The Town of Sidney has dropped two proposed bike lane projects as priorities in its draft active transportation plan because of public opposition.
The draft plan included a proposal for protected bike lanes on a downtown stretch of Fifth Street between Sidney Avenue and Orchard Avenue, and painted bike lanes on Bevan Avenue from First Street to Seventh Street.
Both proposals were removed as priority items in the draft plan after a council vote on May 8, but will remain as long-term items to be considered in the future.
The town received hundreds of letters about the draft plan and more than 1,000 responses to a public survey, exceeding the response to any other online survey the town has conducted, including a survey on the Beacon Wharf replacement, a topic that sparked protests.
Forty-six per cent of respondents said they do not want to see any new or improved bike projects in Sidney, a staff report said.
One of the key concerns was potential loss of parking.
A parking study completed by Watt Consulting Group for the town sought to determine the impact on peak-hour parking availability in a “worst-case scenario” — if all 143 on-street parking spots along the two proposed routes were eliminated.
While the study said staff were optimistic the bike lanes could be completed without removing all on-street parking on the Bevan Avenue corridor, it found there was enough parking close to the two corridors that the bike lanes wouldn’t have a negative impact.
But councillors voiced concerns about a loss of parking and how well used the bike corridors would be.
Three per cent of trips in Sidney are done by bike, according to the Capital Regional District’s 2017 Origin Destination Survey.
Noting that 45 per cent of Sidney residents are over 65, Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith told council he appreciates that many older residents rely on having parking close to their destinations.
“To me, the public input is clear. Either they do not want to see this at all or they don’t want to see it as one of the higher priorities,” McNeil-Smith said.
A proposal for painted bike lanes on Mills Road was fully removed from the draft plan.
Corey Burger, policy and infrastructure chair for Capital Bike, said he was struck by how negative public response was to bike infrastructure, which he said is unique in the region.
“There’s always negative commentary around bike infrastructure. It’s polarizing, unfortunately. But the sheer volume of the negative, I think, is what really struck me,” he said.
Burger said it’s disappointing to see the two bike projects dropped as priorities, because Sidney is small and compact and would be a bikeable town if the downtown had cycling infrastructure.
While there are some bike lanes on the edges of the town, there’s “pretty much nothing” downtown, he said.
Burger said he remains optimistic that the projects could go ahead in the future.
“It isn’t ‘no’ to bike lanes. It’s ‘let’s talk a little bit longer,’ which is frustrating, but there’s still opportunities to get some good work done this council term,” he said.
>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org