March 4th, 2024

Bike lanes raise ire of downtown businesses


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on January 11, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Big John's Books owner John Pyska, right, shovels snow from a bicycle lane with help from a neighbouring worker on 7 St. S. on Wednesday as wintry weather hit Lethbridge.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

When the snow hit and temperatures plummeted on Wednesday morning, downtown business owner John Pyska spent part of it clearing with a shovel the new bicycle lane that runs past his book store on 7 St. S.

Pyska and a staff member of an adjacent store were cleaning the lane in front of their operations as a courtesy to cyclists. In a few other places downtown, similar efforts had clearly been made while stretches of the new bike lanes on 4 Ave. collected snow as the white stuff fell through the morning.

A business on the same street didn’t even bother, it’s owner – like Pyska – who is frustrated with the bike lanes and the negative impact he says they’ve had.

Pyska feels it shouldn’t be the responsibility of businesses to clear the lanes for users and he’s right.

The City of Lethbridge in a statement Wednesday said the new bike lines fall under Priority 1 snow removal service in which “snow clearing and snow removal match the level of service of the adjacent road.

“What this means for the new bike lanes on 7 Street S. and 4 Avenue S. is that they are a Priority 1 route for snow removal. Priority 1 snow removal means the snow will be cleared and hauled away once there is enough snow accumulated on the road to impede vehicle passage,” said the City in a statement.

Pyska feels the new bike lanes are problematic for the downtown. Not only have they reduced traffic flow where they’ve been installed, with only one lane going in each direction where they exist, but their creation reduced the number of available parking stalls on the street.

Dave Clark of Doug’s Sports agrees. Clark told The Herald the work on his block of 7 St. cost businesses a total of 18 parking stalls, nine on each side.

The City, in a statement, disputed that.

“Before the cycling lane construction, there were 48 parking stalls on 7 Street between 3 Ave and 4 Ave, two of which were accessible stalls. After construction there are now 37 stalls, three of which are accessible stalls. Part of the reason stalls were lost is because we leave lots of room adjacent to accessible stalls to help with mobility for people with accessibility needs,” said the City..

And he’s not seen one bicyclist using the lanes since they were opened after construction finished this fall, that construction which Clark says was supposed to take 42 days but instead lasted 91.

During construction, Clark saw shoe sales drop by 80 per cent.

Pyska says since the lanes were installed, he’s only seen about 15 cyclists riding downtown with most riders still using the sidewalks.

“I can’t believe they’re doing this to us,” said Pyska.

“Why is this here?”

He said at a disabled stall at the corner of 4 Ave. S. there is sheer ice under the snow cover and someone using that stall is at risk of injury.

“This has become a disaster for me, not only for my business but for everyone here,” said Pyska of the bike lanes.

“I’ve been here since 7:30 this morning, not one person on a bike. And when they do come on a bike, they’re on the sidewalk because it’s cleared,” Pyska added.

“They’re on the sidewalk.”

With only one lane open on 7 St., Pyska has seen significantly less traffic.

Pyska is frustrated with the lack of access to businesses for customers and the impact it has on seniors and those with limited access.

Roughly 45-50 per cent of his customers are over the age of 55, he said.

He said one person in a wheelchair told him how difficult it is for her to get to businesses on his block. Before the introduction of the bike lane, the customer could push her wheelchair to the curb and get in and now that access has changed and she won’t be back.

Clark said a customer patronizing an adjacent business had similar issues due to the distance to the actual sidewalk from the parking stall, customers which now have to step over a second curb before they reach the sidewalk.

“The City doesn’t give a rat’s ass about me. They don’t care about the people that are coming down here. All they care about is their bike lane that no one uses. . .,” said Pyska while shovelling.

“I’m beyond unhappy about this and I don’t care who knows it because they’re killing my business. Seriously, they’re going to kill half the small businesses in downtown with this.”

According to the City, studies show that having multimodal transportation in a downtown core brings in additional business.

“Being able to have the cycling lanes installed and connected to our existing cycling infrastructure and existing pathway networks is a huge bonus for the businesses, and I think it’ll only encourage more tourism and people into the downtown in the summer months to really enjoy the businesses and help support our local business,” Urban Revitalization Manager Crystal Scheit told reporters in the fall after construction was finished.

The City reduced the speed limit to 40 km/h in the area where the bike lanes have been installed.

Clark said the lanes have another detriment – bigger vehicles parking on 7. St. now can intrude into road space.

“Nobody wanted the bike lanes, not one person. Somebody in City Hall wanted them and pushed them down our throats,” said Clark.

Since the lanes were finished, Clark said he hasn’t seen a single bike on the street.

“And the weather’s been absolutely phenomenal for riding a bike. No one’s riding a bike downtown,” added Clark.

Clark said his business is way slower since the work was finished.

“The bike paths are useless and they’re destroying downtown.”

He said even if the City cleaned the lanes that doesn’t matter because of the lack of use.

“If they want to destroy our businesses, they’re doing an awesome, awesome job. Pretty soon downtown will be empty, said Clark.”

“We’re all furious about it.”

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old school

Shows the brilliance of the city planning department.
Crap on established businesses to accommodate an underused feel good bike lane. Probly can’t even ride a real bike on it without some bylaw officer, modern day dog catcher or under utilized city cop coming down on you!

R.U.Serious

Wait until they go right down third avenue to MM Drive, the avenue is reduced from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, and more traffic signals and pedestrian crossings are added creating congestion and more individuals will conclude they truly don’t have any desire to come downtown because it just isn’t worth the hassle!

Wait until the lawsuits for cyclist injuries on icy or snow-covered bike lanes start, as they have in other cities. I voiced my concerns to the city yet they were dismissed, expressing the plans will move forward.

Neighborhoods would have been greatly improved for an arranged bicycle path, for example, 5th avenue, which is wide and a nice relaxed area! From 13th to 20th street the bike paths could have gone through the school yards. Instead they planned the bike lanes in a business area wehre transport trucks frequent, delivering goods to the warehouse district and accessing downtown.
Several cities have already removed bike lanes in Canada. The drug dealers on bicycles don’t even use them!



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