Safer streets for everyone in HRM

gateway

Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

Residents deserve streets that are safe for everyone – whether they are driving a car, riding a bus, a bicycle, or walking

There are too many collisions that are causing injuries or fatalities in our streets. On foot, by bicycle, or in a car we should all be able to get around our neighbourhoods safely. There is good news, by better using our existing resources and learning from other cities we can bring those proven results to HRM and make our streets safer and more accessible for everyone. Here is my plan.

We all want streets that are safe and accessible for everyone to use. he way to achieve this is to act swiftly to create Complete Streets, establish protected cycle lanes, apply standards outlined by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and adopt Vision Zero policy with the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by designing smarter streets.

What are complete streets? Complete Streets are streets designed for everyone. They are designed for efficiency, accessibility and safety for people of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. The simple act of crossing the street needs to be safer. Complete Streets make it easier to cross the street, walk to shops and bicycle to work. Since 2014 Complete Streets have been HRMs official goal, but with the high number of deaths and injuries we need to make these changes a reality today. Now is the time to talk about what Complete Streets should look like in HRM, how we want to do it, and how fast we want to get there.

I’ve heard from many people that it’s time for HRM to get serious about bike lanes. I agree! Research tells us that protected bike lanes make the city safer. Our community has been clear that we want more people walking and biking to work, because it improves both health and quality of life. The city wants to double the number of people who bike to work, but as the Halifax Cycle Coalition writes, “the only way to achieve this sort of growth is through a network of safe and convenient protected bike lanes in every neighbourhood.”

To get this result the municipality must increase budget and staff resources so they can roll out bike lanes faster. We want a network of east-west and north-south lanes on the peninsula and in the Dartmouth core, including the bridge ramp. The time for action is now. As your representative I will push council to provide the staff and funding needed to complete a network of connected cycle paths within three years.

This obviously can’t be done in isolation, adding bike lanes usually means losing parking, and that is a real challenge, but it’s not without a solution Parking is often lost because the lane sizes for parked cars, bikes and travel lanes in HRM are much wider than they need to be.

The solution is to adopt the standards recommended by NACTO, which are really more practical for the urban core. Traffic lanes should be 3 m wide; lanes wider than 3.3 m should not be used in most circumstances, as they use valuable road space that can better be used for bikes and parking.

NACTO also talks about how to design streets to slow down speeding cars. It’s well known that car drivers will drive as fast as the road allows, regardless of the posted speed. All of our residential streets can be safer by making them narrower and with curb extensions on the corners. Much like the ones installed in front of the Halifax Central Library a year ago. Doing this slows traffic and makes our neighbourhoods safer. In addition, narrower roads have less asphalt, which means they cost far less to maintain in the long run and reduce stormwater runoff.

I will advocate council to adopt NACTO standards, especially minimum lane widths and built-in traffic calming in residential neighbourhoods. These measures will reduce senseless injuries and deaths and help everyone share the roads safely.

Residents want Halifax to be safe for everyone, no matter how they chose to move around the city. This requires a new approach. I think it is time for Halifax to become a Vision Zero city.

Vision Zero is the Swedish approach to road safety. Vision Zero has been adopted in 17 North American cities including New York, Toronto, and Vancouver. It can be summarized in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. This video summarizes the promise of Vision Zero. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn. Protected bike lanes, and better street sharing and effective traffic calming are all a part of this innovative approach

These three things combined will make sure our streets are safe and comfortable for everyone to use whether as pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and people with disabilities.

Commitments:

  • HRM will provide funding and staff to ensure a network of connected cycle paths is completed within three years.
  • HRM will adopt NACTO standards, especially minimum lane widths and traffic calming in residential neighbourhoods, so that everyone can share the roadway safely.
  • HRM will adopt the Vision Zero mandate for traffic engineering, and start working toward the goal of no traffic fatalities or serious injuries.
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