News / Halifax

'First big test:' Halifax council picks protected bike lane over parking for city centre

Councillors voted to approve a bike lane for South Park Street, despite concerns from the business community over the loss of parking.

The protected bike lane on University Avenue.

Zane Woodford / Metro

The protected bike lane on University Avenue.

Halifax regional councillors passed what was described as the “first big test” of their support of the Integrated Mobility Plan on Tuesday, voting to sacrifice on-street parking to build a protected bike lane on South Park Street.

Council had the choice between two options. The first, and the staff recommendation, was protected bike lanes on either side of South Park Street between Sackville and Inglis streets.

The second option, which staff abandoned during the planning process, would have put the bike lane up on the sidewalk between Sackville Street and Spring Garden Road, saving 16 of the 55 parking spots that are lost to the bike lane.

The Spring Garden Area Business Association told council’s Transportation Standing Committee last month it was opposed to the loss of any on-street parking in the area, but it lobbied for the second option to save the few spots.

HRM active transportation supervisor David MacIsaac called the second option "a more complex and more expensive project” – though staff didn’t cost it out.

MacIsaac said that option would also mean cutting down one of the two lines of trees along the sidewalk next to the Public Gardens to make room for a two-directional bike lane.

Coun. David Hendsbee wasn’t buying it.

“Not one tree has to be touched,” he said. “This exaggeration of cutting down mature trees and tree lines is poppycock. There’s enough room there between the trees and the fence to put a two-lane highway there if you want to.”

Hendsbee was one of two votes against the bike lane, along with Coun. Steve Adams, who questioned the numbers MacIsaac brought forward.

Several other councillors cited the unanimously approved Integrated Mobility Plan, with Coun. Shawn Cleary calling it the “first big test” for council.

“Today we’re going to find out if our unanimous support of the reprioritization of streets was a lot of hot air, or if we’re actually committed to reprioritizing those public right of ways, and making Halifax a dynamic, vibrant, liveable, walkable, bike-able, healthy community,” Cleary said.

Coun. Lisa Blackburn said she was sympathetic to business owners, but she wasn’t convinced they needed the parking.

“We signed on to the Integrated Mobility Plan,” she said. “It’s now time to show our backbone because the single-passenger vehicle is the dinosaur.”

Work on the portion of the 1.2-km bike lane between Sackville Street and Spring Garden Road won’t begin till the new YMCA building is complete, but the rest of the project could be done by spring 2019.

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