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Winter bike lane clearing not a priority for Halifax

Cycling advocates want Halifax to make bike lanes safer in the winter

4 min read
caption Jillian Banfield cycling near the Dalhousie campus.
Kristina Pappas

Halifax cycling advocates are in conflict with a Halifax councillor over priorities for bike lane clearing after a snowfall.

Currently, the city doesn’t list where clearing bike lanes falls on their list of priorities. Coun. Matt Whitman said as far as he’s concerned, clearing them simply isn’t a priority.

In an interview, he insisted the city needs to focus first on keeping bus lanes, bus stops, sidewalks and roads clear.

“There’s 99 other priorities ahead of winter bike lanes,” Whitman said.

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Whitman noted that one per cent of the population commutes by bicycle, adding that it’s important the city focuses on clearing roads for “the other 99 per cent of us to use.”

Cyclist Jillian Banfield is dubbed Halifax’s bicycle mayor, a title given to her by BYCS, an Amsterdam-based social enterprise and global initiative to get more people cycling. The bicycle mayor’s job is to work with their city and community to make cycling a popular method of transportation.

Banfield questions the validity of using percentages as a way to discredit clearing bike lanes.

“Frankly, I don’t put a lot of emphasis on numbers because disabled people are a minority so are we going to discriminate against them because there’s not enough of them to bother clearing bike lanes or sidewalks or whatever infrastructure they need?” she said.

“The one per cent is a foolish number to discuss, I think.”

caption Cycling is Jillian Banfield’s main way to get around.

Banfield depends on her bicycle to get around because mobility issues mean that she finds it easier to ride than walk.

“For me cycling isn’t an option. It’s mandatory. It’s a mobility aid for me, so if I’m not able to cycle, I really am stuck in my house,” she said.

When asked about the people who use bicycles for mobility reasons, Whitman said he thought it was great, but didn’t change his position on the matter.

Banfield believes the city needs to better prioritize clearing bike lanes in the winter.

She pointed out that taking proper safety measures would likely lead to more people cycling in the winter.

“It’s a very approachable activity. People would think nothing of going to the Oval with their skates right now. That would be a wonderful thing to do. So why don’t we support people to cycle in these kinds of conditions too?” said Banfield.

Safe roads for every one

John Kyle, a Haligonian and daily cyclist, said failing to keep bicycle lanes clear from snow forces cyclists to ride into traffic.

“When they’re not cleared, it just makes it more dangerous because you’re riding in the rest of the lanes with the cars and it’s much more crowded that way,” said Kyle.

In an email, Halifax Regional Municipality spokesperson Brynn Budden said protected bike lanes have no council-approved standards and are addressed at the same time as sidewalks following a storm.

Budden added the municipality is having a consultant review winter operations service standards. This will include those for bike lanes, which will help shape recommendations for council’s consideration moving forward.

Banfield wants the city to establish clear priorities for bike lanes that can be easily found on the municipality’s website. Currently, the city lists the priorities for roads and sidewalks, but doesn’t mention bike lanes.

“I think we need to flip our snow clearing priorities on their head to reflect the integrated mobility plan priorities. That plan emphasizes people walking, cycling, using buses, carpooling, all above single occupancy vehicles, so I think all of our policy decisions and our infrastructure decisions need to reflect that,” she said.

“Why aren’t we clearing sidewalks and bike lanes before we’re clearing side streets?”

Until there is a set standard for bike lane clearing priorities, it’s difficult for cyclists to know when they can expect to get back on the roads after a storm.

Kyle thinks people have to think about what kind of city they want.

“Do you want to build a city for the past or do you want to build a city for the future?” he said.

“There’s a lot of untapped demand for bicycle lanes a lot of people who would bike if you provided safe ways for people to get around town.”

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About the author

Kristina Pappas

Kristina Pappas is a journalism student. She's from western Canada and is smitten with the east coast's charm. You can find her at a beach, exploring...

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  1. T


    Why doesn't her bicycle have the REQUIRED safety reflectors on it? She should stop breaking the law. For someone promoting cycling, it is also concerning to see her without a single item of high visibility colouring.
  2. K

    Kevin G Williams

    I am a cyclist and ride when it's safe to do so. I am also a driver. The cyclist complaining about priorities...really. Drivers pay registration, insurance and gas tax. The money that allows the pavement to be there. Are the cyclists paying for any of that?
    • N

      Norm Seguin

      Thumbs up!
  3. A


    Reading some of these comments just reminds me why I will probably never move back to Halifax. Progressive cities around the world are prioritizing environmentally sound practices but in Nova Scotia many still stuck in 1950’s thinking that completely destroyed city centres. Keep driving your cars while the rest of the world moves on.
  4. M


    I'm constantly BAFFLED as to why cyclists insist on riding throughout the winter. I've seen these people fish-tailing down Spring Garden Road towards Barrington with ordinary street tires instead mountain biking tires with good treads, then have the audacity to complain about snow removal Seriously, dafug is WRONG with you people?
  5. J

    Jim Chisholm

    Appropriation of the plight of disabled persons to make a case for bicycles bring given priority in the snow is the very definition of narcicissm and cognitive dissonance.
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