Nova Scotia

CBRM's decision to suspend active transportation funding 'unfortunate,' says cyclist

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has zeroed in on active transportation as a means to cover lost revenue from a five per cent tax rate decrease.

Municipality is trying to make up for lost revenue from a new tax rate decrease

Monika Dutt and her son bike along a street in Sydney River. Dutt wants to see more biking infrastructure in CBRM. (Monika Dutt)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality will hold off on spending funds earmarked for active transportation until next year despite cyclists who say the area needs designated bike lanes and other infrastructure to keep people safe.

Most of the $350,000 allocated to active transportation, which includes walking, cycling, wheeling, in-line skating or skateboarding, will be suspended as council tries to recoup lost revenue from a new five per cent tax rate decrease.

Monika Dutt, a cyclist who lives in Sydney River, said the change to the budget this week took her by surprise. 

"The more we take away from funds that pay for goods that support everybody, the less we're going to have to create a welcoming, safe, thriving community," she said. 

Deferred to next year

But Mayor Amanda McDougall said there were no plans to spend the $267,000 of active transportation funding this year.

She said council is waiting to hear back from the planning department on a revised active transportation plan before it can move forward. That's expected this summer.

"We wouldn't have been using that money this year necessarily. It would have been a holdover anyhow," she said.

CBRM said the remaining $83,000 will be used to finish ongoing projects.

On Tuesday, CBRM council approved the five per cent tax rate decrease when the 2022-23 budget was finalized. To cover the lost revenue from the tax rate decrease, council had to find areas in the budget to cut proposed spending by roughly $3.8 million.

Suspending funding for active transportation was among a number of suggestions put forward.

Jennifer Campbell, chief financial officer with CBRM, echoed McDougall's comments, saying it was unlikely that the active transportation funding would be spent this year if it remained in the budget.

"With no projects currently identified, there's no consequence to suspending it," Campbell told council Tuesday.

A photo from February 2022 shows a pothole on Townsend Street in Sydney. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Dutt said a deferral of projects in active transportation is "still unfortunate."

She described some thoroughfares in the municipality as "dangerous" for cyclists due to a lack of designated bike lanes and fast-driving cars that swerve to avoid potholes.

Last plan from 2008

CBRM began a process in September 2021 to review the last active transportation plan, which was approved by council in June 2008. 

Dartmouth-based design consultants Fathom Studio led community consultations in Louisbourg, Sydney, Glace Bay and Sydney Mines. 

Cyclist Wayne MacKay says active transportation can help to improve the community's quality of life and offer an affordable means of transportation. (Wayne MacKay)

Wayne MacKay, a cyclist in Sydney, said "there's a lot of work left to be done" to make CBRM safer for cyclists.

MacKay said it's more than just bike lanes — active transportation can help to improve the community's quality of life and offer an affordable means of transportation. 

"From an equity perspective, if you think of people who can't afford vehicles, motorized vehicles, having good active transportation networks can open up other means of transportation for them," MacKay said. 

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