A cyclist travels in the South Park Street bike lane in Halifax in June 2021. There are low concrete dividers and tall green and white flexible dileanators between them and the traffic. There are no cars parked on this particular stretch of the bike lane.
A cyclist travels in the South Park Street bike lane in Halifax in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

The city’s transportation committee has signed off on a new partially protected bike lane for Almon Street.

The bike lane is supposed to be part of the city’s planned all ages and abilities (AAA) bike network under its transportation plan, and would stretch from Windsor Street to Gottingen Street. At a virtual meeting on Thursday, council’s Transportation Standing Committee recommended unanimously in favour of the plan.

From Windsor Street to Agricola Street, the bike lane would be fully protected and separated from traffic, either with a pre-cast concrete curb and bollards, or raised to sidewalk level. That bike lane would look like the one on South Park Street.

A map in the staff report shows the planned bike lanes on Almon Street.

But from Agricola to Gottingen, the plan is for a shared lane — just paint denoting the presence of cyclists, like Vernon Street. These are commonly called “sharrows.”

Municipal active transportation planner Mark Nener told the committee the width of the right-of-way on that section, about nine metres, coupled with the proximity of buildings to their property lines, made it impossible to add a protected bike lane and keep two-way traffic.

“We explored several options to add dedicated bike facilities on this segment ultimately concluded there was insufficient space without a major reconstruction of the street,” Nener said.

A diagram in the staff report shows where the protected lanes end at Agricola and Almon.

Even if all parking was removed, Nener said, there isn’t enough space for even painted bike lanes.

Traffic volumes and speed are lower on that section of Almon, however. Nener’s report indicates 11,800 vehicles use the section between Windsor and Robie daily, compared with 5,800 from Agricola to Gottingen. The difference in 85th percentile speed is 52 km/h versus 39 km/h.

Jillian Banfield, Bicycle Mayor of Halifax, tweeted about disappointment about that part of the plan last week.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the Agricola to Gottingen section. We’re fighting for scraps,” Banfield wrote.

“This ‘network’ is looking less and less like a network all the time.”

Active transportation manager David MacIsaac told to the committee staff would monitor how that section of the street works with a goal of eventually improving it.

“We’re acknowledging that we haven’t hit our AAA target there. We still think it’ll be a relatively comfortable place for a lot of cyclists to be because of the lower number of cars, the fact that they go a lot slower,” MacIsaac said.

“We’re going to have to keep an eye on it, and we’re going to have to pick it up again relatively soon to see if there’s other options to pursue. But those options are complicated.”

If council approves it, the municipality will put the project out to tender this year. The estimated cost is about $1.3 million, of which HRM pays 17%, per its funding agreement with the other levels of government.

While most of the work would be completed in 2022, the continued construction of Westwood’s Richmond Yards development would delay one section.

The bike lane would mean the removal of two or three mature trees along Almon Street. The city would look to replace those trees, Nener said, and Westwood is adding 19 in the area as part of its development.

As Erica Butler reported for the Halifax Examiner back in 2017, loss of on-street parking was a contentious issue for residents in the area. The plan changed since then to scrap the idea of the lane extending west past Windsor Street to Connolly Street, and to add protection to the lane between Windsor and Agricola.

Under the updated plan, 32 spaces would be lost on Almon, and the municipality would consider adding 33 on adjacent streets. There are currently eight accessible parking spaces on the street, and while some will move, none are planned to be removed. Three of those eight, near the corner of Almon and Windsor, will be moved about 40 metres west, which Nener said was a concern for the tenants of the building at that corner.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the committee passed recommendations for a rural active transportation program, including adding sidewalks to rural areas; the expansion of the rainbow crosswalk program to add pan-African flag crosswalks in Cherry Brook and Lake Loon; a new path connecting a Cole Harbour neighbourhood to the Old Lawrencetown Road Greenway; and it asked for a staff report on limousine licensing in HRM “to include luxury passenger vans.”

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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