CBRM approves new plan for active transportation

CBRM staff have approved a new active transportation plan, but some councillors feel it's leaving behind rural areas.  (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
CBRM staff have approved a new active transportation plan, but some councillors feel it's leaving behind rural areas. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality has approved its active transportation plan, but some are concerned its project list is leaving rural areas and other communities behind.

CBRM In Motion maps out $23 million in spending over the next 20 years.

The scheme includes infrastructure upgrades in Sydney, Sydney River, Westmount, Whitney Pier, New Waterford, Glace Bay and Dominion and Louisbourg.

"Our rural taxpayers are not getting any bang for their buck," said Coun. Gordon MacDonald. "And I find that very disappointing because as a representative of these communities our hands are tied... You know, active transportation was supposed to be for the CBRM, not Sydney proper."

The CBRM proposes to create additional trails, sidewalks, along with bike lanes and boulevards.

It also features the following 10 priority projects for connecting neighbourhoods to commuting destinations:

1. The Sydney River multi-use trail

2. The Prince and Upper Prince bike lanes in Sydney

3. The King Street bike lanes in North Sydney

4. The Grand Lake Road Sidewalk in Sydney

5. Lingan/Hankard/Victoria Bike Lane in Whitney Pier

6. The Kings Road multi-use trail in Sydney River

7. The Maryann Corbett Trail in Glace Bay

8. The Ellsworth/Heelan/Emerald/ Union Bike Lanes in New Waterford

9. Esplanade/Kings/George bike lanes in Sydney

10. The Washbrook Creek Greenway recreation area in Sydney

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

MacDonald said rural areas are growing by roughly 85 per cent compared to CBRM's urban areas.

Small upgrades within his district would have great impact, he said, such as the creation of a kilometre-long sidewalk on Schoolhouse Road to connect the communities of Florence, Little Pond and Alder Point.

"I just find not including rural is a little bit of a step back," he said.

Other CBRM councillors expressed concerns over a lack of infrastructure in rural areas or other communities outside Sydney, including Steve Gillespie, who represents people living in the areas of Edwardsville, Westmount and Sydney River.

Gillespie said CBRM and the province should prioritize sidewalks and safe crossings in areas where there are homes, schools and businesses.

"What we do here translates into when people want to move here, and what they see, and what they do," Gillespie said.

"Most of us may not get on a bicycle or walk to work, but there's a growing number of people that are doing so."

CBRM planning director Michael Ruus said there is some room for additional projects down the road.

But in order to receive money from the province, Ruus said the CBRM must meet its established criteria. And that means projects up for consideration must reach hundreds of users a day.

He explained that largely means making trails and sidewalks available in heavily populated areas.

He added that should the council approve new projects, they factor in construction costs along with future maintenance.

Since 2008, the municipality has spent roughly $330,000 per year on various active transportation projects and has leveraged over $1 million per year from other levels of government.