So far it's been a great summer for cyclists, and not just because of the wonderful weather we've been having.
Our City's Bike Task Force has hit its stride recently in our work to recommend next steps for cycling in St. John's.
Since late February, a group of staff and community members has been led by the City's Transportation Engineer to review our existing Plan and cycling infrastructure.
As part of our efforts to get a really good sense of how cycling could work, we have taken a number of steps.
First, we reviewed and discussed all of the feedback we can find about the original Plan (there's been a lot, especially about the bike lanes). We also keep a close eye on Facebook groups like those in neighbourhoods with bike lanes, as well as those dedicated to cycling enthusiasts.
Next, we've been looking for ways to collect more "data" about what could make cycling safer and fun. We suggested a pilot "shared trail" project at Quidi Vidi Lake which would allow us to monitor how a multi-use trail could work. Unfortunately this didn't go ahead, but we're looking at other options like the T'Railway which already allows cycling.
We have also had a couple of committee "rides" with another one planned for mid-September. This helped ensure committee members had a critical eye to existing bike lanes (like in Cowan Heights), preferred -- but busy -- routes (like Prince Philip Drive), and possible new routes (Like Macdonald Drive school to the downtown).
These rides are helping the Task Force to explore what issues and opportunities are available for the City when planning our next steps.
While the Task Force mandate is simply to recommend to Council what policies or initiatives should be pursued, we have already influenced some change.
It was noted at a very early meeting that a lot of people don't really know the "rules" for cycling on city streets. This leads to confusion, frustration, and safety concerns.
We found out that there is little to no wording in the provincial Road User Guide about how to share the road. Given the Road User Guide is a key tool in educating the public, the Task Force asked Council to write a letter to the Province requesting they update the Guide to include this important information. It was approved and the letter will be sent soon.
About half a dozen new bike racks have been purchased. Where should they go?
Another issue that you may have heard people talking about is "bike parking." It was brought up at Council, who referred the issue to the Bike Task Force for review. We discussed it, and while we learned that there are good reasons for not letting bike park in metered spaces, it's clear that there are not enough parking options for cyclists.
That led us to ask our Parks department if we have any bike racks that could be placed in prime areas for cyclists to lock their bikes. They said the few they have were already placed, but had existing budget to buy a few more.
So I'm happy to announce that about half a dozen bike racks have been purchased and will be placed around town! The first one will be placed at the top of the War Memorial, a common gathering place for residents and tourists who may want to visit a shop or lie in the grass without fear that their bike will "go missing."
As for the rest of the racks, we're looking to the public to help decide where they could go. Let me know where you think we should install the racks around town by commenting below or by getting in touch.
The Task Force is making progress on its mandate: a recommendations document is started that we're all contributing to. We'll keep working at it during the fall and will present the final draft to Council in February.
If you'd like to keep up with the Task Force as we make our way toward the recommendation document, visit the Bike St. John's website which has a section containing information like agendas and reports that are informing the work we do.
And for all things City, please join my mailing list for regular email updates!