HALIFAX – It goes without saying that there’s plenty Halifax could do to improve its pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Nothing, however, epitomizes this fact so much as the ‘gate’ on Quingate.
One of the best used pedestrian and cycling passageways, the gate is nothing less than Halifax’s most glaring bottlenecks. Yet unlike other bottlenecks, the gate happens to be the cheapest and simplest one to fix.
A through-fare for many commuters, students and errand runners alike, the high volume of foot traffic and continuous flow of cyclists is literally confirmed by the regular spectators of seniors and service staff who choose this space to sit in during the afternoons or while on smoke breaks.
There are clear reasons why this gate has become such a transportation hub for walkers and cyclists. Located just off Quinpool Road, I like to think of the gate as the entrance/exit between the North and South ends of the city. Not only is the gate at the endpoint of an extremely well used cycling route — Vernon Street from Dalhousie campus to Quinpool — but it provides a natural shortcut for pedestrians and bikers alike on their way to Windsor street and the North End.
The fact that so many choose to bike through a parking lot and narrow gateway rather than stick to the Quinpool and Windsor intersection also speaks to the shortcomings and more glaring safety issues with the on-street route. For cyclists looking to continue south from Windsor, a right turn onto Quinpool followed by immediately having to cross three lanes of often heavy traffic is required, before being able to make a left onto Vernon. For cyclists coming from Vernon who want to continue north up Windsor, a legal route simply doesn’t exist.
As for pedestrians, the gate is the most straightforward, efficient path to take — an especially important fact if you’re laden down with grocery bags from the Superstore, as many people are. Quingate also happens to be one of the few places where pedestrians can safely cross the Quinpool superblock during rush hour, when the street is jam packed with cars.
It seems completely unreasonable that the ‘gate’ on Quingate could remain for so long. That Halifax’s most poorly planned space could also be the easiest to fix is still a lingering reminder of the supremacy of the car in a city desperate for safer transportation alternatives.
The question is, what should be done? Widen the gate maybe? Or paint a bike lane through the parking lot? I’m sure others have far better, more creative ideas than me…please comment.