Boulevard Biking – The Motion

Tonight Councillor Deb McIntosh will introduce a motion at City Council to direct staff to report on implementing a recommendation of the unapproved Draft Transportation Master plan.

I’ve asked her to reconsider, and I’ve sent the following email to a number of Councillors asking them to oppose or amend the motion:

Good afternoon Councillors,

On September 13 Councillor McIntosh will introduce a motion directing staff to look into allowing people to ride bikes on certain boulevards in the city.

In my opinion this motion is pre-mature and redundant and should not be passed. In this email I’m going to outline the reasons I feel the motion is pre-mature and redundant, and then I’m going to suggest some revisions to the motion that would address my concerns somewhat.

As someone who drives, cycles and walks in this city I have strong feelings about improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians. As someone who has researched best practices for improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians I also have a strong rationale behind my feelings. Unfortunately, although Councillor McIntosh’s heart is in the right place I’m afraid her approach in this case is not based in best practices and will actually make cycling in Sudbury more hazardous. Aside from that I believe her motion is pre-mature and redundant or unnecessary.

Please take the time to consider my views on this issue.

This motion is pre-mature for two reasons.

First, this motion is pre-mature because it directs staff to do work best-suited for the active transportation coordinator, but to my knowledge we haven’t yet hired an active transportation coordinator. My concern with this is that the staff report won’t be prepared by an active transportation specialist and will be missing their valuable perspective. Or, if the active transportation coordinator begins part way through it will be difficult for them to contribute to a project that is already under way.

Second, this motion is pre-mature because it directs staff to implement a recommendation “as identified in the draft transportation master plan”.

This is premature, because the draft transportation master plan has not be finalized, it has not been adopted by Council and it has not been approved through the Environmental Assessment Process.

The final, transportation master plan might not include the recommendation to allow cycling on boulevards as an interim option.

To direct staff to expedite their review of the traffic and parking by-law to implement a plan that has not been approved is inappropriate and potentially a waste of resources.

The work required to implement the transportation master plan must not begin until after the transportation master plan has been approved.

Related to this, the motion is redundant because when the transportation master plan is approved, that will give staff the direction they need to implement it. At that time they will undertake a comprehensive review of the Traffic and Parking By-law to implement all of the recommendations of the transportation master plan. Councillor McIntosh’s motion would result in staff undertaken this work twice.

Staff resources should be used to finalize the transportation master plan and get it approved, rather than redirect their efforts towards implementing a plan that isn’t in effect.

My concern with this motion being pre-mature and potentially redundant is that it by-passes the legislated process the transportation master plan is going through. That process may determine it is not appropriate to allow cycling on paved boulevards as an interim solution or it may result in more detailed recommendations for when that is appropriate.

This process should be allowed to run its course. This motion would circumvent that.

So, I ask that you defeat Councillor McIntosh’s motion. If you choose to support it however, I ask that you move to amend the motion in the following ways to address my concerns:

  1. Delete references to the draft transportation master plan and reference approved documents that are currently in effect instead, such as the City of Greater Sudbury Official Plan, the “From the Ground Up Community Economic Development Strategic Plan”, and the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan. These documents all support increasing cycling in the community and providing appropriate infrastructure for cycling;

  1. Emphasize that rather than just allowing people to ride bikes on boulevards, the boulevards will be “converted” into cycle tracks or multi-use paths. This is a subtle but meaningful change that provides cyclists with greater legal protection in the event of a collision;

  1. Include a statement that acknowledges people do not currently feel safe riding bikes on our roads and that our network of cycling infrastructure has significant gaps in it. Right now the motion doesn’t say why we would want to allow cycling on boulevard, this would clarify that;

  1. Add a statement that the intended outcome of this motion is to increase the number of people who ride bikes in the city and to increase the safety of riding bikes in the city. This adds a performance measure for evaluating the success of the initiative;

  1. Direct staff to consult the public when preparing their recommendation. The public must be consulted on this initiative since the motion would direct staff to circumvent the transportation master plan approval process, which requires public consultation;

  1. Direct staff to provide recommendations for modifying the draft transportation master plan to include the conditions under which a boulevard would be converted into a cycle track or multi-use path. Currently the draft master plan only says “where it is safe to do so” which is too ambiguous.

I want what Councillor McIntosh wants, which is safe, dedicated cycling infrastructure, however I also believe the best way to achieve that goal is through the approval of the transportation master plan, and the hiring of an active transportation coordinator, neither of which has happened yet.

My version of Councillor McIntosh’s motion would be as follows:

WHEREAS Book 18 of the Ontario Traffic Manual includes recommendations for the use of in-boulevard cycle tracks or multi-use paths as a cost effective way to provide a physically separated cycling facility;

AND WHEREAS the City of Greater Sudbury Official Plan, the “From the Ground Up” Community Economic Development Strategic Plan, and the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan promote improvements to cycling infrastructure;

AND WHEREAS many residents of Greater Sudbury do not feel safe riding bikes on our existing roads and our existing network of cycling infrastructure includes significant gaps;

AND WHEREAS the City of Greater Sudbury’s Traffic and Parking By-Law 2010-1 prohibits bicycles or any other vehicle from driving on boulevards;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that in an effort to increase the number of people who ride bikes and to improve the safety of riding bikes in the City of Greater Sudbury, Council endorses the conversion of boulevards for cycling facilities where appropriate; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff is directed to consult the public and provide recommendations to Operations Committee by the first quarter of 2017 on how to modify the draft Transportation Master Plan to specify the conditions under which boulevards may be converted into cycle tracks or multi-use paths as identified in the Book 18 of the Ontario Traffic Manual.

Thank you very much for your consideration. I would be glad to speak with you about the details of my concerns.

No one has responded.

In my opinion, if you want to quickly and cheaply retrofit existing roads to improve cycling, there’s a way to do it without legalizing a practice that endangers pedestrians, but no one on Council has expressed support for this either:

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