Canada

Youths’ pitch for city’s first protected bike lanes endorsed by council committee

Article content

A “tremendously talented” group of young environmentalists is making serious headway getting protected bike lanes built, a first for Windsor after years of fruitless lobbying.

Advertisement

Article content

This week, the city’s Environment, Transportation and Public Safety Standing Committee endorsed the proposal to place protected bike lanes along a stretch of University Avenue West for a pilot project that — with city council’s approval in the coming weeks — would start next spring.

“We know it’s something that’s feasible, we know its’s something that will help people and it’s something we need to start doing now,” Lyra Sheldon, president of the one-year-old Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council, said on Thursday, explaining that these lanes, physically separated from automobiles, reduce cyclist deaths significantly. “They’re also safer for pedestrians and cars. When cyclists are given a place to bike safely, they won’t resort to using sidewalks.”

Advertisement

Article content

It can be all the things we want it to be

It’s “shocking” that Windsor still does not have protected bike lanes, said Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex, who noted that most other communities are well on their way with them, including several municipalities in the county. The youth climate council began its pilot project proposal several months ago, hoping to start it up in time for the start of school this September. Because it’s a temporary setup, the city could quickly create protected bike lanes with planters or other available materials. The group first went to the Windsor Essex County Environment Committee, which endorsed the plan in the summer and sent it on to the standing committee — the normal process to get a proposal to council.

Advertisement

Article content

An artist’s rendering of what University Avenue could look like — with wide sidwalks, bike lanes, and off-street strips of shade trees, planters and other greenery — under a community improvement plan for it and Wyandotte Street West.
An artist’s rendering of what University Avenue could look like — with wide sidwalks, bike lanes, and off-street strips of shade trees, planters and other greenery — under a community improvement plan for it and Wyandotte Street West. Photo by City of Windsor /Windsor Star

“It should not be this difficult to pilot a project for separated bike lanes,” Newton said. “I applaud the students for persevering and moving it forward.”

Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt, who chairs the standing committee, expressed enthusiasm for the pop-up project, which would be done in partnership with the University of Windsor. He confirmed it would be “the very first protected bike lane — we don’t have any yet.”

“It only makes sense that by installing protected bike lanes it makes everybody safer — motorists and cyclists,” he said. “And it will encourage people to actually get out there and utilize them in vaster quantities.”

He said details still need to be worked out, but because it’s temporary it won’t be expensive to set up. With a safer route, university students will opt for cycling instead of driving back and forth from the downtown, he said. Bird Canada, the e-scooter share program started in Windsor this year, is enthused about the proposal. And increasing the number of people taking bikes and e-scooters instead of cars will reduce the demand for downtown parking lots and make them available for affordable housing, Holt said.

Advertisement

Article content

“There are so many ripples that come with changing transportation habits that it’s prudent upon us to actually experiment with some of these things.”

Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex seen at the corner of Wyandotte Street East at George Avenue in Windsor in May 2017.
Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex seen at the corner of Wyandotte Street East at George Avenue in Windsor in May 2017. Photo by Jason Kryk /Windsor Star

He said the youth climate council members did a great job making their case. “These are tremendously talented young people. I really hope they stay engaged in the political process because they’re good.”

University Avenue is currently the subject of an environmental assessment that’s the starting point for an expensive overhaul of the wide, underused street. The youth climate council wants to run the protected bike lanes pilot project to collect data to prove their benefits in terms of increased cycling and improved safety, so they’ll be priority No. 1 when University Avenue is redeveloped.

Advertisement

Article content

It’s one of the major routes in the city’s recently approved Active Transportation Master Plan, said the council’s treasurer and research and advocacy chair Sophie Waters.

“And it’s also a super-wide road that has a lot of space for lanes. It’s one of the areas where we’ll get the least pushback (residents and businesses sometimes opposed separated bike lanes if they take away parking spaces) because there is actually space to put in bike lanes.”

The council members said that the bike lanes have been shown to improve spending at area businesses, improve the environment because of fewer car trips, and encourage immigrants and lower-income people to get out on their bikes because of improved safety.

Vice-president Jana Jandal Alrifai said while the short-term goal is to increase the numbers and widen the demographic of people cycling on University Avenue, “I think in the long term we want to prove Windsor can be a bike-friendly city, it can be a climate-friendly city, it can be youth-friendly. It can be all the things we want it to be.”

[email protected]

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

File source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close