Adding more bike paths could go a long way to helping staunch population loss in Sarnia, an expert says.
“People want to be able to explore their community safely by walking or cycling, and I think communities that aren’t catering to that are going to largely get left behind,” said Justin Jones, manager of Bicycle Friendly Ontario and the Share the Road Cycling coalition.
Jones, keynote speaker at a Green Drinks talk last week, was also in town for the city-run Bike Friendly Communities workshop, which saw city staff, planners and other key stakeholders discuss how to accommodate cycling culture in Sarnia.
“I think that when young people are looking at a community in which they’re going to live, work, play and raise a family, they’re looking at those indicators,” he said. “What type of quality of life does this offer my family and my children?”
Sarnia is currently mulling over a proposed “road diet” with cycling lanes on Colborne Road.
The plan, which city council will consider May 7, would see traffic lanes reduced from four to three lanes to make room for the bike lanes.
The initial plan to eliminate street parking throughout has been amended for Colborne between Cathcart and Lakeshore, and Cathcart between Colborne and Christina Streets. The new proposal would define parking with pavement markings and paint “sharrows” – bike symbols with arrows – in the through lanes of those sections.
Jones said studies conducted in over 500 North American cities have found that when four-lane roads were decreased to three and bike lanes added collisions decreased 52% and the flow of traffic for cars actually increased 6%.
When driving lanes are taken away, unpredictability is decreased, and traffic as a whole operates smoother and safer, he said.
“I see a huge amount of potential in a city like this. I see a city that traditionally prioritizes automobile movement as opposed to people movement, and I think that as the city looks at the next 20 years, and how its going to service the next generation, you have to start to think that way.”
The “road diet” is one of several projects called for in Sarnia’s Transportation Master Plan, which covers over 140 kilometres of streets and paths, and include new bike lanes, multi-use pathways and other road enhancements to improve two-wheeled commuting
The city extended public consultation to April 27 after a recent open house drew a large number of people. To learn more, visit
Anita Trusler, a Bike Friendly Lambton volunteer, said public opposition opposition to the plan isn’t surprising.
“I think we have a culture in our community that has a resistance or fear of change,” she said. “Currently there is no visible way in our community of seeing that cyclists are welcome.”
She would like to see schools, police and community groups work together to make cycling a safer option.
“Once you kind of get that momentum started… if you build it they will come,” she said.