Shared-use paths about accessibility, says Coun. Dave Lane
St. John’s Coun. Dave Lane used his time during Monday’s council meeting to clarify what he says is a lot of misunderstanding and concern about the city’s bike master plan.
Federal funding was recently announced to pay for a large portion of the first catalyst project in the plan, the Kelly’s Brook Trail.
“This is not paving over a walking path so that only cyclists can use it. This is about upgrading existing infrastructure so that more people can use it." — Dave Lane
The plan would see trails in the city widened with a different surface material, likely asphalt, in order to make them accessible to more people, such as wheelchair users, cyclists and families using strollers.
“A lot of concern is coming from people who feel like the bike network — this first catalyst project in particular — is going to destroy walking trails, or alter them such that walkers are now unable to have the same enjoyment of a city asset as they used to,” said Lane.
He said the bike plan was intended to enable people to have a more active lifestyle.
He said through engagement and research over many years, the city learned more people would be willing to use a bicycle if there were routes separate from vehicular traffic, in a natural environment, and if those routes were accessible and connected parts of the city.
“Accessibility really is the key term here,” said Lane.
“This is not paving over a walking path so that only cyclists can use it. This is about upgrading existing infrastructure so that more people can use it, and the current users can use it safely along with other uses.”
He said asphalt is proposed in the plan, but it’s not set in stone, and the consultant who does the work on the paths will gather input from the public about how exactly to upgrade the trail.
“This is probably not what you’re fearing, of a scorched Earth, you know, pave over rivers, tear down trees — there’s a much more subtle and nuanced way that we can do this. That is what the funding would be for that was just approved by the federal government.”
He said the first project is probably more than a year away from seeing shovels in the ground.
“I want to assure people that are concerned about the bike plan that this is not intended to destroy anything. In fact, it’s intended to enhance what we have available. And instead of an isolated group (having) access to something that is really intended for everyone in our city, to make that accessible to as many people as possible. And we will do that sensitively and with the input of the public.”