HALIFAX – Something brilliant might be coming to the Spryfield area this summer. City staff have been working diligently on a new street design concept for Herring Cove Road. This new plan would include a street diet –much akin to what is going on in Toronto– to make space for bike lanes in the area. Therefore, Spryfield residents will see Herring Cove Road drop from its typical five lane cross-section to three, with two brand new bike lanes. Additionally, boulevards are also being installed as medians along the road to offer pedestrians refuge when crossing the proposed three lane street.
This is definitely going to be a big step up for the community. Presently many cyclists and non-cyclists alike are dismayed as the five lane road (more akin to an ocean of asphalt) kicks up dust and sand in the air and encourages motorists to exceed posted speed limits when heading through the area. Furthermore, the inbound shoulder of the road is reminiscent of a potholed WW2 no-mans-land, making cycling in the area difficult for even the best of riders, and unthinkable to novice riders or those considering using the bicycle to commute to work over the summer.
The commercial sector and developers are bound to see a boost in business as well. Neighbourhood studies out of Toronto and New York indicate pedestrians and cyclists account for up to 90% of patronization in local stores and shops. GPI Atlantic also indicates that neighbourhoods with increased transportation diversity encourage more commercial and residential interest in communities. Don’t think people cycle enough in Herring Cove to warrant such optimism? GPI Atlantic continues to indicate that as active transportation infrastructure is installed, a 10-30% decrease in local motorized transportation is typically observable.
Unfortunately, the same people who could benefit most are the very people who are vehemently against the proposed plans from HRM. Businesses in the area are rallying against the sacrifice of their transportation lanes. Fears of loosing profit to larger industrial parks like Bayers Lake and Dartmouth Crossing are spreading from shop to shop like wildfire. Some locations have even begun a petition against the concept entirely. Councillor Steve Adams has brought a motion up in Regional Council calling for HRM to quash the proposed plans due to their insensitivity to the needs of local business. What’s most surprising is that Linda Mosher –Councillor of District 18 and Chair of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee— supported quashing these plans along with Councillor Adams!
Can anything else go wrong for the cyclists and residents of this community? Why is council bending their ear to anecdotal evidence thrown around by the business community when HRM’s own Active Transportation plan cites the numerous health, environmental, social and economic benefits to cycling?
Why are we ignoring city reports indicating that, even with lane reductions, Herring Cove road has the capacity to support 30-70% more traffic than it does at present? Why are councillors in charge of millions of our tax dollars listening to unsubstantiated guesses from the business community and ignoring published research on issues of cycling and transportation demand?