Council fails bike users in Chatham

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Sir: At the Aug. 12 council meeting, safe cycling access was denied to St Clair College, Ecole Ste Marie, Tecumseh Elementary School, John Givens Elementary, the Chatham Tennis Club, the United Way multi-agency offices, and several local shopping and dining centres.

This was done in the face of submissions by multiple health-care agencies advocating the importance of active transportation for the health of our communities.

It is easy but irresponsible for councillors to continually vote against cycling infrastructure while claiming to support active transportation. Administration clearly spelled out the alternative methods of providing safe cycling access to the college and other destinations on McNaughton Avenue West. No councillor offered an amendment to adopt any of those alternatives. The message of that vote is no safe cycling access to Thames Campus, Tecumseh school, the Chatham Tennis Club, the United Way and its related agencies and the shopping centers at Baldoon and at Sandys, etc.

Cycling is a recognized major transportation option throughout the world. Most transportation planning professionals give it priority over automobile transportation, recognizing that auto-centric transportation is unsustainable. We can’t lay enough asphalt to accommodate the auto traffic, and we can’t accept the climate change caused by exhaust emissions. C-K councillors must get their minds around that 21st Century fact.

Mayor Hope and several other councillors (Gilbert, Meyers) spoke to the safety risk of bike lanes on a heavily travelled arterial road. Duhhh!  McNaughton is busy because it leads to many destinations that people want to get to. “People” include cyclists.

Bike lanes aren’t needed on quiet side streets. They are needed, and significantly improve safety, on busy arterials like McNaughton. Other cities have installed hundreds of miles of bike lanes on streets with heavier traffic than McNaughton, with minimal safety problems. A street with bike lanes is safer than one without.

Other communities have tried routing cyclists on side streets and have found it ineffective – the destinations cyclists are heading for are on arterials, so those cities spent money on side street bikeways and still have to spend on arterial bikeways (Portland, Ore., or Vancouver, B.C., for example).

St Clair College Thames Campus is an important element in our community, as are the schools, sports facilities, workplaces and shopping facilities accessible from McNaughton Avenue. It makes no sense to deny cyclists safe access to these destinations for such a minor expenditure.

I challenge the members of council who voted against this proposal to publicly justify their vote and propose an alternative that they would support.

John Sigurjonsson

Chatham

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