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 proposal for the redesign of Agricola to Dublin, keeping one side of on street parking, and adding two bike lanes.

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.

Proposed redesign of Connolly to Connaught… all loss and no gain?

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.

From HRM’s presentation on the proposed Almon Street bike corridor.

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.

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  1. The bike lane on University Avenue was virtually deserted all winter. Parking spaces were moved onto side streets, making access to buildings much harder. Halifax is not exactly a Sun Belt city, the weather is awful for months on end. It doesn’t justify putting in Bike Lanes along with all the disruption they bring.

  2. As the saying goes, you can’t judge the need for a bridge by the number of people swimming across the river. Build a safe, physically-protected bike lane, and you’ll see a lot more cyclists than there are on Almon now.

  3. I travel between the Windsor exchange and Quinpool rd several times daily on either Windsor ,Oxford ,or Connaught , and use Almon as well . I can’t use a bike for this transport .
    Just sayin, I almost never see a Bike ! Windsor st has a bike lane ,just no bikes .

  4. It is astounding that people think of roads as their own personal private property. Roads already take up far too much public space in this and other cities across Canada. It amazes me that when a proposal is made to use public space to improve outcomes (more people on bikes, less in cars, less pollution, increased population health, etc…), this results in a response that is essentially, “you’re interfering with my use of public space for my own personal benefit and I am upset because you’re taking away my ability to use public space so I can have a birthday party once a year where the people I invite don’t have to concern themselves with where they are going to park”. Sense of entitlement much? And here I thought it was only millenials that were selfish and self-absorbed. I was there at the meeting and the arguments of the residents were just so selfish and entitled. It was gross.

    Having said all of that, I don’t like the plan as proposed either as there should be fully protected and really separated bike lanes the entire length of Almon from Gottingen to Chebucto. However, the proposal does make clear that they are moving towards protected infrastructure by 2020. Still, I think it should be done much sooner, rather than later.

    1. This question (as interpreted by me) is irrelevant. The fact is that Almon is the only full east west connector in the north part of the city (clearly laid out as a rationale for their choice by the planners of this initiative at the meeting). The other well-known fact is that bicycle ridership increases directly with safe (i.e. protected and separated), connected bike infrastructure. If we used number of riders currently riding in Halifax to justify any new infrastructure, nothing will EVER get built in this city.

      1. ” Mr. MacIsaac advised that the Hollis Street Bicycle Lane is a two-year pilot project and this year the focus for staff is on determining how many bicycles are using the lane and figuring out where the problem areas of the bike lane are located. In response to a question, he indicated that as part of their review staff is looking at the issue of loading/unloading in the bike lane. ” May 19 2016 Active Transportation Cttee.
        I was at the meeting.
        Mr MacIsaac has not provided any information to the committee since the meeting a year ago.
        We don’t usually install facilities unless the number of users is significant. The mantra of ‘build it and they will come’ has no credence without a proper study and provision of a cost benefit analysis, but this is Nova Scotia and buying votes is an old custom.

  5. Says Cleary, “I don’t understand why we would take people’s parking away when we’re not actually putting a bike lane in.”

    What staff has proposed is excellent.