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Trails committee calls for review of Sixth St. bike lane

‘This isn’t going to be looked at again for 100 years probably. This is an ideal opportunity to do it right, now,’ says trails and active transportation advisory committee member
A rendering of the streetscape design for Sixth Street reconstruction in Collingwood.

The Town of Collingwood's volunteer trails and active transportation advisory committee is looking for a bit of backpedalling on the bike lanes planned for Sixth Street. 

Currently, the reconstruction project includes a future "multi-use trail" that would include two-way traffic of both pedestrians and cyclists. The option didn't sit well with committee members.

During their meeting on Sept. 14, the town’s trails and active transportation advisory committee discussed the plans for the Sixth St. reconstruction, and what recourse they may have to ask the town to reevaluate their plans.

“Our preference is clearly for the cycle track option over the multi-use trail option,” said chair Murray Knowles during the meeting.

The 1.3-kilometre stretch of Sixth Street between Hurontario and High Streets is due for watermain replacement to improve water supply and pressure to the western side of Collingwood via the Stewart Road Pump Station, and while the town is making those necessary repairs, it’s considering whether the streetscape as it exists now is the best route forward as the town explodes with growth.

Key work to be completed includes the replacement of the watermain distribution system, installation of a transmission watermain, replacement of the sanitary and storm sewer and full road reconstruction including new curbs and gutters.

Currently, a cross-section of the road includes two 3.3-metre vehicular lanes, two 1.5-metre painted, but not signed, bike lanes and 1.5 metres of sidewalk on the north side only.

There were five new designs for the street considered by staff for implementation for the project, however staff have settled on an option that would see two 3.5-metre vehicle lanes, a 1.5-metre sidewalk on the north side and a three-metre multi-use bicycle trail with both east and west lanes located on the south side of the road. As it is considered a capital project, council approval is not required for decisions on the design.

The design was presented during a regular meeting of council on Sept. 11. During the committee of the whole meeting that took place later that night, both Knowles and local cycling advocate Justin Jones spoke in public delegations against the town’s preferred option citing safety concerns with the  two-way multi-use trail.

“I can’t see what else we can do. In my opinion, we’ve made it heard so many times the reasons for not doing a multi-use path that goes in both directions. Mostly, safety,” said Marianne Staempfli at the trails meeting on Sept. 14, noting it’s the bidirectional aspect of the trail that decreases the safety of users.

Including a cycle track would mean the design would include a 1.5-metre lane on both sides of the road designated only for cyclist use, and additional buffering from the cycle tracks and curb.

The town's director of parks, recreation and culture, Dean Collver, noted that a cycle track could only be used by cyclists, whereas the current plan for a multi-use trail can be used by both cyclists and pedestrians.

“Symbolically, that prioritizes bikes over pedestrians,” said Collver. “We do a lot of work to provide facilities for cyclists. Meanwhile, the number one complaint I received this summer was from pedestrians who feel threatened by bicycles in the same space.”

Knowles acknowledged that the cycle track option included a significant increase in what the project would cost, but noted the cycle track option also included a second sidewalk and hydro interference which is what contributed to much of the cost increase.

“Somewhere, there has to be some compromise,” said Knowles.

Jack Marley raised a suggestion made by Jones at the committee-of-the-whole meeting earlier this week, to ask for a peer review of the project design.

“If the peer review comes back and says that this is the way it should be, so be it,” he said. “This isn’t going to be looked at again for 100 years probably. This is an ideal opportunity to do it right, now.”

At the end of discussions, the committee voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling on the town to gather a peer review of their plans for the Sixth St. reconstruction. Their motion will be delivered to council for consideration at a future meeting.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 15 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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