$25M allows Halifax to shift bike lane project into high gear
'I'm scared every day that I ride my bike and I do ride my bike every day,' says cyclist Jillian Banfield
The plan to build new bike lanes throughout Halifax and Dartmouth, N.S., is now expected to be a three-year project rather than the 10 years envisioned by municipal council, thanks to money coming from the federal and provincial governments.
The federal government on Monday announced it would contribute $12.5 million to the project, with the Nova Scotia government chipping in $8.25 million. The city will spend $4.25 million.
The plan is to add 30 kilometres of protected or dedicated bike lanes to the existing network. One of the big pieces is the $6.2-million Macdonald Bridge bikeway project, which involves a flyover to Gottingen Street on the Halifax side, and a ramp leading to a side street on the Dartmouth side.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage made special mention of the bridge project at the announcement on Halifax's waterfront.
"Is it expensive? Yeah it's expensive," he said. "Is it worth it? Yes it's worth it.
"And as much as anything else it puts a line in the sand and says come hell or high water, this city will be a cycling city and that is really important."
The comments drew applause from cyclists invited to the event. Cyclist Jillian Banfield said more protected bike lanes are urgently needed in the city.
"I'm scared every day that I ride my bike and I do ride my bike every day," she said. "I use all the main streets, I use the side streets.
"I ride to work every day and I'm scared, but I do it anyway and I'm really looking forward to having company on the road and having people around who aren't scared and can just get on their bikes and ride because it's safe to do so."
Fellow cyclist James Coons agreed.
"I think it's the only real solution to having a safe way for bikers to get around," he said.
Safe place to ride
Sarah Craig, owner of I Heart Bikes, said expanding the bike network could help her bike rental business.
"We send out almost 10,000 people a year, visitors and locals coming to experience Halifax by bike," she said. "We'd like to send out more.
"I think segregated bike lanes or protected bike lanes are an all-ages step and that's something that families want to see."
The Ecology Action Centre's Kelsey Lane called it a "game changer."
"People won't bike unless they have safe ways of doing it, so this investment means that we're actually going to have connections that, no matter what your age, or no matter what your ability, you're going to be able ride safely and get to where you need to go," she said.
"We're so excited that Halifax is going to step up and become one of the safest places to bike in Canada."
Other projects being funded by the money include:
- The downtown bikeway network, which includes lanes on Hollis Street, George Street, Lower Water Street and Terminal Road.
- Local street bikeways in the north ends of both Halifax and Dartmouth.
- An extension of the bike lane on South Park Street.
- Connections into the peninsula from the western mainland through Clayton Park and Fairview.
There are currently 2.2 kilometres of protected bike lanes in Halifax, including the one-kilometre stretch across the Macdonald Bridge. By 2022, the municipality should have about 14 kilometres more.