Future of downtown bike lanes to go before Lethbridge City Council

Click to play video: 'Future of downtown bike lanes to go before Lethbridge City Council'
Future of downtown bike lanes to go before Lethbridge City Council
Downtown bike lanes remain a hot button issue in Lethbridge since being installed at the end of November. And while cyclists haven't yet had an opportunity to utilize the new paths, opposition to remove them is growing. Sarah Jones has more on a motion set to be presented to city council this week that is sparking debate – Mar 11, 2024

They’ve only been around since the end of November 2023, and already the bike lanes in downtown Lethbridge are invoking some strong feelings.

On Sunday, Scott and Penny Warris, downtown residents and owners of Analog Books, shared their support for the bike lanes online, which was met with additional support.

“You know the issue that we’re all dealing with in downtown in the last few years, because of the growth that we’ve been seeing, and because of the success of a lot of the independent local merchants have been working on to attract people into downtown, is parking problems,” explained Scott Warris.

“Our point is that I feel that we have reached a peak on street parking in Lethbridge,” he continued. “I can’t imagine a scenario going forward where we’re going to have more parking added, except maybe in a parking garage. So that being the case, you know, we need alternative solutions.”

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Click to play video: 'Study suggests bike lanes in Lethbridge key to more transportation cycling'
Study suggests bike lanes in Lethbridge key to more transportation cycling

With the protected bike lanes helping to provide a safe and encouraging space for people to use their bikes downtown, as the Warrises voiced in their letter: “As downtown businesses, we need to promote them as an alternative and solution to the lack of parking, not the cause of them.”

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This week, an Official Business Motion (OBM) is being brought forward to city council by Councillor Rajko Dodic, which could halt any further planning or construction of protected bike lanes.

Which according to the OBM, “Has created problems during snow events as well, anecdotally, has been almost universally seen as a barrier to the success of downtown businesses.”

The motion would also direct administration to provide an estimate on removing all the existing paths downtown, including the pylons and concreate barriers and report back to the economic SPC no later than the second quarter of 2024.

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The costs would then to be referred to the Assets and Infrastructure SPC for public input and consideration.

That’s something the owner of Big John’s Books, John Pyska, stands behind.

“I have nothing against cyclists,” stated Pyska. “I have something against what they’ve done here and the actual structure that they’ve put in. It’s not conducive for people with limited mobility.”

Last week Pyska was approached by a member from the Lethbridge Improvement Alliance who asked if he would support a petition that would have the city remove or modify the bike lanes, which is now open for signatures in his store.

“The problem is right now — and what we feel like is the real problem — is that they were removing parking spots, not that there’s bikes on the street. There’s always been bikes downtown.”

Click to play video: 'Multi-faceted construction project underway in downtown Lethbridge'
Multi-faceted construction project underway in downtown Lethbridge

However, Warris believes the new lanes deserve a chance to see what kind of traffic they could draw downtown during the spring and summer months.

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“I realize and appreciate the issue that a lot of businesses that were effected by that construction on 7th street have dealt with, but I don’t feel that it’s fair to blame the bike lanes for those issues,” said Warris.

“There have been challenges with the bike lanes. It’s a growing process, growing pains.

“There are some issues that need to be looked at and possibly re-designed, but removing them does not make any sense at all.”

Warris said that many other countries have jumped on the promotion of protected bike lanes.

“Cities across Canada and around the world have gone that route and it’s part of the solution to the parking issue that we’re dealing with,” he said. “I think we should do everything to encourage them.”

The motion will be discussed Tuesday, March 12 at Lethbridge City Hall.

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