Sunday, June 17, 2018

Greater Sudbury Missing the Mark on Complete Streets

Complete Streets are a hot topic right now.  The provision of Complete Streets in a community is usually considered part of a strategy for attracting and retaining creative class employees and entrepreneurs – the types of people that are driving our 21st Century knowledge economy.  And of course, since Complete Streets make walking, cycling and taking transit easier, they provide healthy and environmentally sound options for the travelling public.

Here in Greater Sudbury, there’s certainly been a lot of talk about Complete Streets.  The 2016 Transportation Master Plan defined ‘Complete Streets’ as a concept that “focuses on the design, construction and maintenance of a street for all modes of transportation and all users.” (see: Transportation Master Plan, Section 10,” City of Greater Sudbury, December 2016). Complete Streets policies are intended to ensure that newly built streets are designed for the needs of all users, and that existing streets are retrofitted appropriately – often when major reconstruction is intended, in order to better achieve economies of scale.

This past week, the City of Greater Sudbury received a Bronze award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, which recognized the recent development of new bike trails and crossrides along Paris Street (see: Sudbury earns recognition for bike friendliness,” the Sudbury Star, January 10, 2018).  Importantly, Share the Road noted that Greater Sudbury had earned the award for its annual budget commitment of $800,000 specifically targeting new cycling infrastructure (see: Agenda, City Council, June 12, 2018,” City of Greater Sudbury - see presentation beginning approx. 17:25 of meeting recording)

$800,000 may sound like a lot of money, but the truth is it doesn’t go all that far when it comes to retrofitting our existing streets with safe and useable space for vulnerable users like cyclists.  The creation of cycling infrastructure along some segments of Paris has been an important addition to the City’s meagre and disconnected cycling infrastructure. 

We’ve certainly missed out on a number of opportunities to transform our major arterial roads into Complete Streets.  Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen major reconstruction take place on the Kingsway and Paris Street – streets that are now slated for Complete Street retrofits (see: 'Shave and pave' construction a political ploy: Matichuk,” Sudbury dot com, September 22, 2010).  Lasalle Boulevard also underwent reconstruction, with the Lasalle/Notre Dame intersection comprehensively redesigned, seemingly without a care for pedestrians and cyclists.  More recently, the Lorne Street redesign saw cyclist’s concerns ignored, with bikes relegated to traveling one-way on the street’s shoulder (see: “Lorne St. Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” Sudbury Moves, April 5, 2016).

The City just recently concluded public consultation on a proposed plan for Lasalle Boulevard, one of the City’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians (see: It’s a New Year. First Pedestrian struck on LaSalle Blvd.,” Sudbury Moves, January 4, 2018, and “Sudbury Pedestrian Collision Map,” Sudbury Moves).  The Plan intends to transform Lasalle into a Complete Street now that traffic levels are expected to drop, thanks to the Maley Drive Extension. At the time Maley was approved by Council in 2015, Greater Sudburians were promised a transformed Lasalle corridor, freed from the tyranny of the big ore trucks.  Unfortunately, the City’s grand vision for Lasalle falls completely short as far as creating a Complete Street goes.

While providing some positive benefit for pedestrians and cyclists, the ultimate goal of the plan appears to be to allow cars to travel more quickly along the road.  5 lanes with 3.5 metre widths are proposed, providing motorized vehicles with 30 centimeters more room than motorists in Toronto see on their arterials (see: Coalition for a Livable Sudbury, Written Submission – Draft Lasalle Boulevard Corridor Study,” Coalition for a Livable Sudbury, June 6, 2018). 

These wide lanes also mean there won’t be enough room for safe, dedicated cycling infrastructure – or even sidewalks on both sides of the street. Pedestrians will be expected to share a multi-use trail with fast moving cyclists on one side of Lasalle for almost the entire distance between Notre Dame and Falconbridge.

Faster moving motorized vehicles and a lack of safe, separated space for pedestrians and cyclists is the exact opposite of what a Complete Street is all about.  While George Orwell might be impressed with the City’s plan for Lasalle, Greater Sudburians ought to be alarmed that a plan in 2018 will see a major thoroughfare made less safe for vulnerable road users.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Originally published as "May: Sudbury missing mark on Complete Streets" the Sudbury Star, June 16, 2018 (in print and online)

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