Public survey results for the reconstruction of St. David Street North in Fergus led to cycling lanes being the main point of discussion among Centre Wellington councillors.
The downtown Fergus road, from St. Andrew Street to Edinburgh Avenue, is scheduled for a full reconstruction in 2023 with plans to apply for connecting links provincial funding.
Township staff leveraged the opportunity for public consultation to find out what residents wanted.
Adam Gilmore, Centre Wellington manager of engineering, told Centre Wellington’s committee of the whole that the public engagement was substantial.
There were 750 responses and a diverse group of voices from the healthy growth advisory committee, the downtown Fergus BIA, Elora Cataract Trail Association and active transportation advocacy group Green Lanes.
The public was presented with four options to consider:
Gilmore said St. David Street is considered a very important regional and local corridor as it is the economic hub for local business and acts as a gateway to the community.
Respondents main priorities were to maximize on-street parking, improve the visual appeal and improve sidewalks.
Gilmore said staff are bringing key takeaways from the consultation and current policies when refining their final recommendation which is expected in June.
“The option should balance the transportation needs of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians while still enhancing the appearance of the streetscape and ensuring that the number of highly-utilized parking spaces are maintained to the extent possible,” Gilmore said.
Cycling lanes were the bulk of the discussion and questions from councillors.
Coun. Bob Foster noted many respondents were concerned about losing parking space but acknowledged an active cycling community.
“Is there a way to help meet the needs of the cycling community without losing parking?” Foster asked and also if the lanes necessarily needed to be separated.
Gilmore said he believed the separated bike lane option “walks that line” but other options may emerge through the detailed design phase.
Based on safety guidelines regarding traffic volume and mix along St. David Street, Gilmore said the recommendation would be to go with separated lanes in the area.
Coun. Steven VanLeeuwen suggested bike lanes on just one side but Gilmore said they felt this option may confuse people.
VanLeeuwen then suggested staff should look at adding bike lanes to the side streets.
“Maybe there’s a better street for bike lanes and that may influence our decision,” VanLeeuwen said.
Gilmore said there is definitely interest in cycling on less busy roads but there’s a greater opportunity to add them on St. David Street when it is under construction.
Coun. Ian MacRae said they needed to consider what downtown will be like in the years ahead as the town grows.
He said some formerly small town’s downtowns are appealing to visitors meanwhile some you want to hurry through.
“How are we going to attract people to our downtown? Active transportation may be the answer,” MacRae said.
Council accepted the report for information and a recommended design is expected to come forward in June.
Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com