Whatever happened to widening New Street for bike lanes?

Residents will recall that New street from Guelph Line to Martha Street is slated for resurfacing this Spring, and Halton Region is replacing a significant portion of the curb and gutter on the south side of New from Guelph Line to Burloak that was damaged during the watermain replacement project in 2014. As part of this project, staff had recommended painting a bike lane on the North side of New Street from Guelph Line to Martha, within the existing road width, and within the existing budget, without reducing travel lanes or the centre turn lane. I supported this approach.

However, in June 2014, Council referred the issue of bike lanes on New Street to the 2015 capital budget process and asked the Director of Transportation Services to investigate the feasibility of widening the road to accommodate either painted on-road bike lanes or “roll-over curbs” on both sides of New all the way to Burloak.

Either option would require widening and necessitate tree removals, utility relocations and new curbs and gutters. The preliminary cost estimate provided at that time was $1.6m for the portion from Martha to Guelph Line, and $8.5m from Guelph Line to Burloak Dr. Both of these estimates represent the incremental additional cost of widening the road over and above the resurfacing costs. There would also be added annual operating and maintenance costs.

Staff did not recommend adding these costs to the 2015 budget, in view of competing demands for funding, and stand by their original recommendation to accommodate cycling on New St without a road widening. Similarly, no member of council moved to add these additional costs to the 2015 budget, so they are not funded.

As such, New Street resurfacing is proceeding as per the original staff recommendation, without a widening. Council will have a workshop on the Transportation Master Plan on June 18, 2015. Part of the discussion will be around Complete Streets and include facilities for cyclists. The capital budget and forecast currently includes $4.25 M for on-road bike lanes.

During budget discussions, issues were raised with respect to the prioritization of this expenditure compared to other cost pressures for infrastructure renewal and recommendations that may arise from the AMEC study on the Aug 4 2014 flood event. Staff will address these issues in a report to the C&CS committee on July 7, 2015.

Meanwhile, the cycling committee recently presented their annual workplan to council, and their infrastructure priorities do not include bike lanes on New Street west of Guelph Line, but do include a request for protected bike lanes from Guelph Line East to Burloak. Read their full report here: Item 9

In a separate memo to council, staff also reported back on whether installing bike lanes on Guelph Line and Appleby Line, from New Street to Lakeshore, increased cycling, reduced collisions, or had a negative impact on vehicular travel time. They found the bike lanes did not increase the number of cyclists, however they support retaining the lanes “as building blocks in the development of the city-wide cycling network.” Staff noted no negative impact on vehicular travel time; although there was a slight reduction in collisions it is “not statistically significant.” Read the full staff memo here: Review of buffered bike lanes on Walkers Line and Appleby Line south of New Street 

In related news, staff proposed the formation of an umbrella Integrated Transportation Advisory Committee that would include representatives from the Cycling Committee as well as the Sustainable Development Committee. The Transit Committee was sunset last year, but this new committee will include transit as part of their workplan. The committee will meet four times per year. More information is available here: Item 10

My Take: I continue to support staff’s plan to accommodate a cycle lane on New within the existing road configuration. When this item was referred to a post-election budget, I shared my concern that this would simply give unrealistic hope to cyclists that council would fund the additional costs. We knew then the competing budget priorities. Perhaps the lessons here are that council must step up to make decisions among spending priorities, including in the months before an election, and residents are wise to be skeptical of decisions deferred to after an election. I’m also please with the formation of the Integrated Transportation Advisory Committee that brings together all forms of active transportation. That will help ensure that advice to council considers transit as well as cycling and other active transportation together, rather than having siloed discussions or funding requests.

Read my earlier articles on this issue here:

Council considers widening New St for raised bike lanes for $2m
Staff recommend one bike lane on New, two lanes of traffic, one full centre turn lane; June 16
Bike path proposed on one side of New St
Bike lanes on New St? Public meeting Dec. 5

Your Take: What’s your view of the plan to proceed as originally recommended, with a painted bike lane on the North side of New Street only? What are your thoughts on the new Integrated Transportation Advisory Committee? Leave a comment below.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. I for one would ride New st if there were designated bike lanes. As in Holland, drivers accommodate cyclists in a thoughtful and safe manner. Thanks to Chris Ariens for this effort for forward thinking people who want to make a difference to the environment and for future generations.

  2. Surveys show that over 30% of Ontario residents currently cycle (either daily, weekly or monthly), and over 50% want to cycle more. Contrary to popular opinion, cycling infrastructure is not just for a small group of people. Many people in the city – taxpaying citizens and voters – ride bicycles.

    Yet despite the number of people who cycle and want to cycle, only a few brave souls actually ride on the roads. The vast majority only feel safe on paths like the Centennial Bikeway where there is protection from speeding cars. These paths are lovely to ride on at a leisurely pace, but on their own, the paths do not connect people to most of the places they want to go – shops, transit stations and community centres. Most of those destinations in Burlington are located on main roads – which explains why those roads are so busy, and why we see so few people cycling on these roads.

    Burlington is inevitably going to grow. More people will need to be able to get from place to place. If all those added people have no other option than using their car, can you imagine how bad things are going to get for those of us who drive? We desperately need to encourage other ways of going places.

    Bike lanes are many, many times less expensive to construct and maintain compared to expanding the roads, which is not a realistic option since the city is built out. Many arterial roads like New Street, have wide boulevards that would be ideal for the installation of protected bike lanes that do not disrupt motor traffic and that people of all ages and types feel safe and comfortable cycling on.

    This is why the Cycling Committee, as one of the priorities we recommended to Council asked that we quickly take advantage of the opportunity provided by the Regional watermain work that is presently underway on New from Guelph Line to Burloak. Since the curbs have been taken out and have to be replaced as part of that work, adding the width required to provide bike lanes will be very inexpensive compared to the cost of having to tear out and pour new curbs at another time in the future.

    I encourage all residents to read our report to council, which Marianne linked to in the newsletter, and I’d be happy to answer and respond to any questions from residents about the report, or about cycling in the city in general.


    Chris Ariens
    Vice-Chair, Burlington Cycling Committee

  3. I too agree with the majority of the posted comments and I am not an advocate for bike lanes on New Street. New St, just like Fairview St, is a major traffic corridor, and attempting to make busy streets bike friendly is a waste of effort and money. I have lived here for almost 3 years and have yet to see a cyclist on Fairview! I am even more against expanding bike paths, given the intensification proposals planned for the downtown core in the near future. Like it or not, with increased population growth, traffic congestion will intensify as well. The existing bike paths off the main streets through the city need to be increasingly promoted and their use encouraged. It took me a while to even discover that bike path between New and Lakeshore!

  4. Marianne, have not seen the bikers this change wishes to accommodate. They are few bikers on New/ Guelph Line
    and think the numbers have been rigged. Has anyone verified? Is council anxious to spend money for a few?
    When I do see bikers is when I pass them ON THE SIDEWALK!!!!

  5. Narrow bike lanes on New Street is an exercise in futility. I have cycled in this area for many years and NEVER ride on New Sreet. The Centennial multiuse trail and Spruce Avenue are much better alternatives. Design cycle routes so that they use safe residential streets, not busy throughways.

  6. Marianne I am totally for biking and bike lanes. My concern is the brazenness of some riders. So I suggest in collaboration with Burlington Age-Friendly Sr. Council creating some guidelines and most importantly safety tips for bike and rider. This is important particularly in light of the upcoming summer with students riding.
    God Bless………………Joan Gallagher-Bell 905-631-6178

    • Hi, Joan. The Burlington Cycling Committee is offering 3 FREE seminars for citizens on cycling safety this spring…One was held at Aldershot Library on April 18. The others are TODAY at Central Library 1-2 pm and May 16 at Alton Library, 1-2 pm .

  7. I live on New st/Woodview, and am a regular cyclist in town. I hesitate to cycle on New st due to the speed of cars both sides. Perhaps installing bike lanes would cut down on speed- a positive move. I am unable to get on to new street between 4 and 6 pm.

  8. Maryianne I am once again not if favor or reducing or setting up new bike lanes on busy city arteries unless the city is prepared to start licencing all bikes (just like cares who pay a license plate fee as well as a gasoline road tax) to offset the costs of this infrastructure spending. Why do motorists have to always pay the bill for these bike lane improvements? Re the narrowing of the roadway from New Street to Lakeshore on Walkers Line I use this street many times daily and other than I have seen numerous near miss accidents when the road narrows down to one lane south of New Street I have yet to see a bicycle using these lanes. (Lots of them on the sidewalk however). When are we going to listen to the 100’s of motorists instead of a few vocal bicyclists lobbying for more bike lanes?

    Yours truly
    Dave Nisbet

  9. At risk of sounding like a broken record, the city continues to discuss bike lanes; yet I see very little (or no) discussion of increasing road access for cars. New street during peak times is very congested – a condition that will only worsen with the building of more and more condos. I am concerned that some staff are really out of touch with reality and believe that most new condo owners will not own cars. I’m also baffled by more bike lane talk when we have a perfectly lovely walking and biking path way in between New and Lakeshore. I fail to see why someone on a bike can’t peddle ½ a block to the bike path. Moreover, I see that the other bike path failed to encourage more biking (shocker!). We should be investing in widening roads for cars. I know this option is not politically correct; but taking 15 minutes to drive a short stretch that should take 30 seconds is not exactly environmentally friendly.


    Ps – I don’t expect a reply; just offering my 2 cents!

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