Here’s something you probably didn’t expect: St. John’s City Council recently voted — unanimously — to make cycling easier and safer for everyone. I’m serious.
Since 2009 or so, St. John’s has been either implementing or not implementing our very own “Cycling Master Plan.” Various trails have been upgraded; signs now indicate “bike route,” and bike lanes have been painted on a few streets.
Ultimately, however, the Plan was neither complete nor completed. And for the past couple of years there has been a sporadic, muted debate over how to deal with cycling in St. John’s.
But this past June, Council finally agreed to create a new Cycling Master Plan Committee who can give us some clear direction and next steps.
While the public call for committee members will come soon, here’s what I think we should keep in mind as we pedal down this road. (Cycling pun!)
First and foremost, our new committee will have to represent both the cycling community and the community at large if their recommendations are to be successfully adopted and implemented.
People ride bikes for a variety of reasons: recreation; commuting; training; getting some milk at the store, etc. These different users have different needs that must be considered in a complete plan.
As well, a major success factor will be public “buy in.” We’ve all heard of residents who experience negative impacts of bike lanes or frustration with cyclists riding in traffic. We have to engage in an open dialogue to understand the needs of our neighbours.
In other words, there is a need for greater education of cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians alike. I believe the committee should focus its effort on this aspect of the Plan.
For example, can we better communicate the rules of the road to both cyclists and drivers? Are there best practices for sharing the road? How about some tips for riding on hills, that big impediment to hopping on a
bike in St. John’s?
Education is key, of course, but there’s also the infrastructure: what do we build, how do we build it, and where does it go? Many of our city’s famed trails could be upgraded to allow safe sharing of an existing network. Metrobus has added bike racks to their busses (!), but do we have enough bike parking at our destinations?
That’s a lot of questions, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. But ultimately the goal of this committee should be to reduce the fear of cycling in St. John’s and enable people who want to bike, to bike.
How to do that? The Plan will be important, yes, but beyond that I want to see a culture of cycling take hold in our city. Let’s support bike races; let’s foster off-road bike trails; let’s celebrate the health benefits of cycling – not just for the rider, but for the clean air breathers around her, too.
That’s my vision for cycling in St. John’s. What’s yours?