HALIFAX – Whether you’re looking to get to work, have some fun or get some exercise, there’s really nothing better than a good old fashioned bike ride. Unfortunately for the cyclists of Halifax, the biking infrastructure in this town is a little bit short on ‘good,’ with a much greater emphasis on the ‘old fashioned’ part.
In fact, biking on the peninsula can be down right dangerous. In most places cyclists have to share the road with cars, trucks, and even the occasional rickshaw in the touristy areas.
As if the the moving vehicles weren’t enough, bikers also have to worry about smashing face first into a car door as somebody gets out of their Honda Civic.
The worst part of it all is that there’s a pretty easy fix for most of these concerns; more bike lanes!
A quick look around Halifax and you’ll realize that the city is really lacking in adequate space to keep cyclists safe on the road.
I think it would be tough to find a cyclist in this city that didn’t agree that Halifax needs more bike lanes, but where do we need them the most?
“Considering we have a great deal of riders coming in from Bedford… a definite need for these cyclists would be a bike lane that runs from the Fairview overpass, through the north-end, running straight through the peninsula and finishing in the south-end of Halifax,” says Steve Beddard, Co-Chair of the Halifax Cycling Coalition. [ see HRM pdf plan ]
Beddard thinks that the creation of a comprehensive Halifax bike lane such as this would create “a transportation corridor that is comfortable for cyclists to use when they are commuting in from Bedford, but we’ll be creating a comfortable route for people in the North and South ends as well.”
The need for bike lanes in the North and South ends is difficult to argue.
Just take a look at this map. It provides a visual record of every accident involving a cyclist that has been reported to HRM police since June 8th, 2000.
The vast majority of these accidents have occurred in the North and South ends, with considerably fewer happening in less densely populated areas. This seems to point to two things: first, there are certain streets outside of downtown where smaller numbers of cyclists need bike lanes to protect themselves against heavy volumes of fast-moving traffic and; second, despite slower traffic downtown, bike lanes are also needed simply due to the large number of cyclists on the road.
Even if you aren’t the cycling type, bike lanes might be good for you. Beddard argues that bike lanes can benefit motorists as well: “Studies show that the presence of bike lanes (has) a traffic calming effect, regardless of whether a biker is using it or not. The result: communities that are calmer, quieter and happier, and more time for a motorist to react to surprises.”
photo by Matthew Blackett