We need a bike lane on Agricola

This is the letter I sent to Halifax’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee earlier today.

To the members of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee,

Today you will have the chance to make a profound change in the way this city operates. In order to respect the wishes of our citizens and the HRM’s active transportation goals to build a comprehensive cycling network, you must approve both the Windsor/Vernon/Seymour and the Agricola cycling routes.

These two routes serve different audiences, with Windsor being a key commuter route for the west end, and Agricola being a commercial hub and commuter path for the north end. The Agricola route cannot be replaced with a patchwork network of side streets terminating at busy, uncontrolled intersections. The staff report shows the Agricola route as being safer and easier to navigate than the one they recommend. Is it your hope to put the lives of cyclists at unnecessary risk?

Last year, over 1,400 Haligonians signed a petition supporting the Agricola route. Next, several hundred residents attended the engagement sessions, more than were consulted on the regional plan update. Then, without a comprehensive survey of businesses, staff concluded that opposition to the route was unanimous. In twenty minutes yesterday, I identified five businesses (out of approximately 60) who support the route. Are the voices of a few vocal business people more important than an overwhelming sample of the area residents?

Ample evidence supports cycling lanes as a driver of business. Studies in London, New York, Paris, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and many other cities have shown that bike lanes benefit businesses. Business owners here dismiss that out of fear, claiming that we are different. We are not.

The report by Joshua De Jong (cited, and used as supporting evidence in the staff report) showed that half of the parking on Agricola is not used. He found that 30% of those who park are employees of the businesses. By shifting these cars to side streets and properly enforcing parking limits we can address the parking needs of area businesses. Let’s accept the academic research, not the fears of the few who choose to remain uninformed.

Your committee can vote to accept the status quo, to blindly march behind your staff, or it can choose to accept the evidence and show the public that their voice is important. We need a bike route on Windsor, but we need one on Agricola first.

Thank you for your time,