April 21st, 2024

Council to seek more public input on bike lanes


By Lethbridge Herald on March 12, 2024.

Council has deferred the issue of downtown bike lanes to gather more public input. Herald photo by Ian Martens

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council voted on Tuesday to have the issue of downtown bike lanes addressed at the May 2 meeting of the Assets and Infrastructure Standing Policy Committee to get more public consultation.

The SPC is a committee of Lethbridge city council.

Administration is also being directed to have a booth set up at the April Community Conversation in the Enmax Centre on April 25.

The motion to defer came after a lengthy discussion on the bike lanes which was initiated by councillor Rajko Dodic in an official business motion.

His original motion called on City administration to quit planning and building any and all bicycle paths and lanes that have not yet been constructed and to provide an estimate of the costs to remove those bike paths and lanes in the downtown business area that have been finished.

One block of the downtown lanes has yet to be completed – on 7 St. S. between 5 and 6 Avenues – which Director of Infrastructure Joel Sanchez told council is scheduled to start in April with a finish time before the end of May.

That section is the last step to finalize, Sanchez said.

The referral motion also directs administration to work with the Downtown BRZ to invite downtown businesses to the SPC meeting and direct administration to provide additional information on the project.

Councillor Jeff Carlson had concerns about the timing because in his opinion there won’t be much new experience with the bike lanes, saying he would want to have a full community conversation after there was a full year to experience the lanes, suggesting November as a potential time to discuss it.

Dodic wasn’t interested in changing the referral motion because no decision has to be made at the May 2 SPC meeting.

“The purpose of the referral motion is we’ve had a lot people that have come here and it’s a council meeting so they cannot speak at it. But we’ve also heard, and I know it’s not a statistically valid poll or anything else like that but you can’t ignore the fact that recently the public in general was asked a question in the Lethbridge Herald ’should the City stop planning for any new bicycle lanes’ and the total vote for the Lethbridge Herald poll – which is a lot, 729 – had 554 in support, 175 against…that’s by a margin of 3-1 so I’m not saying that that poll is correct but by the same token we can’t assume that the folks that are advocating with respect to the bicycles are correct as well.

The purpose of the motion, said Dodic, is to allow those who were in council chambers Tuesday and those in the business community that feel they are directly impacted also have the opportunity to be heard.

The SPC will get additional information with respect to the contract for the work on 7 St. between 5 and 6 Avenues as well as grant consequences in event the City doesn’t proceed with the project and the timing as to when grant consequences might take effect.

The grant he referred to was money from federal Active Transportation Fund run by Infrastructure Canada that the City received for the project. The fund invests in projects that builds and expands upon networks of bike lanes, pathways, pedestrian bridges and trails in communities across the country.

If council was to vote on the original motion, Dodic said, they would be doing so without sufficient information thus the purpose of the referral to the May 2 SPC.

Councillor Belinda Crowson said she would “very reluctantly support this. I would love to just kill it now but I also understand the need for information. I had all the information I needed when I put my hand up during the capital budget on this so I knew where we were heading on this.”

Councillor Ryan Parker said he would support the resolution. 

“Democracy is having an opportunity to have your say and to question where we are, where we are going.”

He noted there are people on both sides of the issue and it’s incumbent upon council to ask questions.

“I think if we’re going to do it let’s do it right. I do believe we might have to give this process a year to go through the growing pains and all that. It did catch me off guard, the bike lanes, but I think a lot of people don’t like change” but people can learn from mistakes, he added.

Councillor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel also “very reluctantly” supported it. She said cycling and pedestrians make a better and busier space which equals less unwanted behaviour on the street and gives more eyes on the street.

But she said she supported Dodic’s initiative to do more community consultation and hear back from downtown businesses.

Councillor Nick Paladino noted council went from ripping up lanes downtown to hosting more public consultation so he would support it.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen supported the resolution and having additional engagement.

Dodic said in his closing argument for the motion that it wasn’t done cavalierly.

“I have come to the conclusion we have been banding around the phrase public consultation quite loosely in the past and I’m not convinced the public consultation that has been conducted in the past has always actually arrived at a conclusion that we can actually rely upon so that’s one of the reasons I brought this resolution to ensure that everyone is heard on this, including the downtown businesses who might be most affected,” said Dodic.

“I have not as yet been convinced that the public consultation that occurred before was effective consultation and actually truly reflected what the wishes of folks were.”

He added he wants to see safety issues addressed such as a driver opening a door on 4 Ave. and someone running into it because it’s been narrowed significantly or people entering vehicles and potentially hit by a bicycle.

“This was not a cavalier resolution.” 

Dodic’s original motion stated that the new bike paths and lanes that were constructed downtown have made it more difficult for people with accessibility issues to access sidewalks adjacent to businesses.

“The construction of the downtown business bicycle lanes has created problems during snow events as well as anecdotally has been almost universally seen as a barrier to the success of downtown businesses,” said the motion which also points out that some paths and lanes in the city are simply separated from roadways by a painted demarcation, citing 13 St. N. as an example.

Other lanes have a dedicated street shared with vehicles with roundabouts at reduced speeds, says the motion, citing 7 Ave. S.

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JonEvans

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Lethson

Anecdotally, a number of downtown businesses have posted letters online saying they support bike lanes and that they’re good for business. I guess Dodic’s universe doesn’t include some of our most popular businesses.

buckwheat

Apparently only the downtown “universe” matters and the rest of us just shut up and pay for it. At least Crowson had the foresight to change a following resolution on what the city could do, from the wording “downtown” businesses to “all” businesses.

Montreal13

Just window dressing.on her part?

pursuit diver

Downtown is where the bike lanes are disputed, where they are completed and have caused serious issues, including people falling after parking their vehicles and trying to walk over the snow piles, extra curb and issues with handicapped trying to find a place to cross the bike lanes.
I would note the businesses who support the bike lanes are not on the streets where they bike lanes are and some of the loudest, are blocks away from the areas the bike lanes are or are proposed.
More importantly, the 3rd avenue bike lanes from Stafford Drive to Mayor Magrath Drive are still planned and the costs are high. The costs for 1 block, on 7th street from 5th avenue to 6th avenue are $350,000, as stated in the meeting. It will cost millions for the 3rd avenue plan and will restrict traffic cutting lanes from 4 lane to 2 lane, adding traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.
The costs were in the millions for this project and there is a lack of understanding as to the psychology of people driving to shop. They do not want long lines of stop and go traffic and time consuming drives in their busy days, and will go to other areas where they can get in and out fast!
I know people from nearby communities who still refuse to drive on Mayor Magrath Drive to get to Superstore and other big box stores there, because of the the traffic lights with stop and go traffic, slow moving.
As usual, no one listened to the majority who didn’t want the bike lanes, instead listening to the ones who thought it was ‘brilliant’. How did that work out?
This southern Alberta, not BC, not Ontario and people in this region think different and shop different.
First, we already have a dedicated bike avenue coming downtown, it is 7th avenue and rarely it gets used.
Second, we are a growing city and restricting a major thoroughfare such as 3rd avenue, kills traffic flow and will reduce people coming downtown. It is the only non-residential east-west roadway that goes from Scenic Drive to Mayor Magrath Drive!
I have heard Lethbridge traffic flow compared to Calgary or Edmonton and the traffic isn’t that bad. Guess what, we are not as big as they are and shouldn’t have similar issues, yet planners want to make plans that reduce traffic flows. I have relatives who live in Edmonton and they have never heard of waiting for 2 hours to get from one side of the city to the other, stuck in traffic due to accidents! Yet it happens often here!
There are better places to put bike lanes, not 3rd avenue south! 2nd avenue is wider and doesn’t have the major traffic flow. Or go through the school grounds from 20th street to 15th street and then down 5 avenue to downtown, or use back alleys. Why do you want them on major roadways which increase the odds of vehicle vs bike accidents and in many cases due to a child not knowing the dangers and venturing off into traffic!
Good motion councilor Dodic! We are looking at cutbacks of transfers and other project support dollars from the federal and provincial governments and have to start looking at where priorities should be for our tax dollars.
Sad when you see a seniors abuse support non-profit organization shut down because of budget cuts, yet we have millions for bike lanes that come with high maintenance costs annually and as seen in other communities, lawsuits for injuries and/or businesses suing for losses!

Keilan

https://www.lethbridge.ca/media/q5gpotfo/cycling-master-plan.pdf
Check out page 45 for a list of all Phase 1 projects and their estimated costs in 2016 dollars. The 3rd street bike lanes you’re describing is in two parts – Stafford to 13th Street for $360,000 and 13th to Mayor Magrath for $470,000. Adjusted for 2024, it’s just over a million. Not millions (plural).
For some context, twinning University Drive from the stadium to Sunridge Boulevard cost $10M, the pedestrian bridge over Highway 3 on Scenic was $2.6M, and the cheaper 3rd bridge option is $188M.

SophieR

Well presented, Keilan.

I the City planted money trees, these folks would complain about the shade.

Montreal13

Downtown lost 20 parking spaces. Typically the city got the cart before the horse. I may drive through downtown on my bike but I don’t shop with my bike. There is no place to safely park it. This should have been the first question that HAD to be answered. But oh no not by this city council- that would make too much sense.
I have watched people with mobility problems trying to get their walkers through the maze or hurtles between them and the sidewalk. The bike lanes trap too much ice and it is just plain a bad idea . Still many seniors will not go downtown because of the new parking meters. Younger and or healthier people show no understanding of the hurtles. This is just one more nail in the coffin.

potsie

I lost my appeal of downtown Lethbridge a long time ago and will never use the bike lanes, but now they have them installed at least see what the summer brings on usage and ask more questions to the people who use them and the people who hate them, instead of just jumping in and removing them.



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