OPINION: Road Diets and Reducing Car(b)s

Council will soon deliberate on how to paint the lines on Speedvale Avenue East.  It is down to two options that are being bantered about, as follows:

1.  Traditional Configuration:  four lanes of car traffic, no centre turn lane, no bike lanes.

2.  Road Diet:  two lanes of car traffic, one centre turning lane, with bike lanes.

The debate on the benefits and drawbacks of both options is currently playing out in the media, email, water coolers and social media.   On both sides, there seems to be a lot of doomsday rhetoric about gridlock, cyclist safety, cars vs. bicycles, and even tragic deaths due to ambulances not being able to get through.

Good decisions are best made when citizens are engaged, informed and heard.   I would like to hear from you, but first, here are some important facts that you will need to know about the Speedvale project…

a)  the Speedvale reconstruction project is on the books due to underground infrastructure replacement, and Council’s role is solely to determine whether or not to suspend our existing policy mandating the integration of bicycle lanes on roads when they are resurfaced,

b) the new road width can accommodate option 1 or 2 above, and simply involves painting lines (which can be undone and repainted either way),

c)  the project is only for a portion of Speedvale (from Manhattan Court to Woolwich), not the entire length of the roadway system,

d) emergency vehicles have the right of way to use the centre lane when responding to emergency calls,

e)  road diets are not new, they are used on high-traffic arterial roads all over North America.  Here is a simple and clear FAQ on what a road diet is — http://www.cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov/publicfiles/files/road%20diet%20faq.pdf

f)  Guelph has arterial roadways with higher traffic volumes than Speedvale that have already been converted to the three-lane configuration — Gordon, Norfolk, Speedvale, Edinburgh, Scottsdale, Imperial, Elmira, for example.  They are working successfully.

g)  Option # 2 (three lanes) is the lower cost option,

h)  bicycles and motorized scooters are vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, which means they have the right to use a full traffic lane.

i)  Speedvale Avenue is not a truck route in the City of Guelph.

Let the debate continue.

LP