Bike lane safety worries Thunder Bay residents
City will evaluate the new bike lanes on Victoria Avenue and on Court Street
The City of Thunder Bay is examining drivers' concerns about bike lanes.
Dozens of people are claiming the new lanes on Victoria Avenue are dangerous, including Jim Ewing, who lives on the busy thoroughfare.
"I've almost been killed, literally three times, here [when] people have raced up the centre of the turning lane, thinking that it's still four-lane," Ewing said.
Last summer, the city painted bike lanes on the sides of Victoria Avenue, reducing the street to two lanes for cars and a shared turning lane in the middle.
Ewing said there's not enough bike traffic to justify the change.
"There wasn't a lot of forethought that went into it, before they went ahead and painted the lines and spent the money to do it," he said.
On the right track?
The city's Active Transportation co-ordinator, Adam Krupper, said he's listening to the concerns, including the dozens of people who have posted their complaints on the mayor's page on Facebook.
Krupper said the bike lanes are a two-year pilot project which is still in its early days
"It takes people a while to adjust to a different road situation," he said.
"We're lucky in Thunder Bay. Our roads have generally been built fairly wide, and so we can actually ... put bike lanes on the road without sacrificing too much lane width. We can do that without making the lanes ... too narrow to the point where they're unsafe. We can stay well within standards."
Still, Krupper said the city has hired an independent engineering firm — southern Ontario firm MMM Group — to make sure it's on the right track.
The consultants will evaluate the new bike lanes on Victoria Avenue and on Court Street. The results of that analysis are expected to be presented to council in May.
More bike lanes planned
Krupper said many cyclists are welcoming the new bike lanes — and the city is planning to put in more of them this summer.
They're proposed for Arundel Street, Huron Street, one block of Shuniah Street, one block of Hudson Street, and one on Vickers Avenue from Donald Streets to Northern Avenue.
Krupper said residents in those areas have been invited to give feedback until April 13.
Krupper pointed out that bikes are a form of transportation, and cyclists deserve a safe place in which to ride. Promoting cycling in Thunder Bay is important for a number of reasons, including one’s health and the environment, but also from an economic perspective, as gas prices and car insurance prices are on the upswing, he said.
"It's really imperative that as a society we create options for people to be able to transport themselves affordably."
While Victoria Avenue resident Jim Ewing said he's not opposed to all bike lanes, he said he doesn't think they make sense in many parts of Thunder Bay.
"I think that we're trying to encourage people to get out and do more exercise and … save some fuel ... but I think that they should do some longer term studies," Ewing said.
He noted he sees very few people using the bike lanes on Victoria Avenue since they were brought in last year.
"It's not to say that there aren't proper places for them, but this isn't Toronto or London or wherever," Ewing said.
"People in a smaller city like Thunder Bay have been doing things one way for so long — it's also hard to change that."