With no specific projects in mind for the municipality, MP Andy Fillmore announced a new $400-million federal active transportation fund in Halifax on Friday.
The funding is part of $14.9 billion in public transit infrastructure money that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month. The money announced on Friday will be handed out to municipalities over five years for active transportation projects including bike lanes, trails, pedestrian bridges, and “anything at all that removes barriers to accessible movement of people by their own power.”
“It’s really quite broad at this point, and we’re looking for a lot of creativity and imagination from applicants,” Fillmore told reporters.
Asked whether there’s anything new for Halifax in this announcement, Fillmore said, “There will be.”
“It’s too soon to say,” he said. “In the usual rhythm of federal programs, we win the battle to get the money from department of finance and treasury board, and that’s what we’re announcing today. With that in hand, we now go forward and design the program that will deliver the funding.”
Fillmore said he’s also leading public engagement for a new active transportation strategy, which was supposed to start a year ago but was delayed due to COVID-19. That engagement will shape the criteria for the new funding.
“It will land in Halifax, as in other communities across the country, later this year when applications for the program open,” Fillmore said.
Mayor Mike Savage said the money would help Halifax in its quest to become a cycling city.
“We know that we’ve got a long way to go,” Savage said.
The federal government announced $12.5 million in 2019 to help Halifax build the full grid of bike lanes imagined in the Integrated Mobility Plan in three years. The municipality is still working on that, with plans to spend a total of $5.3 million in 2021-2022. That work includes a design for the new Macdonald Bridge bike ramp, a new bike lane on Wyse Road, and a bikeway on Dahlia Street.
For comparison, Halifax plans to spend $38 million on paving roads this year.
Asked what HRM could do with the new active transportation funding, Savage didn’t have any specific ideas.
“We have a lot of projects we think we can accelerate to bring into this program,” Savage said.
“But I would like to think some of this money could come to Halifax for things I haven’t even imagined yet.”
Simone Mutabazi, Community Cycling Activation Officer with the Ecology Action Centre, told reporters the funding could get more people on bikes by connecting the infrastructure HRM already has.
“Some of the projects could go to just expanding and connecting the existing bike lanes, so that you can have more complete infrastructure that connects people to main streets and community hubs,” Mutabazi said.
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As an older cyclist and pedestrian, I’d like a chunk of the new Active Transportation funding allocated to vastly upgrading the priority and equipment for clearance of snow, ice, etc on all Halifax’s pavements designated for use of pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders, and other vulnerable road users (i.e., all those out, getting about but not in motor vehicles). Provide more of the best equipment, staffing and training to get these surfaces cleared first, and then re-cleared to remove the lumpy frozen stuff pushed into these areas by the lower priority crews and equipment clearing the streets for cars to move about. Bobcats with rotary brushes and brine deicers, some crew on foot with shovels, choppers, etc. to clear what the machines can’t do. Accessible Active Transit infrastructure means continuous, clear, and dry (or just wet but not icy) paved pathways, bus stops, crosswalks every season of the year.
Wider and better sidewalks should be priority #1 with more space for people in a wheelchair or mobility device. The age limit for cyclists on sidewalks should be age 11. Pedestrians and those with a mobility device should have legislated priority over all other trail users and signs posted to that effect along with strict enforcement.
There should be a 30 km/h speed limit (to match the 32 km/h limit on e-bikes) in urban areas except on a few corridors. This won’t actually slow motorists down except late at night or early in the morning anyway.
Back when I had a short commute on the peninsula my commute took the same amount of time regardless of whether or not I drove or took my bike.
Why doesn’t the government subsidize bikes in general? A E-bike can only be described as green in the context of replacing a car. Human power is the original clean energy.