Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's installs extended sidewalks, with cyclists hoping for more

Two months ago the city of St. John's decided to deal with the influx of walkers looking to escape the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic by bumping out the sidewalks.

Council made decision 2 months ago to provide more space for people looking for a break from pandemic lockdown

A new extended sidewalk on Parade Street isn't very wide due to on-street parking and a lack of space. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Two months ago the city of St. John's decided to deal with the influx of walkers looking to escape the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic by bumping out the sidewalks.

In late June the city made good on that decision, by taking over parts of the three streets in St. John's; Elizabeth Avenue, Newtown Road and Parade Street.

"It's a byproduct, really, of the health standards in terms of allowing people to pass safely," said Coun. Sandy Hickman said.

Hickman said the extended sidewalks will be a space for cyclists, people in wheelchairs and pedestrians. 

By using bright orange poles, city staff have taken over one lane on either side of Elizabeth Ave and on Newtown Road. On Parade Street the extension is only about a metre. 

Coun. Sandy Hickman says traffic may be slowed due to the new extended lanes but that it makes it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Regular cycling commuters Robin Whitaker and Andy Mackay commended the city on taking steps to add infrastructure that makes biking safer. 

"I think we have to welcome anything the city does to create space for active transportation," Whitaker said. "Given that up until now the almost complete lack of infrastructure, we have to welcome it."

But there is a problem: on Parade Street and Newtown Road, there isn't a lot of room due to the fact vehicles park on the street in both locations. 

That leaves cyclists like Whitaker and Mackay trying to navigate the metre-wide opening.

"Do we ride inside the pylons or are we forced kind of out into the traffic lane more, which is actually a more dangerous situation for us?" Mackay said.

Still, the pair, who became friends through the Critical Mass pro-bike riding movement, are happy to see something in place and hope more will come. 

"It would be great to see protected infrastructure that's well connected so that people can get where they're going." said Whitaker. 

Robin Whitaker, left, and Andy Mackay spend a lot of time on two wheels when the weather permits. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

For cyclists one of the positives of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more people started buying bikes or dusted off the ones they had and got back to riding.

"We see a lot of families out now, little children out riding bikes," Mackay said.

"So it's just nice to keep this momentum going and get some support for cycling."

City council approved its new bike master plan last year. 

That report highlighted a few goals: allow cyclists to use some of the current walking trails, pave parts of them to make them more shared-use, and do more of what they've just done on Elizabeth Avenue. 

This new bike lane on Elizabeth Avenue creates a safer space for walkers, runners and riders. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Whitaker and Mackay would like to see more trails like the walking, running and cycling pathway that runs along the Prince Philip Parkway.

"There are a lot of models in other cities where you have shared infrastructure," Whitaker said, pointing to other cities where municipal governments have shut down roads entirely to open them up to cycling.

"We seem to have this idea that every group needs its own space, and that's just not the model around the world."

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