Hitting the brakes: Bike lanes could hurt businesses, Fredericton group says

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Hitting the brakes: Bike lanes could hurt businesses, Fredericton group says

A pilot project to create bicycle lanes in Fredericton's downtown core is on hold for now while the potential effects on downtown businesses and parking are sorted out.

A one-way bike lane proposed in December would rearrange several streets, parking and loading areas in the downtown area.

This year, the city has been 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.

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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

"If you're going to put a bike lane in, you've got to give something up," said Matt Savage, president of Downtown Fredericton and owner of Savage's Bicycle Center.

He said one of the issues was parking, since Carleton Street would lose up to 14 parking spaces. Savage described this as "fairly significant."

Parking in high demand

He said each downtown parking spot is valued at about $500 a day.

"To lose 14 of them is fairly significant," he said. "That was one of the biggest issues we came across."

The report also showed that Church Street would lose about nine of its two-hour parking spaces.

Savage said parking is in high demand within the city's downtown core.

"Unfortunately, we live in a city where people want to walk out of their car, they want that close access," he said. "That's one of the biggest challenges we face downtown."

The narrowing of Queen Street to make room for a bike lane would also be a problem for businesses that have delivery trucks dropping off supplies.  

"The message we received through Downtown Fredericton Inc. was fairly negative," Savage said.

"They didn't see the benefit and the tradeoffs that would have to take place, it just wouldn't make a lot of sense for business owners."

Sean Lee, assistant director of engineering and operations with the city, said discussions will continue with the business group about adding bike lanes downtown. The city intends to move forward with a pilot project in 2019.

"No downtown bike facilities are planned for 2018," he said in an email to CBC News. "City staff will continue to work with Downtown Fredericton to further develop the concepts."

The project would cost between $50,000 and $100,000, most of which would go to painting, signs and separation posts.

Savage said it's important to get the project right the first time around.

"To get to the bike lane, we need some wholesale change and sensibilities in how we view transportation," he said.