The city is considering adding bike lanes and sharrows along Almon Street in hopes of creating an east-west safe corridor across the peninsula for active transportation. The proposal would see painted bike lanes along both sides of Almon between Agricola and Connolly Streets (about 1.2km) and painted sharrows for sections at either end of the corridor, at Gottingen and Connaught.
The surprisingly well-attended public meeting on the redesign proposal last week made one thing clear: On-street parking (and the potential loss of it) will be a contentious issue as HRM turns the corner in transportation planning towards an all-modes approach.
The city’s proposal would mean a loss of 33 spots between Agricola and Dublin Streets, and another 113 between Dublin Street and Connaught Avenue. Most of the losses occur along residential areas where driveways are the norm, but that did not prevent some in the crowd at last week’s meeting from taking issue with the loss of space.
One woman wondered how she was expected to throw a birthday party for her kid if there was nowhere for guests to park, a concern which seems to resonate with others in the room. I overheard a man explain in detail to councillor Lindell Smith the seemingly insurmountable complexities of requiring his tenants to coordinate shared use of a driveway.
Not to sound too flippant, because all change is daunting, but it was hard to work up sympathy for the concerns of those about to lose their overflow parking lot.
That said, daunting change, and in particular daunting change that involves taking something away from someone, should be worth it. The benefits need to outweigh the sacrifices. It’s priority-setting 101.
And in this case, councillor Shawn Cleary thinks they don’t.
“I can’t support what they’ve put forward,” says Cleary.
Cleary is no idealogical defender of our right to park on the street. He just thinks the facility as proposed, part sharrows and part painted bike lanes, is not good enough to warrant taking away all that parking.
“If there was a bike lane that went from George Dauphinee all the way down to Gottingen, and it was protected, but we were taking away everyone’s parking, I would be like, yeah, it sucks that you are going to lose your parking, but… it’s worth it if a goal of the whole city is being achieved.”
But, says Cleary, “I don’t understand why we would take people’s parking away when we’re not actually putting a bike lane in.”
Indeed for the stretch from Connolly Street to Connaught Avenue, staff are proposing taking away parking on both sides of the street, and simply adding painted sharrows, to remind people to share the right of way, side by side. Not only does the idea of taking away parking to achieve essentially the status quo seem silly, but it’s a move that could potentially make the street less safe. By effectively widening the vehicle travel lanes, we are inviting people to drive faster.
And the vehicle speeds along most of Almon Street are already fast. In the commercially dense and widest section of Almon Street, between Robie and Windsor Streets, an average of 12,000 vehicles pass through each day, and 15 per cent of them are going over 52 km per hour, the speed at which a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist will probably kill them. Speeds are just as high from Oxford Street to Connaught Avenue, though the volume of cars is reduced.
This tells me that Almon Street is begging to be re-designed, if not only to include travel lanes for bikes, then simply to set the stage for reasonable speeds in a dense commercial and residential area.
Cleary’s desire to see protected bike lanes along Almon Street is echoed by the Halifax Cycling Coalition. The HCC is suggesting either attaching fibreglass delineators to painted bike lanes, or building raised bike lanes to vertically separate bikes from cars. And the HCC also argues that there is space for bike lanes the length of Almon Street, if only we can reduce our vehicle lane widths to three metres, the recommended minimum from NACTO (the US-based National Association of City Transportation Officials).
The lane widths in this Almon proposal range from 3.2 metres to 4.3 metres. In a city where every 10 centimetres counts, the extra space could easily mean the difference between sharrows and a separate lane for people on bikes.
Of course, there’s no details yet about the really difficult fixes: our intersections. The police documented seven vehicle-bike collisions on Almon Street since 2012. Six of them occurred in the stretch between Robie and Windsor Streets, five of those at intersections (two at Windsor and Almon Streets, and three at Robie and Almon Streets.)
With Almon Street due for resurfacing this summer, time is very tight for staff to get this proposal through to Regional Council for approval. The city is asking for public input via Shape Your City, by May 18, 2017.