Moncton’s New Bike Lanes and Active Transportation

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

With summer having kicked off just over a week ago, it’s walking season in Moncton. The weather is ideal for walking when it’s sunny and warm, but not too bad when it’s rainy and cool either.

I find myself walking to get around much more than usual during the summer– walking home from work on occasion and walking downtown to volunteer and use the library. During the year, particularly during the winter months, I rarely walk to get around. Slush, slippery sidewalks, icy temperatures, and sombre afternoons are major deterrents, as is a considerably more tightly packed schedule.

Would I use active transportation more if bike lanes were added alongside the sidewalk on Shediac Road, which I live within proximity of?

The bike lanes that the City plans to add on to Shediac and Salisbury roads would be created by reducing the streets from four lanes to two lanes. On Shediac Road, the sidewalk is currently immediately next to the street, no strip of grassy lawn separates the street and the sidewalk, only the curb. The unsung benefit of adding the bike lanes to Shediac Road is that it will make the sidewalks seem a bit roomier and perhaps encourage families with younger children to feel safe with their kids walking down Shediac Road.

Having bike lanes directly on the road rather than on a separate path will maximize the upkeep budget and guarantee that bike lanes will be cleared during the winter alongside the road. The City plans to better clear the roads and bike lanes during the winter in the future.

The purported downside of adding the bike lanes and reducing the road from four lanes to two lanes is that traffic will increase. However, Stéphane Thibodeau, transportation coordinator for the City of Moncton, says that currently there are 10000 cars going down Shediac Road each day, far below the 20000 cars per day that necessitates a four lane road. He points out that currently, speeding is common on Shediac Road where the speed limit sits at 50 km/hr. The bike lanes may slow down cars traveling on Shediac Road, but he points out that in this situation, that is a benefit, even a right, to the overall community despite the occasional inconvenience it may cause drivers. Besides, cars may not be inconvenienced at all  when the big picture is considered. Mr. Thibodeau points out that the problematic busy Lewisville and Shediac Road intersection will undergo improvements this summer.

As for Salisbury road, plans are being made to build a bridge for pedestrians and bikers that links it to Main Street. Currently, Mr. Thibodeau says that locals have the habit of using CN bridge to cross over to Main Street on foot, which is illegal.

Choosing to reduce traffic lanes  to the advantage of bikers and walkers is a bold step for Moncton. As can be expected, most support active and public transportation in principle, but some are apprehensive doing something concrete of this nature to support active and public transportation. The current plan, although promising, does have its imperfections– the inconveniences to car drivers and the near-the-road bike lanes that can be intimidating for young or inexperienced bikers. However, shouldn’t we as citizens be able to muster up the integrity to do something about active transportation in our city? This is an opportunity to increase active transportation and to make our neighborhoods more complete.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on July 2nd, 2011.

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