Photo: Paul Krueger,

On Monday morning federal, provincial, and municipal officials gathered to announce a combined $25 million in funding for Halifax’s all-ages and abilities (AAA) bike network. The federal government has committed $12.5 million, the provincial government $8.25 million, and the city will pony up the rest, about $4.25 million.

The network was first approved as part of city’s Integrated Mobility Plan in late 2017, with an implementation goal of 2022.  Back in December 2018, city staff had estimated the total cost to complete the network would be $25 million, and at the time, the prospect of the city funding it fully seemed bleak.

So it’s not surprising this funding announcement is being met with enthusiasm by the city’s AT planners and bike infrastructure advocates like Meghan Doucette, director of the Halifax Cycling Coalition. “It’s a great day for biking in Halifax,” says Doucette. “This is a new and exciting turn to have federal funding going towards a bike network.”

Halifax’s AT supervisor David MacIsaac says he was also happy to see the other two levels of government coming through with funding. It’s only fair, explains MacIsaac. “The type of work that we’re doing right now related to active transportation and sustainable transportation is really kind of transformative,” he says, and funding from other levels of government, “helps us with those costs associated with transition.”

“When I look across the country at cities like Vancouver, Montreal, and other jurisdictions that have made some progress — and you could say are a few years ahead of us — those jurisdictions have typically had funding contributions from those other orders of government to help that transition. I would say it’s one of the factors of success, and we’ve got that now in Halifax.”

The proposed network is almost identical to the one approved in the Integrated Mobility Plan, with a few changes. On-street protected bike lanes, similar to those on Rainnie Drive and University Avenue, will get built on Hollis, Lower Water, Brunswick, Bell Road, Windsor, Almon, Devonshire, Wyse, and Albro Lake Road. Those on-street protected lanes will connect with multi-use pathways (like the Barrington Greenway), and local street bikeways, such as the newly traffic-calmed Vernon Street. The network also includes upgrades to the MacDonald bridge bikeway access on both sides.

Proposed all ages and abilities bike network, source: HRM.

So now that it’s mapped out and fully funded, when will it get built?

Technically, it’s already started. The South Park bike lane (under construction now) is one of the first projects to get built that’s part of city staff’s $25 million network estimate. No one seems clear on whether federal money will start to flow this year towards South Park, or whether it will wait for Halifax’s next fiscal year. The provincial announcement mentions a three year long commitment, so it’s possible the full funding is not available immediately but will be disbursed over several years. (I will update the story as soon as I get confirmation either way.)

But whether the money comes through this year, next, or within three years might not make much of a difference. Money is not the only obstacle to getting a AAA bike network built in central Halifax and Dartmouth. There’s also planning and engineering capacity, and practical concerns like dealing with utilities and design challenges.

MacIsaac is always cautious when it comes to promising timelines, but does point out that a good chunk of what’s proposed is already active at some point in the planning process. The first part of South Park is under construction, the downtown bikeways are in detailed design, consultations have started for midtown bikeways and a local street bikeway on Maynard, and the Dartmouth portion of the Macdonald bridge bikeway access project is nearing the end of detailed planning. (And not a moment too soon, as the police have decided to step up their presence on Wyse Road, preventing cyclists exiting the bridge from riding across the right turn slip lane from Wyse into the toll area.)

Quick note to all MacDonald Bridge users: HRP may be waiting for you at the Dartmouth side of the bridge in the coming weeks. If you’d like to keep riding to continue along Wyse or head up Nantuket we suggest the following. Otherwise, we advise dismounting. #BikeNS @IBIKEHFX

— Bicycle Nova Scotia (@bicyclens) July 28, 2019

“We were already going hard toward that [2022] target anyway,” says MacIsaac, “without knowing necessarily that we have the capital budget in place. But now that we do have that certainty, it is one obstacle removed. And we will adjust our capacity for planning and design as needed.”

“There’s so many things that that impact whether or not you can meet a target,” says MacIsaac. “The best that we can do in July 2019 is just sort of focus on that and make sure that we do have the capacity.”

The new bike network will include some operations costs, mostly in terms of snow removal.  “We don’t have a municipal standard or guideline for snow clearing of bike lanes or for protected bike lanes in particular,” says MacIsaac, though there is “project-based approval” to clear the South Park and the Hollis St. bike lanes, and a new standard/guideline is in the works.

The federal funding is coming via the Investing in Canada infrastructure fund, the Public Transit Infrastructure Stream, formerly known as PTIF, the public transit infrastructure fund.

Federal infrastructure money comes through the provincial government to municipalities like Halifax. Since 2002, according to Infrastructure Canada’s website, the lion’s share (42%) of Nova Scotia’s federal infrastructure funding has gone towards highways and roads.  Only 3% has gone towards public transit projects. In contrast, the national breakdown shows 39% of funding has gone towards public transit projects across the country, with highways and roads taking up 26%.

The last federal transportation funding announcement in Halifax was back in February, when the prime minister himself came to Burnside to announce $86.5 million as the federal contribution towards the Burnside Connector, a nine-kilometre four-lane twinned highway that will cost an estimated $210 million to build.

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  1. HRM has a focus on high density, cycling infrastructure makes them look ‘green’ as they process more and more absurd peninsular non conforming development.

    Its always dangerous when the HRM creature has its visions about commuter infrastructure. Waye Mason is having a vision as he claims that 15% of the city residents bike to work. How did he envision that 5 to 10 thousand people bike to work in the city each day

    Does he have a year 2050 downtown vision…heres mine

    By 2050 bricks and mortar work destinations in the peninsular Halifax
    downtown will be obsolete, central business districts will be obsolete.
    The banks and financial institutions are getting rid of as much brick and
    mortar properties and rentals as fast as they can .

    Welcome to a functional virtual reality.

    By 2050, most Nova Scotians will telecommute, and will want recreational
    facilities and activities,
    not commuter infrastructure.

    People will use auto piloted electric cars on controlled highways more for
    personal use.

    Right now, most working people would prefer to walk to work or take a short
    bus trip in their own community rather than a risky commute to the downtown peninsular Halifax.

    HRM is so very short-sighted.

    A focus on a dense centre is tired and old and is for climate
    deniers HRM is slow to realize this with all their unpopular hi density

  2. Looking at that map it appears that there is still no plan for a connection from the peninsula to the Bedford Highway, where there is in fact a bike lane. Riding along the basin to Bedford is a nice easy ride and could a very reasonable commute by bicycle. Having said that, riding from the Windsor St. exchange around past the Joseph Howe ramps is absolutely terrifying and having ridden it once I would never do it again. Surely this connection is a more important problem to solve than buildling protected lanes on Almon or Morris, neither of which present any problems to cyclists at present.

  3. This is really great news! Halifax needs protected bike lanes and it’s exciting to know that several more will now be built in a timely fashion. I first experienced such lanes in a small Dutch city in 1979, visiting with relatives. They are such a pleasure to ride in. I ride in town a lot anyway, but will feel safer in protected lanes and as has been argued by many, it will mean more people will feel safe enough to cycel.

    I gather that with the AAA designation the lanes will be useable by wheelchair users and others as well? As argued by Tristan Cleveland in a recent Star Metro column. I haven’t paid close enough attention to know.

    Congratulations to all the activists and city staff and City councillors who have carried the ball on this for so many years.

    1. I should have included journalists in the congratulations – Erica’s articles have helped build and keep the momentum going.

  4. Good to see the expensive bridge to nowhere dropped from the railway cut near St. Mary’s. There are better, more direct routes available nearby across existing bridges but a link down the hill to the port end access on the flat over to Pier 21, the Cunard Centre and linking with the Inglis Street Tunnel is needed.

  5. Just to clarify, Rainnie Drive is NOT a protected bike lane.

    Painted lines do not a barrier make.

    I ride it every morning and afternoon. Always great dodging people either going into or coming out of their cars which are inevitably parked on said painted lines.

    1. I think with the buffer and bollards, I’d still call it protected. MacIsaac mentioned precast concrete at some point, so I think you can expect more substantial protection in future.

      1. Those planter boxes pictured in the Vancouver photo would be nice.

        That is a protected bike lane.

        Was in cycling all over Van City this month. A cyclist paradise compared to Halifax and only 19th on the top 20 cycling cities in the world.

        Hopefully we’ll get there.