EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was previously published in Spacing Magazine’s fall issue.
HALIFAX — Both Moncton and Halifax have their unique challenges in implementing a sustainable development path for their respective regions. This diversity of tactics was on full display during debates this past summer in both cities about road alteration projects.
In Halifax, a decision on the proposed expansion of two-lane Bayers Road has been delayed. The project called for a four-to-six-lane widening along significant portions of the street, essentially turning it into a highway corridor for suburban communities leading into peninsular Halifax.
Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Peter Kelly, notorious for being deliberative to a point, suggested that other options might be available outside of the proposed widening project. His correspondence urged a sobering thought to widening of arterial roads. “[W]e should be exploring alternative ways to smooth traffic flow,” he says, “ones which won’t involve the destruction of up to 80 private properties or end up costing taxpayers more than $20 million.”
Though many Haligonians applaud Mayor Kelly’s position, critics point out that it may be primarily due to the lessons the City learned from the debacle that was the Chebucto Road widening project. Halifax waits with bated breath; the issue has been punted to be dealt with after the first five-year review of the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy is completed and more importantly, after the Municipal Election upcoming in October.
On the other side of the isthmus, Moncton pushed ahead last summer with its planned conversion of two major arterials, Shediac and Salisbury roads, from four traffic lanes to three — with dedicated bike lanes on either side. The project is part of Moncton’s Active Transport (AT) Plan, which was approved last year to rave reviews for its focus on moving the city forward from its heavy reliance on cars.
But heated editorials in the Times & Transcript, combined with loud demands from affected drivers, urged the City to backpedal on its commitment for a more bicycle-friendly and sustainable Moncton. While some of the debate was focused on a lack of consultation with the affected neighbourhoods, some of it targeted the practicality of a centre left-turn lane, going as far as to calling it the “suicide lane.” Ivan LeBlanc, a local cycling and AT advocate, suggested that the Times & Transcript was nurturing hostility between cyclists and drivers.
The statistics, however, are on the site of AT supporters. The Transportation Association of Canada recommends a four-lane roadway when traffic counts reach 20,000 vehicles per day. Counts for Shediac and Salisbury roads average about less than half that amount. What’s more, since the bike lanes were added, traffic speeds have dropped back to the speed limit.
Moncton’s multi-pronged approach to giving its citizens healthier alternatives is laudable. Infrastructure that promotes safe alternative transportation will only make active living that much more accessible. Instead of trying to mimic Moncton’s success in hosting regional mega-concerts (and failing miserably), Halifax could look to its regional counterpart for examples of how giving priority to mass transit and active transportation can lead to a better quality of life for all residents. Moncton’s tide is indeed on the rise — the bike wheels are turning. Halifax, it’s your turn.
Photos from Times & Transcript [paywall].