Photo: Paul Krueger,
Photo: Paul Krueger,

by Hilary Beaumont

Halifax could see its first protected bike lane this fall, if a new pilot project gets council’s approval. Like those in Montreal and Vancouver, the proposed lane would separate bikes from traffic with a physical barrier.

Initiated by Dalhousie University, the protected lane would run along the north and south sides of University Avenue for four blocks between Robie and LeMarchant Streets—a relatively benign stretch of road for cyclists compared to other areas of the city. The idea is to promote cycling by increasing bike safety, university spokesperson Janet Bryson told the Examiner. Dal has been mulling its options for a University Avenue active transportation corridor or separated bikeway since at least 2012

The protected lane is a pilot project in partnership with HRM, and would need to be approved by council since it’s happening on a city street, the municipality’s manager of strategic transportation planning Dave McCusker explained Friday.  The university and city would likely share the cost of the project, and the city could lose revenue due to lost parking spots, he added.

“I really can’t say any more,” he said when asked to elaborate.

In other cities, bike lanes are protected with concrete barriers, planters, green space or even parking spaces. Neither Bryson nor McCusker would say when the protected lane would be installed, how much it would cost, or what type of physical barrier might be used. McCusker explained he had to be tight lipped about the project because the staff report hasn’t been added to the council agenda yet. The pilot project could be an opportunity to see how protected lanes could work before adding them to other areas of the city, he said.

On August 15 the city’s active transportation coordinator Hanita Koblents told the Chronicle Herald that city staff were considering adding a buffer to the Hollis Street bike lane to separate cyclists from traffic. However, a week before, on August 7, McCusker had told the Examiner that a protected lane was unlikely to happen on Hollis due to the street’s width.

Staff are still throwing around the idea of a protected bike lane on Hollis Street, McCusker said Friday, however he stands by his previous statement that the street poses major challenges for such a project because it’s so narrow.

“I suspect for the first implementation it will be a painted line,” he said, though a barrier could be added later.

The city plans to hold a second consultation about the Hollis Street lane in the coming months, and put the project to tender this fall. It will likely be completed in 2015, McCusker said. No date has been set for the consultation.

The Halifax Cycling Coalition has been pushing for a protected bike lane, arguing safer bike routes will encourage more people to switch from driving to cycling. No one from the HCC was available for comment for this article.

See a video of a protected bike lane in New York City, here.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I don’t think that protected bike lanes are a good idea. Separating cars from cyclists just makes both groups have a harder time when a cyclist inevitably leaves the protected area. It also reinforces the notion that roads are for cars only – cyclists have exactly the same rights as motorists and are entitled to occupy space in a lane. Maybe getting rid of on street parking would help, it would reduce the amount of students orbiting the downtown trying to find parking and force them to leave their cars outside the peninsula.

  2. Frankly; it’d be much better to make that entire section transit and bicyle only. There’s way too much traffic in that tiny corridor. People are constanly doing loops around to snag a parking space whilst attempting to navigate the immense amout of student traffic.

    Allow lots of parking for bikes outside of all the major buildings; and hopefully something like that would force people to either pedal a bike, take transit (don’t forget – park and rides exist too), or even walk.

  3. We should actually call it “Dalhousie’s first protected bike lane” because calling it “Halifax’s” make it appear that it was the city’s idea when in fact the city was dragged kicking and screaming to the table.

  4. Students and staff might consider taking buses rather than trying to find places to park around Dal and St Marys while campaigning for the destruction of more residential housing for parking lots.

    Can’t they access cheap passes as part of their tuition / salalry?

  5. The lost parking on University Avenue will spill over onto neighboring residential streets, because Dalhousie does not provide sufficient parking for students. For some reason the city prefers to allow free on-street parking in all the residential areas near Dal and SMU rather than require the universities to provide it for their students.,The result is increased litter, traffic, wear-and-tear on the streets, threat to pedestrians, and clogged roadways. I’m all for protected bike lanes, but I think the loss of parking on the Dal section of University Ave will have an unwanted impact on the neighbors.

  6. There’s nothing better than the feeling of safety one gets when cycling on a protected roadway. But when a motorist is making a legal right turn the protected cycle path isn’t protected. It’s an improvement but takes a lot of education for drivers and cyclists. As for Hollis being too narrow…why not make it a one way cycel path going south with traffic, and bring the north bound cyclist up Water Street.