The one-year pilot project to narrow New Street for on-road bike lanes from Guelph Line to Walkers Line commenced on August 23, 2016. The pilot consisted of reducing the existing 4-lane cross section to 3-lanes (eliminating one vehicle lane in each direction), introducing a centre two-way left-turn lane, as well as provision of buffered on-road bike lanes on both sides of New Street.
The plan was to test the new lane configuration for one year allowing staff to determine the impacts and then follow-up with the scheduled resurfacing of New Street in this area that was proceeding in parallel. A report would have come to committee and council in September (there are no meetings in August when residents are on holiday).
As a result of changes in construction scheduling as well as the desire to collect complete data, staff propose that the report summarizing pilot results and public feedback be considered by Committee of the Whole on October 30, 2017 (roughly one month later than planned).
A summary of activities on this pilot project since it commenced last August is below.
Since early August, staff have been collecting traffic (vehicular volume, classification, speed and travel times) along both New Street and the parallel residential roads. Additionally, staff have been in receipt of extensive feedback from residents and have been actively documenting and responding to all comments, questions and concerns in regards to the pilot project.
However, staff weren’t able to collect vehicle travel times on New Street towards the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, because the equipment used to collect travel times was solar powered and the batteries weren’t recharging properly. The equipment in place now is working properly and staff are currently collecting travel times, vehicle traffic, bike traffic and will continue to do so until the end of this pilot project.
Additionally, this spring and summer, staff will once again collect traffic on local roads such as Spruce/Rexway/Woodward. Staff will also find out how long it takes people to enter New Street from local streets and also get data on air quality for New Street. Discussions are currently underway with the Region of Halton’s health department since they have that equipment.
The existing contract currently underway for the New Street Reconstruction Project also included watermain and sanitary sewer replacements as part of the resurfacing works. With the reconstruction work on New Street proceeding ahead of schedule, the contractor was able to employ multiple crews at the end of 2016 to accelerate the watermain works between Guelph Line and Dynes Road and reduce the tendered construction schedule from 8 months to 3.5 months. While this work was originally scheduled for the Spring of 2017, staff were supportive of this as it would reduce the construction period and help minimize the impact and inconvenience to the public. This also allowed for the pilot data to be gathered uninterrupted for the majority of 2017 (May to Oct) as opposed to only Aug to Oct.
The works required to complete the remainder of the watermain installation between Dynes Road and Cumberland Avenue is projected to be complete by May 2017 (dependent upon weather conditions). To date, staff have not been able to collect data that represents the desired intent of the complete street pilot project – New Street without vehicle or bike lane closures. Given that the collection of accurate and representative data is of paramount importance to the outcome of this study, staff propose that the report summarizing pilot results and public feedback be considered by Committee of the Whole on October 30, 2017.This revised timeline would permit staff to continue to collect traffic data into the fall of 2017 under non-construction conditions in order to fully assess the pilot project. While this timing window is not ideal for construction, it should allow for an opportunity to complete the resurfacing project in the Fall of 2017 depending on contractor availability and weather conditions.
There will be continued pressure in the city to add on-road bike lanes; the results of the pilot will put to rest whether or not these are successful, so we can move on to other priorities. From what I have heard so far from residents, there has been minimal increase in cycling (and many continue to ride on the sidewalk), the pilot has negatively impacted travel times, and added significant traffic on side streets where it was never intended to be. We will have some data in the fall to verify all this, but I give significant consideration to the real experiences as reported by residents, as well as the petition to end the pilot project. In making our decisions, we need to consider and balance the needs of all of our residents.
To date, I am inclined to agree the pilot has been a failure, and will be voting accordingly once we see all the feedback and results from the pilot in the fall.