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Trevor J. Adams, Photo: Tammy Fancy

Trevor J. Adams, Photo: Tammy Fancy

Whenever we talk about cycling in Halifax Magazine, we hear the same sorts of reader comments. “There is no need for the city to pay for a multi-million dollar ramp at the end of the bridge for a handful of cycling zealots.”

And, “I find that Halifax is being merely politically correct when it comes to bicycles.” And, “Ride though Halifax today and I bet you can find at least one bicyclist doing something stupid. Yes car drivers break the law, but rarely do bicyclists or pedestrians get charged as drivers do.”

Those comments were posted to Ryan Van Horne’s column (halifaxmag.com/features/opinions/were-all-in-this-together/) “We’re all in this together” from our November 2015 issue. They’re the most recent examples, but there are plenty more out there.

The view boils down to this: most people don’t cycle and cyclists are a nuisance on the road. Supporting cycling is a fruitless sop to political correctness that does nothing to benefit the average Haligonian.

Not all drivers hold those views, but a lot do and while I’m sure they’re kindly, well-intentioned people, they’re also completely wrong.

Every day, there are more cars on Halifax’s roads. Yet every day, Halifax does not grow more roads and parking spaces. And more roads aren’t the answer anyway. Halifax’s most congested area, the urban core, has a grid designed for horses and is crammed onto a small peninsula. There is nowhere to put more roads, even if we had the millions to build them.

The obvious solution is to get some cars off the road by making it easier for people to not drive. Buses and ferries are part of the equation, but not all of it. Look at European cities that do this really well (Copenhagen and Amsterdam come to mind) and you’ll see that accommodating cyclists is a marvellously effective way to get cars off the road.

For decades, those cities have been investing in bike infrastructure: protected lanes, signal lights, bike racks everywhere, and yes, ramps for bikes. They understand what still seems to be a pretty radical view in Halifax: bike infrastructure isn’t just for bikes.

The point Van Horne made in his November column bears repeating: when you make it easier to bike, you get cars off the road, and everyone benefits. Traffic is less congested, roads face less wear and tear, pollution goes down, and more people engage in daily exercise. All those things are good for everyone, even if you’re committed to never biking.

So for 2016, Halifax should resolve to adopt a bigger view of biking, to stop thinking like a car-dominated small town and start thinking like some of the world’s best cities. Investment in bike infrastructure will make this a better city for all of us and the sooner we do it, the better off we’ll be.

In our cover story on page 22, Jon Tattrie returns with his annual year-in-review essay. With a federal election behind us and a municipal election ahead, he looks at how the city changed in 2015 and what 2016 holds. Related to that change theme, Katie Toth talks with erstwhile Halifax MP Megan Leslie about her surprising defeat, and what comes next. See that story on page 24. This is Toth’s first story for Halifax Magazine, and we’re delighted to have her join our team.

As always, we want to hear your questions, comments, and story ideas. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, or email a letter to tadams@metroguide.ca.

 

Halifax Magazine invites reader comments and encourages respectful discussion; we reserve the right to remove spam and libellous or abusive comments.

  • Ryan Van Horne

    There is an oft-quoted aphorism that is attributed to renowned urban planning specialist Lewis Mumford in a 1955 article in the New Yorker that should be required reading for anyone who thinks that the solution to traffic problems is building more roads: “Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity.”

  • Keith P.

    Recycling 60 year-old chestnuts that were nonsensical when they were written does not lend credence to your argument. The corollary is that “wearing pants that are too small leads to weight loss”. That makes about as much sense in this context, as HRM continues to take away travel lanes from motorists to create bike lanes that are largely unused while ignoring the growth of the city, especially in the suburbs but increasingly on the peninsula, and the necessary vehicular traffic that will create – not just people commuting, but people going about their business, shopping, going to activities, having things delivered, whatever. Reality is that cycling here is always going to be limited to the young, the fit, and the true believers – a very small subset of taxpayers that are receiving far too much attention from the city. We need to focus on our street/road network from a systemic point of view and quit this foolishness about tossing in a bike lane wherever one might fit.

  • Hi Keith, can you point to an example where the city removed a travel lane in order to accommodate a bicycle lane? If you’re going to say Rainnie, I’ll stop you now: the roundabout construction caused Rainnie to be converted to one-way traffic, they got the bicycle lane idea later.

  • Keith P.

    Rainnie was always targeted for a bike lane; the roundabout made a convenient smokescreen. Now Devonshire, to answer your question. I imagine Quinpool and Bayers are next.

  • I’ll give you half points for Devonshire – it’s a four lane road with about 1/3 of the capacity of most two lane roads, and 1/5 the capacity that two lane roads are able to handle. This is like you asking me for two eggs, but I give you a carton, then realize I’d like a half dozen for myself. You still have your two eggs, plus four others that you can use however you want.

    For Rainnie, you’re right that it was targeted for “a bike facility,” not a “bike lane.” Even a year ago staff were suggesting a trail along the edge of the common. When transportation staff (the folks who plan roads, not bike lanes) decided to make Rainnie one way, the bike staff seized the opportunity to do the project for far less money, and far sooner than planned.

    As for Quinpool and Bayers, they are not on the city’s list of potential bike lanes in any way, shape, or form.

    So, we’ve almost identified one street where capacity was removed from cars and given to bikes. Not “HRM continues to take away travel lanes from motorists to create bike lanes.”

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