Norris wants to 'hit pause' on downtown bike lanes for 24 to 36 months
Mayor Charlie Clark says right now 'the community’s attention is not on downtown bike lanes'
Saskatoon mayoral candidate Rob Norris says that if he unseats Charlie Clark as mayor in this fall's municipal election, he wants to put the brakes on planning for a beefed-up downtown bike lane network.
"It's time to press pause on the discussion about what's going forward," Norris said Friday, adding that if he was elected, "I wouldn't envision bike lanes coming up for at least 24 to 36 months."
Norris clarified his position after tweeting twice about the contentious topic earlier in the week.
On Monday, he tweeted that after a month of talking to residents, "it's obvious this mayor and council have spent — and unfortunately continue to invest — disproportionate amounts of time on bike lanes. Bike lanes are one issue, but increasing safety, affordability and jobs are my goals."
He then doubled down on Thursday:
After over a month of hearing directly from residents of Saskatoon, I have heard loud and clear that downtown bike lanes are simply not a top priority for most people in our city.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yxe?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yxe</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yxecc?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yxecc</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/skpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#skpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/yM4BCWtKRX">https://t.co/yM4BCWtKRX</a>—@RobNorrisSK
On Friday, Norris said there are more pressing issues going on right now, such as COVID-19 and its economic impact on Saskatoon.
"It's not to dismiss in any way the significance of biking to Saskatoon families," he said. "Families enjoy it and it's a healthy way to get around the city. But we have some real and pressing issues."
CBC News reached out to Clark for comment.
"Right now my attention and the community's attention is not on downtown bike lanes, it is on keeping the community safe and supporting a strong economic recovery," Clark said.
Network under uncertain timeline already
Norris's comments come even as the plan for a downtown network is already effectively placed in park.
City council approved the locations for a network in April 2019 but called for more community consultation, placing the launch of the network under an uncertain timeline. The city had originally planned to begin expanding the network in 2021.
The bike lane network has not come back to council since then.
Once the network locations were chosen, councillor Bev Dubois backed a successful motion to have try-out bike lanes on 4th Avenue removed — a motion supported by Clark.
Cathy Watts, the chairperson of the biking advocacy group Saskatoon Cycles, said she saw Norris' comments as another setback to the active transportation file.
"This is the same old sad sad story and I would say just get off that channel and get on to making this a progressive active community that attracts younger people and that's healthy and safe for everybody and for the environment," Watts said.
Watts said she's asked Norris to go on a bike ride with her ("I would like to clear his thinking on this matter," she said) but that he has not responded.
More people in YXE would ride a bike if they felt safe. CAA estimates 40%. I’d like to take you on a bike ride to give you a clear picture of the what you are talking about. DM Saskatoon Cycles <a href="https://t.co/3jlRXLapNX">https://t.co/3jlRXLapNX</a>—@bikinggramma