents and merchants agree generally that road capacity should not be reduced.”

Indeed, page 56 of the study does say that those residents of Spryfield who participated in its consultation process felt that “[t]he street should not be changed to reduce traffic capacity.”

“Nobody is against bike lanes” adds Adams. “What people have an issue with is cutting down the traffic.”

Adams also called the studies sent to him on road diets in other cities “priceless.” He says “not one of them mentioned them [reducing car traffic capacity from] 5 lanes to 3, which is what we’re talking about.” The studies sent to him, says Adams, refer only to cases of four lanes of traffic being reduced to three, or four to two.

Steve Bedard counters that Adams “completely missed the point behind the dozen case studies we submitted to council: traffic calming along commercial streets and districts is good for business.” Council and the Business Commission “are using a dated and dying business model where ‘the motorist is my best and only customer’,” says Bedard. “One line supporting a highway vs. 10+ pages encouraging cycling infrastructure. We believed the overall message of [the 2005 road study] was in favour of cycling infrastructure installment.”

“[T]he real loss here is to the community who had a chance to have tangible infrastructure installed that would have encouraged active living and increased the appeal of the area,” adds Bedard.

Susanna Fuller suggests that Adams himself should read more of the 2005 Herring Cove Road study that Adams claims argues against the road diet. On the same page where the report says that residents don’t want traffic capacity reduced, she notes, it also states that “[t]raffic speed should be reduced” and “[t]he street should be made ‘pedestrian and bicycle friendly.’” “What else is he planning on doing…to actually achieve the desires of the community to have a more bike / pedestrian friendly shopping area? Are there plans for bike racks? Community rides? anything?”

Pedalling Forward

Despite feeling discouraged as a result of council’s vote, cycling advocates are learning lessons from the campaign for Herring Cove bike lanes.

“You have to have the councillors’ support,” says Fuller. “You also need the grassroots to be there.”

“[T]he issues that didn’t come up enough are health and transportation equity,” continues Fuller. Cycling “speaks to all income levels. I’ve seen a bit of Bike Again [a program that provides free bikes and maintenance lessons]. It’s all low-income people.”

Tom MacDonald, an avid cyclist who organizes Halifax’s annual Naked Bike Ride, says that the cycling community will now focus its energy on campaigns for bike lanes elsewhere in the city, notably the Crosstown Connector to link the North and South ends of the peninsula.

“Basically the idea is to link up bike lanes that already exist in Halifax,” to create “more of an incentive for people to commute to downtown from the Bedford Highway,” says MacDonald.

(The Halifax Cycling Coalition lists a number of businesses on its website with petitions to the city in favour of the Crosstown Connector.)

Brennan Vogel, who cycles to work at the Ecology Action Centre in North End Halifax from his home in Purcell’s Cove, says that making Halifax bike-friendly is “in the long-term interest of community vitality.”

“The city should be bending over backward” to provide cycling infrastructure, he says. “It’s good for people’s health, it’s good for the economy. It’s pretty clear that bikes are a good thing.”

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1117 words


Unfortunately for Mr.

Unfortunately for Mr. Holland, the SDBC's efforts to prevent the bike lanes out of fear of "hurting business" will, ironically, hurt business. I will never buy anything along Herring Cove Road again. Or at least until there are bike lanes.

Well, Herring Cove has lost

Well, Herring Cove has lost my business.  Apparently they don't understand that there is a different type of traffic that could bring in more business.  I don't own a bike; however, I'll  choose not to do business in that place.  Such a lack of creativity and understanding shouldn't be rewarded, and I'll have no part of it.  That type of attitude is going to put the area under anyawy. 

cyclists make purchases, too...

...it's too bad some of the opposition voices in Spryfield can't remember that. I bike through Spryfield all the time, and I never use Herring Cove Road. If the road was more bike friendly, I would. So those businesses could have had my patronage, but I guess I'll wait until they come around to the idea that, while there are a lot of low-income people who bike, there are also a lot of cyclists who have _more_ disposable income than drivers precisely because they aren't sinking thousands of dollars into their cars each year.

reply this post

I had got a dream to make my own business, nevertheless I did not have enough of money to do that. Thank goodness my colleague suggested to take the business loans. Thence I received the short term loan and made real my dream.

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