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No shortage of ideas for city’s growing biking network

Published on

Cathy Dobson 

Sarnia needs to create two east-west commuter routes for cyclists on Wellington and London roads, an avid cyclist says.

The current plan to use Maria Street is a great option for leisure cyclists, but not for people needing to get to work, Robert Dickieson told city council last week.

“We need to connect your home with your workplace and make biking possible,” he said.

Dickieson said better and interconnected bike routes attract both younger residents and tourists. Reducing four traffic lanes to three to allow for safe cycling, which could be done on London Road, a practice known as “road dieting,” is common in Europe, he said.

Dickieson comments come as an anonymous donor helps Sarnia create an east-west transportation route to link the Howard Watson Nature Trail with the downtown and waterfront.

“His passion is about high-quality, separate pathways off the road,” city engineer David Jackson said of the donor.  “He feels that if we have no biking next to traffic, that would be ideal.”

The project would create new multi-use pathways and link them to bike-friendly streets and an existing trail running the length of Germain Park.

Discussions are underway with the donor to buy easements from the public school board and Bluewater Health for a new path between East and Russell streets, which would then follow Maria Street to the waterfront.

Jackson said he respects Dickieson’s opinion but that there are “different groups of cyclists with different ideas.”

“Most people would be much more comfortable biking on Maria than London Road,” Jackson said.

“But we don’t disagree with the presentation. Maybe it’s time to review what else we can do and maybe do both ultimately.”

City councillors Terry Burrell and Dave Boushy questioned the need for more cycling infrastructure, adding the north-south route opened a few years ago on Colborne Road is underutilized.

“It’s nice to have…but the use is so small…I travel on Colborne Road almost every day and it’s almost not used,” Burrell said. “…are we favouring a very few at the expense of most?”

Jackson disagreed; saying bike lanes are well used.

“Colborne Road has been very successful. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” he said. “Without a complete network throughout the city, it will take time to build the volume up.”

A staff report said public input on the proposed east-west route was overwhelmingly supportive. Of 91 respondents, 94% said they are in favour.

Jackson said the anonymous donor hasn’t specified how much money he is willing to invest but is “quite generous” and eager to support more cycling routes.

“It’s great news, and very exciting for the city,” he said.

The first section of the east-west pathway, on the north side of Afton Drive, would likely be created next year.

The city has also obtained two $1-million grants to build separate multi-use paths beside Confederation Street, from Murphy Road to Upper Canada Drive, and along London Line, from Lambton Mall to Blackwell Side Road.

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