New Brunswick

Saint John gets protected bike lanes as part of new plan this summer

Inspired by the wheels of a bicycle, the city has a plan for bike lanes that would make the uptown a "hub," with five "spokes" of safer lanes leading to the university and hospital, Millidgeville and the north end, the lower west side and the Greendale area farther west.

City will also tackle problem of its 'lanes to nowhere'

Bike lanes in Saint John have previously been added where the city could fit them, causing them to be disorganized. (CBC)

To overhaul Saint John's bike trails, city staff looked to the bike itself.

Inspired by the wheels of a bicycle, the city has a plan for bike lanes that would make the uptown a "hub," with five "spokes" of safer lanes leading to the university and hospital, Millidgeville and the north end, the lower west side and the Greendale area farther west.

This plan is part of an overhaul of Saint John's transit system. It replaces the 2010 plan that made big promises, such as a 183-kilometre community network of routes, citywide corridors and "recreational loops," that were never implemented

And although this plan is a guide for the next 25 years, people will see changes this summer, said Tim O'Reilly, the city's director of transportation.

"We want to support transportation where the city is going to grow, but also … allow people to get from point A to point B," he said.

The new bike-lane plan for the City of Saint John. (Submitted by City of Saint John)

This year, the city will decrease the width of University Avenue and add buffered bike lanes protected by plastic bollards. This upgrade was planned for last year but was delayed until this summer.

The city is also designing bike lanes on Main Street in the north, which would be separated by concrete from car lanes.

It's also planning on adding bike paths to Charlotte and Sydney streets uptown. Those paths would be painted because the speed limit is lower and the streets see less traffic than University Avenue or Harbour Passage, O'Reilly said.

The plan also includes extending the Harbour Passage bike lane down toward Tin Can Beach. In the next five years, the bike lanes would be built to continue up Crown Street and eventually over to the west side.

O'Reilly said traditionally, the city's cycling strategy has been to add painted bike lanes where there's space on the road. This resulted in lanes that are disorganized, some leading to "nowhere." This is something he hopes the new plan will fix.

The 2010 plan did result in the Campus-Harbour Connector, a 4.5-km bike route from the University of New Brunswick in Saint John to the city centre.

The University Avenue bike lane will be rebuilt and protected with bollards this summer, according to the city. (Luke Tudor/Submitted)

Nick Cameron, advocacy lead for Saint John Cycling, said while this plan is less ambitious than the one from 2010, the club is heartened to see changes being implemented so quickly and including protected bike lanes. 

"I'm encouraged to see some action being taken right off the bat," he said.

He said the cycling advocacy organization presented the city with multiple recommendations, and some of them were included in the plan.

He said he hopes in the future the city would consider changing the way it prioritizes who gets new bike lanes to include economic status. He said low-income areas should be considered higher on the list, because those residents are the ones who need affordable transportation the most.

Cameron said the planned lanes in the east-to-west corridor rely on the existing TransCanada trail, which is on a provincial highway. He said this could present some challenges as building lanes requires navigating a "bureaucratic maze," and the involvement from the province.

"That would require some attention going forward and effort form the community to get the attention from the province," he said.

That route is especially important because it's the only link between west side and rest of the city, Cameron said. He said the advocacy group would continue pushing for more off-road trails for walking and cycling all around the city.

O'Reilly said to keep costs down and reduce disruption to traffic, the bike lanes would be added as part of maintenance and construction projects over next five years, including the Fundy Quay project.

He said the full cost of this will be presented to city council at the next meeting or the meeting after that.

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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