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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Biking on the edge of a Rock: Cycling in St John’s – Pt 1

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Bikes on Water St.

In Newfoundland people have always managed to flourish despite a harsh climate and rough terrain. Cyclists in St. John’s especially so. St. John’s is a city perched on the side of a hill, founded hundreds of years ago, with modern streets usually evolving from cart paths. Luxurious wide paved shoulders which can safely accommodate bikers or bike lanes are confined to newer peripheries of the city, or the planned streets of neighbors such as Mount Pearl. Cyclists also combat (quite literally some times) drivers with little knowledge of bike safety who often refuse to acknowledge their shared right to the roads.

Luckily, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That light may not be quite as bright as the one we may have seen back in November of 2007, when the original bike system map came out, but it is a light. After a drastic scaling-back of the proposed system, citing everything from narrow streets to unsafe speeds of cars, the bike system currently stands at two spokes (if you will), connecting to the downtown centre of town.

I have been assured by Robin King, Transportation Engineer for the city of St. John’s that the proposed work will be completed this summer, as it is tied to provincial and federal funding through the Newfoundland and Labrador Green Fund, and must be spent this year. The work involves upgrading existing multi-use trails, signing existing roads for bike traffic, and bike lanes! When the summer is over, we should have one spoke of the system extending from downtown, through the university, and out through Cowan Heights (in the West End). The other spoke of the hopefully eventual full wheel of a system will go from downtown, out through the east end, connecting with the Virginia River Trial system.

While many people were rightfully disappointed by the drastic reduction in the originally proposed system, I will be happy to see anything at all which will make cycling easier, safer, and a more viable form of transportation in this city. Until then, we will be forced to rely on the enduring, DIY nature of Newfoundlanders to sustain us.

Fortunately for everyone, we have many die-hard cyclists here in St. John’s burning their tires down to make cycling better and easier for us all.

In the next two weeks, I will highlight two fantastic organizations which are both fighting for a more bike-friendly St. John’s: Bike Share and Ordinary Spokes.

Believe me when I tell you that these people are doing amazing things every day.

Anyways Folks, stay tuned to Spacing Atlantic, and check back next Tuesday, June 22nd, for Part 2 of my run-down of Cycling in St. John’s.



  1. Great article, Andrew!
    Do you have a link to a map of the rejigged bike system that is to be done by the end of this summer? Or perhaps a link to the city’s plans?

  2. Thanks Nan-C,
    Also double thanks for finding the map before I had a chance to!
    There will be a new part to this tomorrow about St. John’s Bike collective Ordinary Spokes TOMORROW!
    I can hardly wait.