Cycle club slams city's bike share plan

Easy-to-access public bicycles may not get more Londoners into the saddle if they don’t feel safe riding on city streets.

A London cycling club says cash the city plans to put toward a bike share program would be better spent on a protected bike lane through the downtown core - writes

The bike sharing system – 300 public bikes that can be rented downtown and near St. Joseph’s Hospital and Western University – will take a few years to come to fruition. March 2020 is the estimated launch date, based on the timeline in a staff report.

But some riders say there are more pressing needs in London’s cycling community, like cycling infrastructure on city streets.

Shelley Carr with London Cycle Link said protecting cyclists from vehicles is crucial to enticing “interested but concerned” Londoners to jump on bikes. The group has launched a campaign for cycle tracks – bike lanes that are physically separated from traffic by some kind of barrier – along Dundas Street.

“I have fears that we’ll put in a bike share (system) and it won’t be utilized and they’ll say, ‘See, no one uses it.’ But if you don’t have a way to get there safely, you’re not going to use it,” Carr said.

We do believe that cycling is a very important part of our transportation mobility plan

Kelly Scherr

The $1.6 million cost of developing and launching the bike share program would be split evenly between the city and the province.

Coun. Stephen Turner, who spoke out in favour of cycle tracks at the last council meeting, said the city definitely needs a safe bike route through the downtown.

“We need to start somewhere.You don’t create a city-wide protected bike lane network overnight,” he said. But he doesn’t think that’s any reason to slam the brakes on the bike share idea.

City staff are reviewing east-west cycle routes through the downtown and Old East Village as part of an update to London’s cycling master plan, now that bus rapid transit routes interfere with cycle tracks initially planned for King Street and Queens Avenue.

An exchange between Turner and top city brass at council last week highlighted the tension brewing in the cycling community.

“It sounds like the road priorities are made first, and then it’s ‘can we fit the cycling infrastructure,’” Turner said, calling for protected lanes on London roads.

It’s not so simple, city engineer Kelly Scherr told council.

“If you’re willing to consider potentially reducing street widths, that might be an option. But in some cases, we really are very much constrained by the location of buildings, property lines, location of mature trees and sidewalks and utilities,” she said.

“We do believe that cycling is a very important part of our transportation mobility plan.”

She said the city will choose the “highest and best level of protection that is appropriate,” regardless of where the downtown cycle route ends up.

Though Carr thinks a bike share would be a good move for the city, and popular with tourists, she’d rather have the dollars put toward building protected bike lanes, especially downtown. That means a barrier or permanent bollards, not just road paint, to protect cyclists from vehicles.

“I find it really, really tough, personally, when (city staff and council) constantly say, ‘Yes, we want people to ride’ but they don’t provide a safe place to ride,” Carr said.

“That’s the crux of protected bike lanes. It literally gives children and families a safe way to travel from one part of the city to another.”

She pointed to statistics from New York City, where a protected bike lane on Ninth Avenue decreased injuries to people on the street by 58 per cent and increased retail sales at local businesses by up to 49 per cent, according to a report from the city’s department of transportation

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