At long last, and in the shadow of a proposed capital budget which significantly underfunds HRM’s active transportation transformation, here’s part two of your update on some of the many bikeways projects underway right now in the city. You can find part one here.

Brunswick Street & Spring Garden Road:  functional design (early and late stages, respectively)

You may have noticed a lovely new brick path between the Central Library and Dalhousie’s architecture building, leading to a bi-directional bike path through Dalhousie’s parking lot all the way to Morris Street. It’s a useful bisecting of the massive institutional block between Barrington and Queen Streets, helping make the downtown active transportation grid finer than the vehicle grid. Dal made these changes in consultation with the city, but it may be quite a while before the city steps up to match their efforts across the street.

Any improvements on Brunswick Street (at Spring Garden Road and beyond) will be “part of a larger Complete Streets planning and implementation process,” says David MacIsaac, HRM’s manager of active transportation. (Complete Streets are defined in the Integrated Mobility Plan as streets that are “planned, designed and maintained to make travel safe, convenient and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities and using all transportation modes.”)

There are two practical concerns on Brunswick Street, says MacIsaac. One is the continuation and improvement of the Brunswick Street bike lane to meet up with Spring Garden Road. The other is the abysmal state of the sidewalk along the Royal Artillery Park side of Brunswick Street between Sackville and Doyle Streets. “It’s also a street our urban designers would like to look at from a design perspective,” says MacIsaac, in order to give it “signature street” feel.

Though it’s in the early design stages, there are hints of the future of Brunswick Street in what Dal has built across the street, and perhaps even more so in what the developer of the Doyle has built along their block of Brunswick Street where a lane of traffic used to be.

Looking northward from the new path between the Central Library and Dalhousie, on Spring Garden Road.

There’s room along the Doyle for an easy install of a protected, bi-directional bike lane, which will match up with what Dal has built across the street. But it will remain filled with sod or some such until the larger Brunswick Street plan has been created by staff and approved by council. There’s still no projected date for completion of said functional plan, but the project does fall under the IMP’s AAA Regional Centre Bike Network which is meant to be completed by 2022. Since this one isn’t very far ahead in the design queue, it’s hard to imagine that council will approve a design and pony up the resources to build it by 2022, but hey, who am I to rain on your hopeful infrastructure parade?

One of the biggest design nuts to crack seems to be getting across Spring Garden Road. Perhaps just marking the other crosswalk would do, especially if bikes are permitted to ride through crosswalks by then. “Or maybe,” says MacIsaac, “you need signals. That’s part of what we need to figure out before we go back to council for approval. It just requires some analysis.”

As for Spring Garden Road, the city will be releasing three options for functional plans to the masses on January 7. Functional plans are the bare bones of a street plan, and this one will be focussing on “major components of the street like relative widths of the road and sidewalk, transit priority, and space to enhance pedestrian & retail experience,” according to the city’s open house announcement.

The Forest Hills Parkway: in detailed design

“No one’s really ever thought a whole lot about what Forest Hills Parkway should be besides a car street,” says MacIsaac. But the major street is listed as a priority greenway in the IMP and is in the queue for pavement rehabilitation, so bike and pedestrian improvements could happen starting next year.

The project would eventually see the entire length of the Forest Hills Parkway and part of Cumberland Drive get a multi-use path on either the east or west side, with some smaller sections getting a matching sidewalk on the opposite side. Considering the parkway is home to a sports complex, a high school, the Cole Harbour Commons and a bunch of retail, it’s a pretty important connection. A safe and pleasant AT route could end up diverting a good portion of local car trips.

The project, with options for on-street bike lanes or a separate shared path, went to public consultation in March 2017. Now a year and a half later it’s in detailed design and, pending budget decisions, “we would hope to build the first phase of it next year,” says MacIsaac.

The Macdonald Bridge bikeway access: in detailed design

People have been talking about fixing the bikeway access to the Macdonald Bridge ever since the bikeway opened in 1999.

Nearly 20 years later, “we are close,” says MacIsaac. “We’re in a procurement process to hire detailed design for the entire project.” Although this project seems like it’s in the bag, with a council-approved functional design, $300,000 in this year’s capital budget, and $1 million included in the proposed capital budget for 2019/20, it’s anybody’s guess if it will actually happen as planned. In addition to taking several years (and budget approvals) to complete, it’s also the flashiest AT project the city has ever taken on, with a grand total $7 million price tag.

MacIsaac points out that although the project gets identified as being about the flyover (a cool-looking ramp/bridge that extends the bikeway out over the multiple vehicle traffic lanes exiting the bridge on the Halifax side), it also includes 3.5 kilometres of bikeway, and upgrades to Wyse Road and the Gottingen-North intersection. The flyover structure itself is “a little bit over half the cost,” of the total project, says MacIsaac.

Another element that drives up the total project cost is outsourcing. Unlike internally managed and designed projects (like the South Park Street protected bike lanes) the price tag for the bridge access project costs include contracts for both project management and detailed design.

And then there’s the fact that the project will scratch more than just the itch for better bike infrastructure. The intersection of Gottingen and North Streets is in for a substantial sustainable modes makeover. “There will definitely be improvements for bikes but we’re also really looking to improve transit operations. And we’re going to ask our detailed designers to look at the pedestrian environment, to look at the pedestrian connections through there and optimize those.”

Map of Dartmouth bridge access
Some of these changes to the Dartmouth side of the Macdonald Bridge may get funded out of the $1 million proposed in the capital budget next year for the Macdonald Bridge Bikeway project.

But will it happen? “It has its own line item in our capital budget, and it’s about seven plus million dollars spread over a number of years,” says MacIsaac. But so far the capital budget proposed by the city’s senior management includes $1 million for the project in 19/20, and nothing for the following two years.

The $1 million “will cover our detailed design and should cover some of the smaller infrastructure projects on the Dartmouth side,” says MacIsaac. “We have decided to go with the direction that we have from council to design the project and have it ready for construction if funding becomes available, even if it is in years past 2022,” he says.

Bedford Highway: functional design (early stages)

The city is currently undertaking a functional plan for the entire Bedford Highway corridor. In the past, a road functional plan has meant an engineer’s outline of how to maximize vehicle traffic flow on a given roadway. But in these post-IMP times, the city’s blurb for the Bedford Highway Functional Plan promises to include land use planning considerations along the corridor, as well as expanding the typical focus on private vehicle traffic to include all the ways people get around.

If there’s any truth to that, you can bet the design drawings will not feature increased capacity for the 20,000 vehicles a day (on average) that use the Bedford Highway. Instead, they will be focussed on growing the numbers of people taking the bus (which in 2017-18 averaged 12,777 riders each day) and the numbers of people walking, rolling, or cycling along the corridor. Unfortunately, we don’t have numbers on how many trips people currently make by active transportation along the Bedford Highway. Let’s hope that the city will be counting walkers and cyclists as thoroughly as it counts cars as part of this functional planning process.

I know there are active transportation users on the Bedford Highway, as I hear about them online, and occasionally see them from a bus or car window. I myself tried to bike the highway once, and the experience was so harrowing that I have yet to attempt it again.

The situation for AT users on this historic road along the Bedford Basin is dismal: less than three-quarters of the road has at least one sidewalk, and less than half has painted bike lanes with zero separation from vehicle traffic. And true to the pattern in HRM, the painted bike lanes simply disappear at major intersections or for long narrow stretches, where they are most difficult to implement, but also most needed.

The city hosted two open house sessions and an online survey at the end of November to gather initial input for the future functional plan. The summary of that feedback should be forthcoming in early 2019.

Local Street Bikeways on Vernon and Allan-Oak: under construction and in court

This map shows the proposed bikeways; the Allan-Oak corridor is in dark blue.

Vernon Street was recently rebuilt with bump outs to discourage speeding vehicles and make things more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists, as part of a project eventually extending across Coburg Road to Seymour Street.  Similar bump outs may happen in the spring on Allan Street, from Windsor to Harvard Streets, but will stop there until a legal challenge by area residents has been resolved.  About 20 people from Harvard and Lawrence Streets have brought the legal challenge in opposition to a proposed diagonal diverter at Harvard and Allan which would block through traffic along the Allan Street. Diagonal diverters are common traffic calming tools in other cities, though the concept is new to Halifax streets.  The idea is that while blocking through vehicle traffic, you create safe and easy passage for cyclists and pedestrians.

And everything else

There’s plenty more afoot: possible improvements to the Windsor-Cunard intersection, a peninsula connection to the COLTA trail at Joseph Howe, fights over on-street parking in the city’s residential near-north end where local street bikeways have been proposed, and maybe, someday, a possible active transportation connection to one of the city’s most important historical sites, Africville Park.  I’ll do my best to keep on top of it all in 2019!

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  1. A couple of facts about biking from the most recent issue of Car and Driver. The War on Cars ….” Bicycling magazine named Seattle it’s best bike city last year , principally because of how many protected bike lanes it has built. Yet bike commuting in the city fell to its lowest level in a decade with just 2.8 % of the Seattleites riding to work in 2017 . The total number of bike commuters also dropped”

    “ Other developments have brought unintended consequences too. A recent study of Uber and Lyft, estimates that these services contributed an extra 94 million miles of driving in Seattle in 2017 . The same study finds that the the primary competition is not privately driven cars , but public transportation , walking and biking; were these ride hailing services not available, about 60% of these users would have used other means to accomplish these trips without a car. The careless are anything but, in other words.”

    The article ( a very interesting read) might provide a word of caution to those who assume bike ridership will only grow if we provide the infrastructure. Maybe it will, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a sober second look before we decide to remove all of our downtown parking and disrupt our neighbourhoods.

  2. The diverter has to go. Those on the Quinpool Road side of Harvard Street lose access to Oxford Street via Allen Street. They lose access to Chebucto Road via Harvard Street. This diverter also affects the residents of Yukon and Yale Streets not just Harvard Street. The contract out for construction when the frost comes out of the ground contains 5 speed humps spaced out between Windsor Street and Harvard Street. With diverter in place, the only unencumbered access for residents, city vehicles and emergency vehicles is from Quinpool Road, one of the busiest streets on the Peninsula.

    The nearest fire station is on West Street. Trucks from there will only be able to access the Chebucto Road end of Harvard Street but not the Quinpool Road end of Harvard Street because of the diverter. As they said in the staff report for these bikeways, they will have to go around. There was an article in the local paper recently stating that the fire service by could not meet their current service times now and they had to add 30 seconds to the time they have to meet 90% of the time. If they have to go around, the question is can they meet their stated service time at any time when going around particularly during busy traffic times.

    The diverter does not solve any traffic problem. It just moves traffic from Allen Street to Lawrence Street and a portion of Harvard Street. The real traffic problem is HRM refuses to upgrade the arterial streets in the area to handle the present day traffic demand let alone any future demand. A traffic study commissioned by HRM in the past proved that shortcutting through Allan Street and area works. It was faster to shortcut. The reason is the arterial streets are not handling the current traffic load. If these roads were handling the current traffic load then shortcutting would not work. This problem is further compounded by allowing more construction downtown rather than encouraging new construction off the peninsula where it can be positioned adjacent to a well developed road network. The same can be said for all the new residential construction occurring or in the process on the peninsula. This will add many more residents to the peninsula who may take transit or ride bikes at times but will still own and use cars.

    The installation of the diverter will trigger, in my opinion, a significant drop in the property values for the property owners on Yukon, Yale and the Quinpool Road side of Harvard Street due restrictions on Emergency vehicle access to area and the subsequent doubts this creates for the safety of current residents and anyone looking to purchase on these streets. This is further compounded by the loss of 3/4 of our routine unencumbered access we have now. Access via Quinpool Road is the least attractive route to routinely leave or enter our neighbourhood now, in my opinion. I try not to use at all most of the time. The nuisance factor created by access being limited will also contribute the degradation of property values for the Yukon, Yale and Quinpool Road end of Harvard Street. If HRM goes ahead with the diverter, they could be faced with a substantial bill for taking away our property values without consultation or our approval. Why should the residents of all of Harvard and Lawrence Streets have their lives disrupted and their properties devalued to fix a problem that is not of our making and may not be wanted by the majority of the residents of Allan Street. In the previous traffic study I mentioned, if my memory is correct, the residents of Allan Street voted on the traffic calming measures presented to them and they voted them down.

    At the same Council meeting that approved the implementation of the Allan/Oak Streets and the Vernon/Seymour Streets Bikeways, the Council also approved major changes to the Traffic Calming Administrative Order. Prior to the changes, residents had a vote on whether to proceed with traffic calming or not. HRM Regional Council voted and as a result instructed staff to remove the right to vote from the Administrative Order on Traffic Calming. The right to have a vote was removed. Under the new Administrative Order, one person could request traffic calming and if certain criteria were met, HRM could proceed to implement traffic calming on the street. So one person could have traffic calming installed on the street although the majority of the people might be dead set against it. Of particular note, is the fact that once installed, it requires 75% approval to have the traffic calming infrastructure removed. What happened to the right to vote and the rule of the majority? Some would say this is dictatorship.

    Staff decided while removing the vote from the Order they would propose changes of their own to the Order which Council subsequently approved. Staff informed Council that their changes would streamline the process and make it more efficient. Among the changes staff proposed was the deletion of the Secondary Assessment from the Order. This deleted input from line departmental staff such as Traffic Management, Fire Services, Police, Road Operations and Construction, Project Planning and Design, Emergency Health Services and Halifax Transit. These groups were retained in a consultative capacity but were, in my opinion, removed from having any substantive input where they could veto anything that prove in their experience as impractical, unworkable, too expensive or unsafe. As I said in my opinion. You can form your own opinions. It is an interesting that both the implementation of the two bikeways and the removal of the vote and the secondary assessment occurred at the same Council meeting. Would it be too much of a stretch to wonder if the changes to the Administrative Order on Traffic Calming were made to speed the implementation of the Allan/Oak Street and the Vernon/Seymour Street Bikeways and other future bikeways that HRM wanted to have all finished by 2020 now extended to 2022.

    As a final note, I am curious how the Vernon/Seymour Bikeway managed to escape both a diverter and speed humps. I may be wrong but it appears to me that they just installing curb extensions there. I could go on the extra work and costs for snow clearing all of the new infrastructure proposed for these bikeways.

    If I made any errors or omissions, please post corrections.

  3. What a waste of money and time this HRM bike plan is. Just another waste of taxpayer money. Nothing in the bike plan has to do with safety or even wide use.
    After the ‘surprise’ convention centre losses, and HRM blind faith in their bad projections, it is clear the HRM politicians and mayor are in denial about their screw ups.
    This waste of tax money is just another example of why we need to ask the Province to provide Halifax with a better, more prudent form of municipal government

  4. If they improve bike lanes on the Bedford Highway but do nothing about the Windsor St. exchange, then the exercise is pointless.

  5. Erica’s claim that, “Diagonal diverters are common traffic calming tools in other cities,” is flat-out bullshit. To cite but one example, Montreal, with its marvelously bike-friendly streets, has none.

    The diagonal diverters proposed for Allen/Oak are a utopean scheme forced on an unwilling and protesting neighbourhood by councillors pandering to an undemocratic lobby of cyclist-idelogues and their uncritical media supporters like Erica.

    Two public consultation meetings were held at inconvenient times unpublicized to the neighborhood but thoroughly promoted to the bike lobby. The online consultation mentioned in the article was fradulent in that it purported to evaluate alternatives, but in reality only presented three cosmetically different varieties of the same diagonal diverters. The style of diverters differed, but they all had the effect of disrupting traffic patterns in a manner extremely inconvenient to local residents. The online consultation was also so long and tedious only a handful of people completed it.

    NO ONE opposes a first-rate bike lane on Allen. NO ONE opposes reasonable steps to slow traffic on Allen, a residential street where vehicle speed is a real concern. But these goals can easily be accomplished with normal measures like speed bumps, mini-roundabouts, bike lanes, and possibly judiciously placed bump-outs. A real neighbourhood consultation, as opposed to the fake one actually carried out, could have developed consensus around such measures.

    Instead, we have yet another example of arrogant, woke councillors trying to remake Halifax citizens in their own image via intrusive, costly, social engineering measures imposed from on high and crammed down the throat of a resisting neighbourhood.

    Shame on the responsible councillors: Waye Mason, Shawn Cleary, and Lindell Smith.

    1. They’re not working Vernon. The lines they’ve put near Quinpool are a joke and people parking next to the new Starbucks make them impossible to follow.

    2. Parker, do you have any information on diverters that are in place in Toronto, Vancouver and other large Canadian cities?

    3. These diverters ARE, in fact, common elsewhere. I’d navigated a few in Ottawa just this summer (a city who has worked its butt off over the years to achieve), what is now, a very very comfortable city to cycle and walk around. These details are also a very common recommendation in NACTO guidelines, which are quickly becoming the go to for transportation management.

      I’ve never understood residents opposition to what is essentially a great traffic calming measure for all residents. These installations, not only make cycling more viable, but essentially change the streets into local vehicle use and not a thoroughfare, making the streets safer for all. This type of opposition stems from those who are sadly misinformed and have a very NIMBY attitude.

      The same types of opposition will surely be heard by those living on Dahlia st in Dartmouth, led by a select few, who have way to much time on their hands to complain about progressive changes to our city.

      1. So much misinformation from Kevin Payne.

        1. Diagonal diverters are NOT common. A very small number have been implemented in a tiny handful of North American cities.

        2. If the project truly is a wonderful improvement for our neighbourhood, and not merely a sop to radial bike activists, you have to wonder why city planners (and Councillors Mason. Cleary, & Smith) took such care to avoid notifying, let alone genuinely consulting, neighbourhood residents. This radical project was foisted on our neighbourhood with a fake public consultation process designed to minimize interaction with residents. It consisted of two unpublicized meetings (one of which was held during working hours, when few residents could attend, even if they had known about it), and a long, tedious online questionnaire that considered only cosmetic variations of the predetermined outcome: diagonal diverters.

        3. Why was there was no consideration of less radical alternatives, such as a bike lane combined with speed bumps, that could have calmed traffic on Allen St. without hobbling neighbourhood traffic patterns?

        4. Since motor vehicles will still pass through this intersection, and will in fact have to turn across traffic at them, cyclists will still want to pause before passing through them, exactly as they do now, and exactly as they would with a bike lane and speed bumps but no diverter. It’s unclear how this improves the street for cycling beyond what a bike lane with speed bumps would achieve.

        5. The imposition of diagonal diverters will make routine trips by local residents much longer and more convoluted. Why was there no analysis of the impact on carbon emissions of these longer trips with more frequent idling?

        6. The diagonal diverters will force first responder vehicles to negotiate longer, more convoluted routes in emergencies, when lost minutes can cost lives and property. Is it NIMBYism for people who live and own property here to be concerned?

        I am all for improvements that make cycling easier in peninsular Halifax. I welcome a bike lane on Allen, and would freely give up parking on one side of the street to accommodate that. I don’t love speed bumps, but I would accept them on Allen, where vehicles need to slow down.

        But there is no persuasive evidence that diagonal diverters improve travel for cyclists, only certainty that they impair local transportation for non-cycling residents who are in the vast majority. They also impair neighbourhood safety.

        On top of that, Council has put its thumb on the scale with a recent rule change requiring that, once implemented, traffic measures like this one can only be undone by a 75% vote of Council. (By contrast, impeachment of Donald Trump would requires only 66% of the Senate.)

        It smacks of a radical social engineering scheme by bicycle zealots who consider only each other’s views.

  6. About 3-4 times a week, generally between 11am and 7pm, I drive the length of Hollis st. Since the bike lane was built I have seen 5 bicycles, 3 were in the lane,1 in the lane but going the wrong way and 1 travelling in the direction of the lane but on the other side of the street. Less frequently I return on lower water street and have seen only 1 cyclist travelling in the wrong direction .I’m sure there are regular users of these lanes but perhaps not enough to justify its cost. If you build they may not come.

    1. I bike 8 months of the year but not that bike lane. Not that it’s a useless stretch of road, it’s just that parking enforcement officials won’t do anything about the half-dozen-plus cars that park in the length of the Hollis bike lane at any given time during a weekday (most commonly a mix of delivery trucks, couriers and the “I’ll just be 10 minutes in the bank, so I’ll turn on my four-ways and it’s no big deal” crowd).

      I don’t know if there are other cyclists in the same boat as me, but I can’t imagine I’m alone. It emphasizes the relative uselessness of calling painted stripes on the asphalt a “bike lane.” If there’s no physical barrier preventing motorized traffic from entering a proposed bike lane, then motorized traffic will CONSISTENTLY enter the proposed bike lane in question and render it effectively useless for its intended purpose.

    2. It’s a very useful stretch of road to have a bike lane, but unfortunately it’s a poorly designed lane and (as others have stated) very poorly enforced.

      Local advocates wanted something more involved, but the city didn’t allow much more than what we’ve got at the time, and now we’ve got an underused portion of bicycle infrastructure.

  7. I have almost given up walking in Dartmouth Common because it is unsafe for pedestrians. Cyclists have no concern for other people as they race through without a care in the world. To avoid the physical risk and the mental anguish I stick to strolling the sidewalks.
    Legislation for Dartmouth Common gives priority to pedestrians. Despite considerable correspondence with senior staff my requests for signs indicating that the law gives pedestrians priority nothing has happened. And MacIsaac knows the law but is unwilling to do anything that may upset cyclists. I have young mothers complaining to me but I tell them to call 311.
    The illustration of the ramp at Gottingen and North is inaccurate. Northwood has a 2 storey section extending further southeast, almost to the existing sidewalk on North. Quite amazing that high paid planners can be so inaccurate.

    1. There is no illustration of either Northwood or the intersection of Gottingen & North in this article. The ramp illustration doesn’t extend as far west as Gottingen. The buildings visible in the illustration are buildings on the military base.