New St temporarily narrowed for bike lanes as test project; traffic/cycling to be measured

New Street Road Diet facebook ads2_Before and After of RoadStarting in late August, New Street will be narrowed for one year between Guelph Line and Walkers Line as part of a cycling pilot project, reducing the road from four lanes to three, and adding buffered bike lanes on both sides. There will be one lane of vehicular travel in each direction, with a centre turn lane. This is the existing vehicular configuration of New St in the stretch between Guelph Line and Martha St., with a bike lane on the north side and sharrows on the south.

During the one-year pilot project, city staff will closely monitor and track detailed data, including average speed, number of collisions and cycling usage. Feedback from residents will be valuable throughout the pilot. Please share your feedback at or email

The cost to repaint the road is $210,000 and can be accommodated within the existing budget for the road work. This section of New Street  is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2017 so there will be no added cost to either return the road to its current setup if the pilot is not successful, or to keep the new bike lanes.

Road marking removal will take place starting Aug. 22 to prepare the road for lane-painting, which will begin on Aug. 26. The road is expected to be ready on Aug. 27.

The city has prepared Frequently Asked Questions about this project: New Street Road Diet Q and A FINAL

City Council approved the pilot project 6-1 on July 18. Other options presented to council were to make no changes, to add a cycle lane only on the north side of New Street, to widen the road ($1.4 million) or to add a bike path in the boulevard beside the sidewalk ($4.9 million). Two council members supported the $4.9 million option at committee, Counc. Sharman (who did not support the road narrowing) and the mayor (who changed his vote at council to support the road narrowing). For background on this matter see: New Street Cycling Options; Reduced vehicle lanes approved

For more information about cycling visit the city’s webpage dedicated to cycling.

My Take: I supported the one-year trial so we can evaluate the impact on vehicles and on cycling before making permanent changes. We’ve been going around and around at council on the issue of cycling; it was time to put the matter to a test, and put it to rest one way or the other. When staff report back in 2017, if there has been significant negative impact on traffic and no measurable increase in cycling, I will support changing the road back to the existing configuration.

The motion at committee to spend $4.9 million to add a path for bikes beside the sidewalk was a non-starter for me and a waste of taxpayers money, when cyclists can already ride on the sidewalk and the existing sidewalk would need to be ripped up to add the new path. That money can be better spent on transit, infrastructure upgrades, bylaw enforcement – even higher priority cycling infrastructure, like adding paths in hydro corridors that cross the city.

I’ve heard from many of you who are concerned about both the cost of the pilot and the potential impact on traffic. We will have a chance to measure the traffic impact, but I agree the cost is high even if it is within the budget. I also note that council – narrowly – turned down my motion to add free transit for seniors at a fraction of that cost. I believe transit and cycling must be considered together when discussing ways to reduce car use, and investments must be made based on assisting the greatest number of people.

Over the next year, please let me know your experiences in this stretch as a cyclist, driver, or both to help inform my decision next Spring. As someone who uses the road regularly, I’ll also be part of this experiment.

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 drive this route everyday. What is very frustrating is that after a long drive home from Toronto… I am stuck in traffic so close to my home! And, I have yet to see a cyclist using the bike lane and what is more, I have seen many cyclists using the SIDEWALK! 🙂

    I just want to get home to my kids!!

  2. This is empirical only, but I’ve driven this route at least once daily since the “diet” began. I have yet to see a cyclist on the road, although I have seen a number on the parallel bike path. Ourselves, we have continued to use the bike path when cycling down to the lake.

    I have also seen numerous traffic slowdowns ( behind transit vehicles stopping, and a number of drivers who want to do 50 or under in a 60 zone). There are bottlenecks at times where the lanes constrict westbound at Walkers and eastbound at Guelph. Let’s see how things develop after school starts up.

    I doubt the validity of any data produced by this study regarding cycling in the city and hope that no permanent decisions are made as a result of that skewed data. I am a cyclist as well as a driver.

    This is an issue that needs to be remembered at election time by voters in the wards of those councillors who voted for the pilot. Many people use New Street who do not reside in this particular ward but are also inconvenienced by this waste of tax dollars. I realize that it will require long memories on the part of voters, but if we get annoyed enough…

  3. Councillor – how many dissatisfied constituents will it take to demand council to reverse this decision? As the majority of councillor’s constituents were NOT affected by this decision – I can almost understand the group think that rendered a 6-1 vote in favour of this pilot. But ALL of your constituents are being directly affected by this really, really dumb idea. Please do not wait the full year to realize this was a really, really dumb idea. Take action now.

  4. I’d just like to echo the sentiments of most of the above: I can’t really see the necessity, given the mostly parallel bike path, but if it truly is what the majority wants in our community (I have no confidence that it is), it should not be done at the expense of the last uncongested east-west thoroughfare. A very disheartening thought, especially when we look at the state of Lakeshore Road after the folly of narrowing the downtown section – the consequent gridlock is anything but green. Also, I am likewise cynical about the “temporary” installation – will even a public uproar affect the decision that follows? Anyway, if it must be, then do it right – widen the road. It was built for it. Spend the money and if the public won’t support that, scrap the proposal.

  5. Maybe I have missed reading it, but what are the metrics?

    How many cyclists currently? how many cars? what is the time to travel? Has this been studied in detail?

    How will a success be determined? How many more cyclists required? What increase in vehicle travel time is acceptable? What is the allowable increase in traffice on the secondary roads ex. Spruce Ave?

    I can certainly tell you that if it becomes any more of a nuicance for me to drive on New St. then either I will not visit Roseland Plaza (sorry JC’s, Shoppers, etc) or if necessay drive down Spruce Avenue (sorry residents of this queit neighbourhood).

    BTW. Note to cyclists – Spruce Ave is only 500m south of New St. and is quite acceptable to ride on. And you can easily hook up to the bike path at Guelph Line. I do this whenever I ride to downtown and beyond to the beach.

    Also I believe that there will be an even worse backup westbound on New St at Walkers Line in front of Marilu’s/Eastway Plaza. And access to Royal Bank? How will this be impacted?

    And lastly, why has New Street been such a disaster area for the last few years? Looks like a battlefield.
    Why does it take so long?

    Burlington’s road maintenance in general has deteriorated significantly over the years.

  6. Trial projects are used to soften the public into introducing changes that the majority don’t want but the government is going to do anyways after the trial period is deemed a success. when staff is “monitoring” bike usage they need to understand that additional bikes using the new street bike lane will be coming from the bike path running beside new street. The riders switching from the path to the street shouldn’t be counted in the study because they already have a viable convenient place that they used and just because it’s slightly more convenient on the road doesn’t mean that’s a win for the road bike path.
    Any study done should have stats for the bike path corridor, street biking and the car volumes for all 12 months, so that they can be compared to the changes made. All 12 months of the year should have equally weight in making a permanent change since people drive all year round regardless of weather. I hope council doesn’t just use stats from the 3 best cycling months to make a decision that effects all of us year round but I’m skeptical after what they did to lakeshore, reducing it to 1 lane and making it a traffic choke point.

  7. I don’t think that this will be a true test as the area in question is already served by the Centennial Bike Path which runs parallel to New St.( crossing it once near Dynes). For safety reasons, many cyclists will continue to use that bike path rather than ride on New Street, which will skew the bike counts. Consequently, any conclusions re the use of existing streets by cyclists based upon this New Street pilot may be worthless.

    Is the pilot being set up to fail from the cyclists perspective? It’s going to annoy drivers for the coming year to produce little in the way of useful information. What a waste of money!

    Better to have such a pilot study on a road without a parallel bike path.

  8. I completely agree with all the former comments and resent the spending of $3,500.00 each for the highly improbable satisfaction of the 60 bicyclists and bicycle lobby who are not satisfied with the existing bike paths along New Street. The money would be better spent on the initiative of Marianne allowing seniors to better utilize the transit infrastructure.

  9. I feel that there is a need for cycling infrastructure on New Street, but this is the worst attempt at a solution. This road was just torn apart for a year for construction – the opportunity should have been taken then to either widen the road for bike lanes, or lay down asphalt on the boulevards and put the lanes there…. but no, why take advantage of one thing to achieve another?

    Removing traffic lanes for cars on a road that is a major artery, and already has school zones on it, and is a bus route, is bad for cars and transit, and any cyclists brave enough to use the new lanes are probably going to have to deal with entitled drivers cutting them off at the corner and dirty looks. And performing the trial only on a fraction of the stretch of road intended to be changed isn’t really a very good measurement of what the impact would be if the road diet went all the way to burloak. I fear that the impact measured during the trial isn’t going to paint a very clear picture of what the end result will look like.

    And the idea of simply changing it back, wiping our hands and saying, “well, we tried!” doesn’t seem appealing either. When people say “oh why don’t you just use the bike path nearby” they have no idea what they’re talking about… if I’m a cyclist and my destination is Appleby and New Street, or where New Street turns into Rebecca, why would I want to go uphill to use a path that ends up near Fairview (at appleby) or the train tracks (at burloak)? New Street should be more accessible to cyclists. The road diet is a cop-out and a non-solution though.

    • Kyle, you raise some good points. I’ll just add a little context. Cycling infrastructure on New Street all the way to Burloak has long been part of the city’s Cycling Master Plan. The question is how to best build it. The city did look at both of the options you mentioned (widening the road or paving in the boulevards). Unfortunately they’re both significantly more expensive. Next year the area of the pilot project is going to be ripped up anyway for resurfacing (yes, one lane was also torn apart last year…) There was an opportunity here to try a road diet and see if we could make that work. If it does, my hope is that we can take it all the way to Burloak later. If not, put the road back the way it was and take a second look at the the more expensive option.

      I don’t think the road diet is a non-solution at all. For cyclists, there’s enough room to build protected bike lanes like what Hamilton has done on Cannon Street or like Toronto has done on Richmond and Adelaide Streets. For pedestrians (and transit users) it makes it safer to cross the street to get to the bus stop right off the bat, and also opens up opportunities to add refuge islands in the centre to make it even more safe. For motorists, I know I’m preaching to a skeptical crowd here, but all available evidence suggests that the number of cars travelling down New Street will be well accommodated by one lane in each direction. The delays are mostly at the traffic signals, not in the through sections.

      Is it a perfect pilot project? Maybe not. But it’s a pretty good start. We’re going to learn a lot over the next year, and I really think this is going to make for a better street all around.

      • James. My question is who will be monitoring this and collecting data and what will deem this road diet a success or failure.

  10. I guess we didn’t learn anything from the downtown fiasco. Narrowing the road from 4 to 2 lanes. Build more condos, population exploding and aging, traffic already a nightmare. A perfectly good bike path which runs parallel to New Street now. I ride my bike from east of Walkers Line right downtown on this path. Leave the roads to the cars, bikes on the bike path and sidewalks for pedestrians. How can cars idling in now a single lane be good for the environment. Certainly not a green initiative. I agree this will not be temporarily narrowed. History will repeat itself. Still waiting for the report on the Lakeshore narrowing and the impact it had. Road rage and traffic backlog is what it has caused but this was to be traffic calming. Now we have road diets. PLEASE!!!!!!!!

  11. I COMPLETELY agree with the 2 above comments. This is absolutely ridiculous. Does anyone on council drive westbound on Lakeshore Rd. during rush hour? Getting through the downtown corridor is very slow due to lane reductions in front of Spencer Smith park – which at the time I think was also a “trial” lane reduction…..
    There is a bike path that runs parallel to New Street – and much safer than riding on the road.
    Traffic westbound on New Street already builds and
    bottlenecks at Guelph Line….furthermore, condo buildings continue to be built in the downtown. Do you think that these people are without cars? Am I wrong when I make the assumption that Rick Craven was the lone “con” on this one? The residents of Aldershot must be impressed, having to endure traffic jams to get home every night.

    I have been a strong proponent of the current council and mayor, but I am sorry, this is the last straw.
    No more.

  12. I too do not think we should be narrowing roads for bikes. Don’t we have a perfectly good bike/walking path in between Lakeshore and New street? Perhaps a better use of resources may include putting up more signs so more residents are aware that a bike lane exists.

  13. Marianne,
    Please get rid of that bureaucratic BS term, “road diet”–it is a REDUCTION IN THE LANES AVAILABLE FOR MOTOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC. New Street has NOT been temporarily narrowed. I have no confidence in the integrity of this out-of-touch council; the data will be manipulated to reach the conclusion that the lanes will stay. You have now rendered useless the two major east-west thoroughfares in south Burlington. You will create traffic chaos including streets such as Spruce with your traffic diversion.

    How can the City fund/sponsor a special interest lobby group–the Cycling Committee which represents less than 1% of the road users to act against the interests of the other 99% of residents. It is undemocratic and you should be ashamed.

  14. My take is that the last thing Burlington needs is the narrowing of New Street for bike lanes. New Street is a thruway which is often used if the QEW has a problem and one needs to get across the city. Narrowing this to 2 lanes plus a turn lane is not a good plan.

What's your take?

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