Upcoming changes to Brunswick Street in downtown Halifax aim to better protect cyclists and connect them to the city's wider cycling network. On Tuesday, Halifax regional council approved municipal staff's request for a two-way bike lane on the Citadel Hill side of Brunswick Street, and design work for a larger $10 million makeover of the street.
The lane would stretch from Spring Garden Road to the existing bike lane on Gottingen Street. The lane would have temporary curbs and posts for now, and look similar to other bike lanes such as the one on Hollis Street.
Eventually, the full Brunswick Street redesign could see a separated bike lane with trees, widened sidewalks and art installations on the long stone wall in front of Citadel Hill if the current proposal goes ahead with a planned 2028-29 completion date.
The change fills a key gap in the bike network, planning staff member Katherine Peck told council. Much of Brunswick Street has painted bike lanes, but they end at Sackville Street where the road narrows. That painted bike lane doesn't connect to a path through the nearby Dalhousie University Sexton campus either.
Peck also said the painted lanes don't fit with the municipality's policies and goals of having bike infrastructure accessible for all ages and abilities.
"It doesn't feel safe for people who aren't experienced riders and it's not somewhere a lot of people want to put their children on the road," Peck said.
To allow for this, staff said 20 parking spots from Sackville Street to Spring Garden Road will be removed on the Citadel Hill side of the street.
But Steve-O-Reno's owner Maria Rose said she's worried about losing the handful of parking spots and loading zone in front of her cafe on Brunswick near Spring Garden Road. Rose said many of her regular customers have been coming to the cafe for decades since it opened back in 1996, and drive in from outside the city.
"Looking for parking … it's hard for families, it's hard for seniors, anyone with a disability or mobility challenge," Rose said Tuesday.
"There are many people who unfortunately I don't think would change their habits and we would lose part of our customer base."
Through an online survey Rose put out this week, she said she's had responses from more than 100 customers with wide-ranging thoughts on the bike lane. Some said they would be deterred from coming to the cafe without street parking, while others are excited about the changes.
Rose is meeting with city staff this week, and hopes to see whether any compromises can be found.
"We would love to capitalize on it and see what we could do together to make this area of downtown more vibrant. But we're just … concerned about the viability of our business," Rose said.
In the final $10 million plan, 59 parking spots overall would be taken off Brunswick Street but all nine accessible spots would remain.
Area councillor Waye Mason said during the council meeting that the reality is Halifax's downtown streets are simply too narrow for both street parking and bike lanes.
He said that even if all Brunswick Street parking was removed tomorrow, there is still plenty of parking in the area in parkades and other developments thanks to the city's requirement for certain new buildings to offer public parking downtown.
Mason pointed to available parking under the Doyle apartments, the nearby Curve and Pavilion buildings on Spring Garden Road, various lots on Brunswick Street, and hundreds of spaces under the Nova Centre.
"There are thousands more parking spots in downtown than there were 10 years ago. Parking is not the issue — knowing where to park might be an issue," Mason said.
If the temporary lane is in place by 2024 as expected, staff said the $1.5-million project (which also includes a full rebuild of the intersection at Brunswick and Sackville streets and landscaped plaza at the base of Citadel Hill) could fall under a federal infrastructure agreement and lower the city's portion to $265,000.
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