Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Mayor responds about Bike Lanes

Winnipeg street's new Bike Lanes

Last week, I posted a link on Twitter about an article in the local Paper -

I was so upset about this, that I decided to write to the Mayor.  I basically told her that it was a bad idea as it wouldn't encourage people to go out and ride their bikes.  I was quite surprised to receive a personal response from the Mayor herself.  Here's is what she wrote in her email.  Thoughts on it would be appreciated.

Thank you for your email and sharing your thoughts on bike lanes. There are two things I wish to share with you about where we are at with bike lanes and funding them.

The first is that we do have an active transportation

plan that includes significant cycling routes. We also did a Smart Growth on the Ground design charette in 2009 for the physical layout of downtown. It included a number of cycling considerations and was well represented by the cycling club. Prince George has over 150 km of bike lanes in the city. We recently repaved Winnipeg Street and changed the lane painting configuration from 4 lanes to 3, so that bike lanes could be included. You are seeing more and more of that throughout the city.

The second is that we set a list of projects for capital improvements each fall. This previous fall, there were no new bike path projects (new construction as opposed to line painting) set for 2012. The capital budget was cut enormously because of our difficult fiscal situation.

As you can appreciate, the condition of the roads this spring was abysmal after the harsh winter, and I'm sure you have not enjoyed riding your bike on them any more than cars did. We are millions of dollars per year behind in our maintenance of our road infrastructure, as well as our underground sewer and water infrastructure.

This Council is committed to a core services review to find every efficiency and savings we can, and redirect those dollars into our most needed core services, infrastructure.

So, the financial problem we face, like so many communities, is exacerbated by what is essentially a grant game. The Province or the Federal government will decide at some point in a year, that they wish to fulfill one of their priorities, and provide an opportunity for cities to bid on funding for new projects they wish to support. For years, we all jump at the chance to get "something" for our community, so we clear off the desk, wipe out other projects that may be just as needed in our priorities, and move those dollars to someone else's timeline. Then we get behind on our core needs, and hence we are in the financial state we are in.

Communities are coming to realize this is not sustainable long term financial planning. When the Province announced some funding for bike paths, we chose not to wipe the desk clear and create a new proejct. We are showing discipline and I appreciate it doesn't advance cycling for this community, but we need to stay focused on getting our fiscal house in order, and repairing our aging infrastructure. That is a first consideration for what will attract and grow this community, so that we can be more fiscally healthy to take advantage of future funding that may come our way. (And yes, having bike paths will also attract people : )

Sorry for the long answer, but it's not a simple one.

Thanks Carolyn, I do appreciate your feedback.

Shari Green

Mayor, City of Prince George

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