Almost five years after councillors approved it, Halifax is now able to finish building its Allan Street bikeway.
The Halifax and West Community Council approved a plan in May 2018 for a local street bikeway. Those bikeways, like Vernon Street, use paint and traffic-calming measures, rather than separation of cars and bikes. HRM employs them on streets with lower traffic volume, where it deems protected bike lanes unnecessary.
As part of this bikeway, HRM wanted to build a diagonal diverter at the intersection of Allan and Harvard streets.
That diverter would allow cyclists to travel through the intersection in any direction, but would force drivers to turn. The feature would, as municipal staff put it, “force a left hand turn on approach from Allan Street, and a right hand turn on approach from Harvard Street.”
Some residents of Harvard and Lawrence streets opposed the plan. As the Halifax Examiner reported in August 2018, 20 of them took the municipality to court.
The residents are Lance Barney, Wendy Brookhouse, Trevor Brumwell, Manuel Cierra, Glen Ginther, Sue Goyette, Scott Hodgson, Kelsey Macaulay, Gary MacLellan, Peter Munro, Nancy Murphy, Geraldine O’Shea, Kim Plaxton, Donna Rammo, Janet Stevenson, Jolyn Swain, Michael Teehan, Pat Thompson, Ross Thompson, and Kristin Tweel.
They argued the change would slow emergency vehicles and increase their own travel times. They claimed HRM failed to properly consult with them on the idea. And they opposed a plan to change the names of portions of Allan and Harvard streets. The municipality has since abandoned that idea.
HRM went ahead with the rest of the plan in 2019 and 2021. It installed new traffic signals at the intersection of Allan and Oxford streets.
Supreme court heard case last fall
In October 2022, Jason Cooke, the lawyer representing the residents, and Randolph Kinghorn, the lawyer representing HRM, appeared before Justice Diane Rowe in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
Rowe issued her written decision on Monday.
The residents claimed they only found out about the project after councillors approved it.
“As a result, it is submitted that they were neither properly consulted nor given an opportunity to be heard before the Resolution was passed,” Rowe wrote.
“The notice that HRM indicates was sent, a postcard, was not within their legitimate expectations of the process. A more substantive notice is required, it’s submitted, as the process undertaken by HRM staff was not adequate in proportion to the interests affected.”
Municipality claims it notified residents
HRM provided evidence that it had mailed postcards to the residents during public consultation on the idea the year before. Rowe found it was likely that HRM had in fact mailed the postcards.
“While a mailing occurred, it is not possible to determine whether it was delivered to the Applicants,” Rowe wrote.
The municipality also advertised the public consultation online and in newspapers.
“HRM submits that the Applicants are arguing that the municipality has an obligation to ensure with certainty that every individual resident of an area be made personally aware of a pending municipal decision that might affect them, and aware of the opportunities available for input in advance of a resolution,” Rowe wrote.
“HRM submits that the Applicants have an unreasonably high expectation concerning the standard of the procedural right to notice in this matter.”
Rowe agreed with the municipality on that point.
Judge takes city side
“While it’s possible that the HRM staff may have received information during the public consultation concerning calming measures, they also could have received this input, included it in the Staff Report, and still proceeded to make a recommendation for the use of cement diverters,” Rowe wrote.
The justice rejected the residents’ gripes about slowed traffic.
“The Applicants are requesting that the Court accept that slower traffic is an adverse impact on their interests, that changes the character of the roadway, in a substantive and negative manner,” Rowe wrote.
“However, HRM’s own policy is undertaken for a public policy goal which even the applicants concede is laudable – the reduction of vehicular traffic, with attendant pollution and climate impacts, and the encouragement of human powered vehicular traffic. It appears the impact, positive or negative, is subjective.”
The decision allows HRM to complete the project. In 2021, spokesperson Klara Needler told the Examiner that was the plan.
Council didn’t budget for the project in 2023-2024, although the municipality is planning for corresponding work on Oak Street this summer.
This is why (it takes so long for us to have) nice things
Finally! This will add effectiveness to the Oak and Oxford Street bike throughway, which is now frequently abused by car drivers who cross Oxford despite signage indicating this is not allowed.
For sure. I live in the area and know multiple people who say “I treat that as if it’s for non-residents”