An interesting night at St. Catharines City Council, as always. The biggest issue for me tonight was a report detailing spending $350,000 on bike lanes on McGuire St, in front of the new Meridian Centre and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
The issue, of course, is not whether we should be installing bike lanes or not. I’m in full agreement that we should be putting in bike lanes, wherever feasible, to make it easier for anyone in this city who wants to ride their bike to be able to do so safely.
The issue here is . . . if you’re going to spend $350,000 of taxpayer dollars on bike lanes, would it not make sense to get as big a bang for your buck as possible?
What Council approved (I voted against, but I was the lone voice against) was to spend $350,000 on approximately 570m of bike lanes in front of the new facilities in the lower level. While some tried to argue that it was an economic driver, I would point out that these bike lanes will actually allow people to completely bypass the new and improved downtown; they will actually take people away from the private sector investment.
I suggested that maybe directing lanes through the new facilities and their parking areas might be a much less expensive alternative than building an addition to the road on the bank, but was told that no, absolutely not, they had to be on the road (never mind that some communities have embraced off-road cycling infrastructure – Ottawa, in particular, has a fantastic bike path network that isn’t on a roadway).
What Council could/should have done was use that $350,000 to make a real difference for cyclists. What kind of a bike-friendly community would that $350K have made? With it, we could have hired a consultant to look at our roads, determine the best routes to create an integrated network, AND paved who-knows-how-many kilometres of new bike lanes!
As an aside – earlier in the night we approved putting in bike lanes on part of Eastchester at a cost $2/m. The bike lanes on McGuire? $600/m + (give or take a few bucks per metre).
Tonight Council made a short-sighted decision. While some may want to try and rally cyclists to their cause, the reality is that cyclists lost tonight. There was $350,000 worth of bike lanes to be built, and Council chose the flashy bike lanes in front of the shiny new facilities, instead of the significant bike lanes that could have been built running north-south, east-west, into and out of our downtown.
Another example of hard-earned taxpayer dollars being spent very poorly. Remember this when election day comes in October.
ADDENDUM: I should also point out that the money ear-marked for this comes from the 2015 Capital budget. So not only are we spending our money poorly, we’re spending the next Council’s mney poorly as well.