News / Halifax

Halifax roads like 'shark-infested waters:' Cyclist says bike safety must be election issue

Rod Brunt says cycling has never been priority at City Hall, and is calling on candidates to change that when elected.

Rod Brunt is hoping cycling becomes more of an election issue for candidates running in the upcoming municipal election.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Rod Brunt is hoping cycling becomes more of an election issue for candidates running in the upcoming municipal election.

Rod Brunt knows the islands are out there, but it’s weaving through the shark-infested waters that’s the problem.

Brunt, a north end Halifax resident, has spent decades cycling in the city but has yet to see a clear sign from regional council, or the mayor, that bike safety is a priority.

“You see those cycling paths that are marked … and you go ‘isn’t that great,’ and they just disappear,” the 64-year-old said about the system that includes isolated lanes like the one on Hollis Street.

“They build an island and then you have to swim through the shark-infested waters to get to it.”

After hearing Metro’s call for residents to weigh in on issues concerning them this municipal election, Brunt says he wants to see City Hall be more open about what the long-term plans are for infrastructure like bike lanes.

The main issue is Halifax streets become easily congested when bikes and cars try to share narrow roads with parking taking up either side, Brunt said.

Driving down Agricola Street, for example, Brunt said it’s difficult for cars to safely pass him without hitting vehicles coming the opposite direction, leaving drivers stuck behind him “ticked off.”

It’s up to councillors to become more vocal about bike safety, Brunt said, adding that a new committee with citizen cyclists could come up with interesting ideas.

Since Brunt said it will likely take more cyclists on the road to convince City Hall that dollars need to be spent quickly on bike lanes, the first step is making people comfortable so they give biking a try - like having councillors highlight streets with low traffic volumes in their district, or removing parking on one side of a street for a two-way bike lane.

Making a bike-friendly city could only help with tourism and attract people to stay, Brunt said, since a recent visit from an Edmonton friend showed how many people are uncomfortable riding on our roads.

“He was mortified. His teeth were gnashing and I said ... ‘don’t be so nervous,’ and he said ‘but these cars are too close to me.’”

Another revenue stream could be from a voluntary bike licence program, Brunt said: cyclists register for $10, get a sticker saying “I support Halifax cycling,” and the funds go towards bike improvements.

“Everybody I’ve talked to said ‘I’d buy one,’” Brunt said.

Safety is especially vital in a city with multiple biking fatalities in recent years, Brunt said, including Johanna Dean in 2014 and Loresa Makonin in 2015.

“It simply should be on a front burner as much as anything else that the city is doing - from infrastructure to development. It all should be coordinated, and cycling should be part of that,” Brunt said.

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