Cambridge's temporary bike lanes cost $120K to be removed

Regional councillors have voted in favour of removing temporary bike lanes along Coronation Boulevard in Cambridge, part of a $550,000 pilot project.

Bike lanes cost $120K, were part of $550K pilot project

Temporary bike lanes in Cambridge will be removed after regional councillors voted in favour of ending a pilot project that was set to run until Oct. 31. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Regional councillors have voted in favour of removing temporary bike lanes along Coronation Boulevard in Cambridge, part of a $550,000 pilot project.

The bike lanes consist of hundreds of traffic cones blocking off one lane of traffic in both directions on Coronation Boulevard.

Regional councillors voted Tuesday to remove the cones after the motion was brought forward by Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry.

McGarry said many people had written to both city and regional councillors with concerns about the bike lanes. It included concerns about traffic congestion, the cost of the project and ambulances not being able to access Cambridge Memorial Hospital in a timely manner.

The region's paramedic services have said ambulances have not had any problems with traffic or the bike lanes and McGarry said she's also heard that. 

But, McGarry said, in the views of many people in the community, there are just too many concerns surrounding the project.

"The concerns, perceived or real, are still concerns, and they have helped us to at least get enough feedback to take forward," McGarry said, noting the city is working on cycling and active transportation plans.

'We have learned a lot'

The region voted at the end of June to put temporary bike lanes in the three cities at a budgeted cost of $550,000 for all the lanes. Steve van De Keere, the region's director of transportation, said the Cambridge portion of the pilot is about a quarter of the overall costs, or about $120,000.

The idea was to give people more space for active transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lanes were installed in mid-July. Staff said the cost of the project cannot be recovered if parts of the pilot project are cancelled.

Coun. Tom Galloway agreed it's time to end the pilot in Cambridge because it's become too controversial, and he is "worried that what is occurring now could taint" the other active transportation projects the city is working on.

"I believe we have learned a lot from this pilot. We do have some data," he said, although added they could have learned more if the pilot could have continued until Oct. 31. 

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic supported the motion but said he did so "with some sadness and some reluctance."

He said he drove along Coronation Boulevard twice, once on a Wednesday afternoon and once on a Friday during rush hour. He said neither time was problematic.

"I found it no worse than at other times," he said.

He said he was concerned by the tone of emails councillors were receiving, and Regional Chair Karen Redman said she had received emails with "salty" language from residents on the issue.

The motion to remove the lanes in Cambridge was passed unanimously. Van De Keere said the bike lanes will be removed by the end of this week or early next week.

Westmount lanes remain

In a last-minute motion, Coun. Michael Harris asked councillors to consider removing the temporary bike lanes on Westmount Road between Block Line and Glasgow Street in Kitchener.

Harris argued regional roads are designed to carry higher traffic volumes and may not be the best routes for bike lanes.

He said the motion was no different than the one ending the pilot in Cambridge. 

David Trueman, who is the interim chair of Cycle WR, was allowed to address the motion and said there was "no objective evidence" of problems with the bike lanes on Westmount Road.

"There simply are not problems," he said.

Galloway said he rides along the temporary lanes on a regular basis. There is an impact on traffic, which is expected when a four-lane road becomes a two-lane road for vehicles, "but the impact is well within acceptable ranges."

"If we're going to move the needle on active transportation … we are going to have some impacts," he said.

Galloway also said he gets frustrated when people call for cyclists to pay a tax to help pay for bike lanes. He said cyclists pay the same taxes as drivers of vehicles.

Harris' motion was defeated by a vote of 10 to 4.


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