Centre turn lane on Lakeshore Road reduced for on-road bike lanes

Council vote Mon. Jan. 28, 6:30pm, City Hall

Burlington Lakeshore Road bike lanes
Turning left onto Lakeshore Road will be difficult in rush hour

In a split vote, members of the Development & Infrastructure Committee voted to reduce the centre turn lane on Lakeshore Road from Seneca to Walkers Line to install onroad bike lanes on the road edge.

Instead of the centre turn lane there will be a small painted median in this stretch, ranging from 1 – 1.15m west of Guelph Line to 1.7m – 1.9m east of Guelph Line. This won’t be large enough to accommodate a turning vehicle. The current centre turn lane varies, but on average is 2.6m.

Lakeshore Road will be repainted as a pilot project in conjunction with pre-scheduled road work, beginning in Spring 2013 and scheduled for completion in September 2014. Results from September onward will be reported to council in Spring 2014, for before and after vehicle counts, travel time, bicycle counts and motor vehicle collisions.

The vote needs ratification by City Council Mon. Jan. 28, 6:30pm, at City Hall. You can attend to speak as a delegation by registering before noon the day of the committee here or by calling 905-335-7600.

My Take: Along with my colleagues councillors Sharman and Taylor, I support retaining the current configuration of Lakeshore Road, primarily for safety reasons for all road users. Here are 10 reasons why we need to retain the centre lane on Lakeshore Road, and take steps that will actually deliver on the goal of helping residents to use cycling and active transportation.

1. The road is currently functioning safely.

Transportation staff have confirmed that the collision type and number are what you’d expect for an arterial road, and it is not listed on the Top 10 of problem roads in Burlington.   In short, the road is safe for both drivers and cyclists.

2. Current cycling infrastructure in this area is adequate.

The Centennial bike path provides a safe, segregated and beautiful route for cyclists heading between downtown and the east of the city. In addition, there is the multi-use asphalt path on the South side of Lakeshore Rd. That path will be upgraded as part of the road reconstruction. A number of cyclists told council that for speed reasons they don’t like to use either Centennial path or the multi-use path, but the bottom line is that these services exist. No one is required to cycle on the road. Riders who feel safe on Lakeshore Road already cycle there without a bike path; those who don’t likely won’t cycle on Lakeshore Road even with a bike lane. As an aside, the city is poised to invest heavily in cycling infrastructure – the proposed capital budget for 2013 includes $1.25m for new and upgraded multi-use paths throughout the city – we need to encourage cyclists to use these paths, rather than compromise road safety for everyone.

3. Changes to the road will compromise safety for both cyclists and drivers.

Residents on Lakeshore Road remember when the centre turn lane was installed for the safety of cars turning left onto and off of the road. They noticed fewer collisions after the centre turn lane was installed. I have asked Transportation Staff to provide that data (it should have been part of the initial report). Further, with just a narrow painted median for cars to wait while turning left, passing vehicles will veer into the cycling lane to pass, putting cyclists at risk.

4. Delays will result.

Traffic flow will be impeded by removing the centre turn lane, stealing precious minutes of time from families due to commuting, reducing their quality of life and adding further emissions to the air, affecting both drivers and cyclists. As one resident said in a letter to committee: “Should we not be concerned about the plan’s generation of so much idling traffic, with its resulting air pollution, in such close proximity to a public school and a dense residential area…There’s a Burlington by-law to stop vehicles idling for over 30 seconds; how many violations of that by-law will be directly caused by this plan?”

5. If you build it they will come only works in the movies.

We’re told that on-road bike lanes will increase the number of people cycling, but this vague hope fundamentally misunderstands why people don’t cycle now. It’s not because there is a lack of on-road bike lanes; it’s because more than half our residents must leave the city to work. Until we focus on economic development and bringing jobs to Burlington, cycling to work will remain a dream for our residents, even with on-road bike lanes. As one resident said in her letter to committee: “I like cycling myself. I cannot, however, find a way to bike my two children to daycare and then down to St. Catharines in order to do the job that pays my property taxes in Burlington….I have found biking over 100km a day to be especially trying in winter.”

6. There is no data to suggest on-road bike lanes will increase cycling in Burlington or has done so where bike lanes have been added.

Creating congestion and traffic delays as a means to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, without taking steps to rectify why people don’t cycle now, only produces…..congestion and delays. We need to balance the needs of all road users; this proposal creates significant safety and other negative impacts for the vast majority of current road users. It’s not balanced. Cyclists and cars are sharing the road well now.

7. Families won’t cycle on Lakeshore Road.

For many families and individuals on-road cycling is too dangerous even with on-road bike lanes. Our residents are looking for dedicated bike paths and separated bike lanes – Ottawa is a good example. This will take more planning and time – a precious commodity in an impatient world of instant gratification – but separated bike paths will go further to achieving the results we want.

8. The “pilot” has no goals to determine success (or failure).

The pilot will measure vehicle counts, travel time, bicycle counts and motor vehicle collisions, but no thought has been given to how many more cyclists will be required to deem the pilot a success, or how many accidents or delays are “acceptable” to deem this a success. Even one accident is too many – we should not be using our residents as guinea pigs to test the safety of the road. The lack of clear targets creates the impression that calling this a pilot is simply a device to push this through without proper data, consideration or due process.

9. Poor process leads to poor decisions.

This project has suffered from lack of good data and poor public consultation – being sprung on residents before Christmas, with a proposed amendment coming days before the final vote. There was no opportunity for a public meeting that would have provided an opportunity for table group discussion to learn from our residents what would help them pursue a more active lifestyle, and whether on-road cycling lanes on Lakeshore Road will have any impact at all on their cycling patterns.

10. We ignore the public at our peril.

More than 125 residents wrote to me and other members of council, to ask that the centre turn lane be retained. An additional 250 residents submitted a petition asking for the road to remain as is. Residents have clearly communicated their concerns, and goals for a balanced approach to cycling infrastructure. Yet those have been set aside. We’ve been told that supporting the on-road bike lanes at any cost to drivers and despite the concerns of residents, is showing “leadership.” Leadership has become the code word to justify ignoring public input.

The best decisions are made by carefully consulting and considering the views of the people most directly affected by our decisions. The city’s commitment to community engagement is built on this premise. It recognizes that elected officials don’t have a corner on wisdom (no one does), but that collectively there is much wisdom in our community if we listen and learn from each other.

When politicians dream about the future and impose a solution, it doesn’t always work out the way it’s supposed to, and residents are left suffering with the consequences until we fix it. One example will suffice: last week, council members discussed parking problems in the Uptown community of Burlington in Ward 5. This community was designed as high density with limited parking to “get people out of their cars” and onto transit. It didn’t work – people still have to drive outside the community for work, or long distances for shopping or recreation. So now councillors are having to fix the situation, and has authorized relaxed on-street parking rules in the area. Several councilors expressed surprise that the vision hadn’t worked. The reason: without jobs (and shopping and recreation) close by, residents still have to drive.

Making it hard for residents to drive doesn’t automatically get them out of their cars, if nothing else in the community changes. We need to heed this lesson before imposing hardship on the users of Lakeshore Road.

Your Take: Do you support replacing the centre turn lane with a painted median? Will on-road bike lanes get you cycling on Lakeshore Road? What can the city do to help you leave the car at home? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or emailing me at

I also encourage residents to attend council to share your views, or email them to other councillors who will make this decision Jan. 28.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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