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City council voted on Monday to start the construction of bike lanes next summer, with on-street bike lanes along 44 Street from 52 Avenue to 49 Avenue, and off-street bike lanes along 52 Avenue. - Graeme McNaughton/NNSL graphic

Bike lanes a go
Council approves bike lanes for certain downtown streets in 2014

Candace Thomson
Northern News Services
Friday, February 28, 2014

Cyclists will have claim to their own portion of Yellowknife's downtown streets by the end of 2014 after city council approved plans for bike lanes during their Monday's meeting.

The approved plan, which begins this summer, calls for on-street bike lanes along Franklin Avenue from 44 Street to School Draw Avenue, on-street bike lanes along 44 Street from 52 Avenue to 49 Avenue, and off-street bike lanes along 52 Avenue.

The off-street bike lanes on 52 Avenue, part of a $500,000 street rehabilitation project, will be flush to asphalt sidewalks on either side of the street with a painted line separating the bike lane from the pedestrian sidewalk.

Because the bike lanes are included in the road rehabilitation funds and asphalt is cheaper than concrete sidewalks, the city is installing the bike lanes on 52 Avenue at virtually no extra cost, according to Mayor Mark Heyck.

The mayor explained the benefits of off-street bike lanes during a media briefing on Tuesday.

"When we did a survey about 70 per cent of people said they'd like to see bike lanes (flush to the sidewalk) and it's proven to be a lot safer, particularly for certain types of cyclists, like smaller children or families," said Heyck.

"With 52 Avenue there are three schools, J.H. Sissons and the two high schools, so there's a lot of kids in the spring and early summer who like to ride their bikes to school so we expect certainly that they'll be big users of it."

City councillor Adrian Bell spoke against the proposed bike lanes, saying what started out as an idea for a pilot project suggested by Coun. Dan Wong turned into a permanent plan foisted onto the public which ignores the preferences of city cyclists.

"This project is well-intended, but misguided," said Bell. "It will not achieve the stated objectives of this council, nor the very clearly stated needs of the cycling community. Cyclists need a safe and convenient way to get from the south end of town to downtown."

Bell said he would much rather see bike lanes along what he calls the most dangerous stretches of Yellowknife streets, such as Franklin Avenue from Matonabee Street to Forrest Drive. He said cyclists would also prefer having the bike lanes there too. City taxpayers will turn against future bike lane projects if the current plan goes through as designed.

"What happens when you spend half a million tax dollars building permanent bike lanes, complete with trees and other landscaping elements, only to have the bike lanes sit empty and unused?" he asked.

"Iíll tell you what happens, taxpayers turn against future bike lane projects. They turn against projects in high priority areas -- areas where cycling is dangerous enough to dissuade people from choosing their bikes as a means to commute to work."

The plan voted on in four parts: the motion calling for the widening of the McMahon Frame Lake Trail to accommodate bikes lanes was approved unanimously, while Couns. Phil Moon Son, Bell and Cory Vanthuyne voted against bike on 52 Avenue. Bell and Vanthuyne also voted against bike lanes on 44 Street and on Franklin Avenue from 44 Street to School Draw.

Vanthuyne said painted lines for bikes lanes on city streets will cause confusion and tension among cyclists and motorists.

"There will be dissension and discrimination that will start to formulate over time between cyclists and motorists due to expected behaviors," he said. "And when those behaviors are not met the two will begin to become indifferent with each other and that'll cause another safety issue."

The chosen streets were selected for bike lanes because there is little to no parking on them, said Heyck.

If a driver does park in a bike lane they may be fined, he said.

"Wherever we have no parking signs it's a violation to park there and if we see that kind of thing happening (in the bike lanes) we'll enforce highway traffic bylaw," said Heyck.

Along with the motion approving bike lanes, there is a tag-along motion to include money in the 2015 budget to widen and paint stripes on the McMahon Frame Lake Trail to separate it between bicycling and pedestrian lanes.

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