HALIFAX – In March of 2010, the Halifax Cycling Coalition (HCC) began a petition supporting a new active transportation corridor to be established in a high impact area on the peninsula. After six weeks of touring with the petition and some help from our membership — as well as everyday HRM residents — I am proud to say that our petition of over 1400 signatures has finally made some headway.
Yesterday, Halifax Regional Council was presented with a staff report supporting continued development of a new active transportation corridor — which the HCC has dubbed the Crosstown Connector (CtC). In its simplest form, the CtC would be a single, connected bike lane that would span the north and south ends of the peninsula and eventually connect to the Bedford Highway Bike Lane. Not only would this serve the existing cycling population of Halifax, but it would also reduce one of the major barriers between non-cyclists and the old 10-Speeds stored in their garages: a lack of practical infrastructure. At the end of the discussion, council voted unanimously to send this plan to community consultation. That said, community consultation can either make or break the CtC.
One of the biggest sources of resistance to cycling infrastructure in HRM is input from businesses who are afraid of loosing customers due to a trade-off between on-street parking and bike lanes. Although businesses would likely see a change to their bottom line, Lauralee Sim — Co-Chair of the HCC — indicates that the change could be in the favour of local businesses. “It’s sort of this knee-jerk misconception that businesses have towards loosing on street parking,” Sim explains. “Businesses think that their customers will feel inconvenienced by the change. The evidence we’ve found seems to indicate the opposite.”
According to new studies from all across North America — and even Canadian communities such as Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood — the majority of patrons who visit local businesses tend to be pedestrians and cyclists. Not only do they patronize local businesses more often, they tend to spend more on the goods, services and food when they’re there. Couple these findings with a new survey from Halifax’s Cycle Gallery indicating that cyclists tend to have a higher discretionary budget, it’s no stretch of the imagination to think of cyclists as the powerful consumer group that they are.
Whether you cycle or not, the HCC’s Crosstown Connector — should it be created — will definitely impact the transportation diversity of Halifax. As community consultations and meetings are established, I urge you all to come out and talk about how a bike lane may affect your day to day lives — whether it be positively or negatively. This is an exciting step for us all.