Halifax hopes to double the number of cyclists in 10 years

Halifax is hoping to double the amount of cyclists in the next 10 years, but achieving that goal will require a much bigger budget.

City staff estimate it will cost double the current annual budget of $5.3 million

The next decade of bicycle infrastructure renewal will need a new way of conceptualizing how city streets are used, said Halifax municipal staff at a meeting Thursday evening. (CBC News)

Halifax is hoping to double the amount of cyclists in the next 10 years, but achieving that goal will require a much bigger budget. 

The next decade of bicycle infrastructure renewal will need a new way of conceptualizing how city streets are used, said Halifax municipal staff at a meeting Thursday evening.

The public meeting recapped future bicycle infrastructure projects in Halifax, along with strategies to achieve active transportation goals. One of the goals is to double the rates of cycling and walking in the city by 2026.

Hanita Koblents, Halifax's active transportation co-ordinator, called the city's bike map a "fractured network" that was built mainly as a result of cycling projects taking advantage of ongoing road work.

"The strategy was follow the pavers," she said. "Build a bike lane where there's an opportunity."

That method has been easy, Koblents said, compared to the difficult but surmountable task ahead to connect those network fragments.

"It kind of cuts off in certain areas," said bicycle commuter Heather Fairclough. "You feel safe in your bike lane and it just stops and you're in traffic."

To execute this larger, comprehensive strategy, city staff are turning to experts like Michael Flynn, an engineer with Sam Schwartz Engineering, based in New York.

"You have not a lot of wide streets, so that kind of presents its own unique challenges to bikeability," he said during Thursday's meeting. "It makes it harder to fit real dedicated infrastructure.

"But it also means that you have some really nice lower speed, lower traffic streets that could be great opportunities for traffic calming, so that it's comfortable for people of all ages and all abilities to be biking."

To accomplish the goals laid out in Halifax's active transportation plan, city staff estimate it will cost double the current annual budget of $5.3 million.

It's a major investment that would require support from both businesses and residents, but Flynn said many cities have seen a boost in overall physical activity and business profits in neighbourhoods that re-engineered streetscapes to be more welcoming to cyclists and pedestrians.

"I mean, it already is a liveable city," he said, "But it can make it even more bikeable."

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