Fredericton group tries to revive bike-lane project stalled by parking concerns

An active transportation group in Fredericton has been pushing to get downtown bike lanes back on the agenda at city hall. 

A pilot project to add bike lanes downtown was put on hold last year after businesses worried about losing parking spaces and loading zones.

"It always comes down [to] the fear of losing parking," said David Kersey, a spokesperson for the Fredericton Active Transportation Coalition.

Last year, the city was looking at implementing a single-lane westbound bike lane on Queen Street and an eastbound bike lane on Brunswick Street, with connections on Northumberland, Carleton and Church streets.

But a downtown cycling report found the cycling lanes would mean cutting Queen Street down to one lane for traffic and turning Carleton Street into a one-way northbound street.

Brunswick Street would lose one of its three lanes, and the two remaining lanes would be narrower.

​The bike lanes would also mean a loss of about 14 parking spots on Carleton Street.

We're on the same page. We just have to put the horse before the cart. - Bruce McCormack, Downtown Fredericton Inc.

But Kersey is optimistic about the project.

He argues bike lanes would increase the number of potential customers for downtown shops.

"The missing ingredient or the keystone is the ability to bike into the downtown," he said.

Kersey also pointed to the experience of European cities such as Copenhagen, which had a strong car culture in the 1970s but now has more pedestrian and bike traffic.

Revisiting the project 

Kevin Darrah, chair of the city's transportation committee, said the city is revisiting the proposed pilot project to decide what needs to change. Although the project is expected to move forward, a start date hasn't been set.

"It's just bringing it back to the forefront because we didn't really talk about the active transportation through the winter months," he said.

Rob Krbavac/CBC News

Bruce McCormack, the general manager of Downtown Fredericton Inc., says parking is still a big issue in the city's downtown.

The city recently approved its parking master plan, which is likely to see an increase in rates.  

Although the parking plan includes a new parking garage, adding about 500 spaces, he said the construction of two new office buildings is expected to bring an additional 300 to 400 people per building to the downtown.

"Parking is important and we know that bike lanes would add to the benefit of our businesses, but we've got to balance that," he said.  

Fredericton isn't ready for more bike lanes

Although he supports bike lanes in the city's downtown, McCormack says the infrastructure isn't there to support downtown bike lanes compared to bigger urban centres Toronto.

"That's what we're building for and planning for but we're not there yet," he said.

If new bike lanes were to be implemented, McCormack said he would also be concerned about the safety of cyclists.

"Once you start building bike lanes, people think they're safe," he said.

"They're safe if they're done properly."

In the next 10 years, the city will be looking at rebuilding curbs and sidewalks. When that happens, McCormack said, there will be an opportunity to build bike lanes.

"We're on the same page. We just have to put the horse before the cart."