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Committee veers from Maple Street bike-priority project

Majority of public opinion was against permanent changes to make bikes priority on Maple Street, staff propose shared lanes
2022-05-03 Maple JO-001
An artist's rendering shows the planned pavement markings for Maple Street, which will aim to make the road safer for cyclists and cars to share the road.

The survey results are in, and a majority of responses say ‘no’ to making Maple Street a bicycle-priority street.

During Monday’s (May 2) strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, councillors received a report on the controversial Maple Street Bicycle Priority Project pilot, first proposed by the Trails and Active Transportation Advisory Committee, which saw the street mostly closed to vehicular traffic for the month of September 2021.

Based on outcry from the public against making the project permanent, on Monday, staff recommended a compromise that would see the street converted to a shared-space model.

“As a committee, we were disappointed that the option (to implement Maple Street as a bicycle priority street permanently) was not the chosen option, but after reviewing all the data, We’ve come to the conclusion that we understand why,” said Murray Knowles, chair of the active transportation committee, in his remarks to the committee. “This is a step forward, from our perspective.”

The idea of a bicycle priority approach for Maple Street was first raised in the town’s cycling plan (completed in Oct. 2019). According to the plan, the characteristics of Maple Street being a continuous route running north-south for the length of town and having a low traffic volume of 1,200 vehicles per day made it a good option for the pilot.

In July 2020, the TATAC brought forward the plan for the temporary project using removable barricades to turn Maple Street into a bicycle priority street.

After the pilot was completed, the town received 391 responses to an Engage Collingwood survey on the project, and the data showed most were not in favour of the change.

Survey respondents indicated the following:

  • 21.2% said they lived/worked on Maple Street,
  • 45.3% said they lived or worked within a three-minute walk of Maple Street,
  • 31.2% said they lived elsewhere in Collingwood, and
  • 2.4% said they were a visitor to Collingwood.
  • About 61% of respondents said they didn’t like the pilot.
  • About 63% said they didn’t support implementing Maple Street as a bicycle priority street on a permanent basis.

When asked whether the Maple Street Bicycle Priority project made them feel more comfortable cycling on Maple Street: 

  • 38.1% strongly disagreed,
  • 9% disagreed,
  • 17.6% neither agreed or disagreed,
  • 7.9% agreed, and
  • 27.4% strongly agreed.

A petition was also received by staff after the pilot project was completed with 70 signatures opposed to the project.

Instead, the committee voted for a staff-recommended shared-space option for Maple Street, which proposes sharrows (shared lane markers) and bike symbols be painted on Maple Street from Third Street to Campbell Street, and signs installed. As per guidance from the Ontario Traffic Manuals, the street speed limit would be reduced to 40 kilometres per hour.

Staff noted there are varying pavement widths on Maple Street that range between seven and nine-and-a-half metres wide.

“Major infrastructure to support a dedicated cycling (lane) would include widening of the road from Third to Campbell Streets,” notes Director of Public Works, Engineering and Environmental Services Peggy Slama in her report. “Maple Street could be widened to the full 9.6 metres, but it would be costly and would require the removal of some of the large existing trees.”

Moving forward with the shared lanes option is expected to cost $50,000 for the signs, pavement markings, and speed reduction. It will be considered as part of the 2023 budget.

Long-term, Slama said this work on Maple would be rolled into other existing, required work slated to be completed in 2023 on the road between Eighth and Cameron Street to the tune of $3 million which includes the replacement of a water main, sanitary sewers, curbs, gutters and asphalt, to make it more cost-effective.

“I really want us to start something that puts us on the road of turning Maple Street into a street that can become more bicycle-friendly while also accommodating our drivers,” said Coun. Mariane McLeod. “My heart is with bike lanes while also keeping the trees and the boulevards. It’s a hard one to figure out.”

Coun. Deb Doherty pointed to the practice of purposeful cycling, which refers to using a bicycle to run errands or as a regular mode of transportation, rather than using it for leisure, like through the trail system.

“Purposeful cycling will only be successful when people have the opportunity to use as direct as possible routes as safely as possible,” she said. “Our pilot project may have been too bold.”

Coun. Bob Madigan, Coun. Steve Berman and Coun. Chris Carrier all said they preferred a do-nothing option.

“By the numbers, the community overwhelmingly didn’t want it,” said Madigan. “I know a lot of them felt it was just a free-for-all for cyclists on Maple Street. I don’t think this would add any happiness to the people in that area. The people in that area have said this is of no interest to them.”

“I don’t think it has the legs to make it safe for the cyclists,” he added.

Berman said he felt the data collected and included in the report didn’t support the shared-space option.

Acting Mayor Keith Hull noted the data collected through Engage Collingwood is observational, not scientific.

“Had there been a heads-up, the project in itself may have been roadkill on-site and never gone forward,” said Hull. “We did go forward, and although there was an outcry, I think it was good that we continued to move forward.”

Hull said he saw the new plan as a compromise.

“We are not re-building a street. We are coming up with something that ... hopefully, can be embraced,” he said.

At the end of the discussion, council voted 5-3 in favour of proceeding with the shared-space model for Maple Street, with Couns. Madigan, Berman and Carrier opposed.

Coun. Mariane McLeod asked for a friendly amendment that any projects also be approved by council prior to implementation, which was granted.

Council voted 7-1 to have staff work with the Trails and Active Transportation Committee to select an active transportation project to be advanced in the 2023 budget, subject to the approval of council, and that staff apply for grants to support that project. Coun. Chris Carrier was opposed.

The decisions will need to be ratified at the next regular meeting of council before going into effect.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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