A Collingwood advisory committee is pitching an idea to make Maple Street a bicycle priority street with a few strategically placed barricades.
Murray Knowles and Justin Jones, of the newly formed Trails and Active Transportation advisory committee, brought the proposal to council’s development and operations committee last night.
“Maple Street is a residential street, it’s time to treat it that way,” said Jones. “And it’s time to recognize this infrastructure doesn’t need to be expensive to act as a really high-quality connection for people walking and cycling.”
The basics of the plan recommend using water-filled plastic barricades and pylons to discourage through traffic on Maple Street and also push cars to only access Maple Street by turning right at its intersections.
The barricades would narrow lanes at the intersection on one side of the street allowing emergency vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to pass through, but “creating friction” for vehicles.
Maple Street is identified in Collingwood’s 2019 Cycling Master Plan as a “bicycle priority street.” But the cycling plan also attached a budget of $1.831 million to the work of making it a bicycle-priority street.
“I’m not sure where those costs come from,” said Jones. He noted adding physical features like asphalt bike lanes isn’t a “context-sensitive solution that respects what [Maple] Street is and what it could become.”
The Trails and Active Transportation Committee is proposing a plan with low upfront costs (not the $1.8 million estimated in the cycling plan) as the town already owns barricades and pylons.
“We feel the reprioritization of that street would be much cheaper and more effective,” said Jones.
The Trails and Active Transportation Committee suggested using barricades to create a “soft closure” to northbound traffic on Maple Street at the intersections of Campbell and Cameron Streets. At Ninth and Maple Street, the committee suggested a few barrel pylons in the intersection noting it was a “slow street” and for local vehicular traffic only. At Eighth street, Jones said the idea was to barricade northbound traffic, and at Seventh to barricade southbound traffic.
The plan is not to prevent vehicular traffic, but to discourage it and make it harder to drive from one end of Maple to the other as a bypass to Hurontario Street.
At Sixth Street, the committee recommended no changes since it’s a four-way stop intersection. At Fifth and Fourth Streets, the committee suggested adding triangle barricades on the Maple Street portions of the intersection to force cars into right turning entry and exit of Maple Street only.
The bicycle priority street would end at Third Street.
“We anticipate a lot of these controls are not going to have 100 per cent compliance,” said Jones. “We anticipate that people, if they need to or if they’re in a real hurry … they will go around. The number of people doing that is going to be extremely low. This will introduce enough friction to slow traffic, to calm traffic and to reduce the number of vehicles to the point where this becomes an all ages and abilities corridor for people to walk and bike and enjoy the street.”
Jones proposed a pilot project later this summer through to October, with all barricades removed for the winter. He said the committee is willing to deliver flyers and engage residents on Maple Street in the pilot project and will be interested in collecting traffic data before and during the pilot project to determine its impact.
He also said the Trails and Active Transportation Committee would be willing to help with the cost of whatever barricades need to be rented by using the proceeds from their trail maps.
Jones also suggested putting the pilot project on Engage Collingwood to gather public feedback through the town’s public engagement web portal.
Knowles said the Trails and Active Transportation Committee is “fairly passionate” about making this pilot project happen and eventually turning it into something more permanent.
“Obviously putting bike lanes on every street in Collingwood is not going to be a reasonable solution,” said Knowles. “The way we wanted to start this thing off is on the smallest scale possible, on the cheapest scale possible to give a … proof of concept, and then we move forward and we start to get into some of the details.”
Collingwood CAO Sonya Skinner noted staff had some “sober second thoughts” on the pilot project.
“We can see the promise of this type of idea for our community,” she said.
Director of Engineering, Environmental Services, and Public Works Peggy Slama said she has reviewed the concept with some other senior staff and noted it’s an “interesting idea.”
She expressed concern at the timing of the project, and noted communication to the public on the concept needs to be more broad and could take more time.
“We need to recognize we’re going to be moving the traffic, and we’re moving it onto other streets, so we need to provide them with the opportunity to comment on it,” said Slama.
She also said staff will need to hear from emergency services and have a closer look at traffic numbers and impacts to other streets.
“I think it would be difficult for us to implement this pilot this year,” said Slama.
The development and operations committee told Jones and Knowles to meet with town staff to develop a more detailed proposal before coming back to council for the July 27 meeting with an updated presentation.
After the meeting, Jones said the Trails and Active Transportation Committee would be working with staff on the method and timing of public engagement for the pilot project, and it was the committee’s goal to begin as soon as possible.
Jones noted the idea of a slow street or a bicycle priority street is not new in North America, but it is new for Ontario. Larger cities like Toronto, Ottawa, and Guelph have begun adding slow streets, many of which have been fast tracked since COVID hit.
“We wouldn’t be the first to do it,” said Jones. “We would just be one of the smaller communities doing it. And I think that lines up nicely with the progressive vision of active transportation this town has continued to put forward.”
Council will hear from the Trails and Active Transportation Committee about the Maple Street project again on July 27.
Click here for a video outlining the concept of a bicycle priority street.