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

Residents concerns were set aside.
Burlington Lakeshore 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.

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5 thoughts on “Centre turn lane on Lakeshore Road reduced for on-road bike lanes”

  1. As a casual bike rider, I find the bike path that runs from one side of the city, to the other quite sufficient. As a driver, I also use Lakeshore to get to my job in Oakville, and I fear taking away the turning lane will just cause traffic congestion. As it is right now, it’s a wonderful and relaxing alternative to the highway.

    If speed is the issue for cyclists not wanting to use the dedicated path, I would ask them to consider if bike racing in the city is really the safest idea. I don’t think we should create more traffic issues in an already congested (and growing) city so these folks can live out their Tour de France fantasies.

    1. To be fair, the turning lane is not going to go away. It will however be narrowed. A motorist wishing to pass a car that is stopped in the turn lane will have to check the bike lane first, then if it is safe to proceed, move over into the bike lane until they clear the stopped vehicle. How will that delay anyone by more than mere fractions of seconds, I fail to understand.

      Lakeshore Road is not an “alternative to the highway” – it is a residential street, and should be treated as such.

      What the lines on the road do do is signal to the community that bicycles have a place. There is no such dedicated place on the path, which exists not beside, but in place of a sidewalk. We might as well just put up a sign in Burlington saying Cyclists Not Welcome Here.

      1. The path of which I speak is just south of new street. It starts downtown and goes all the way across the city. It’s fantastic. In fact, the city of Burlington website has a great map showing the multi-use paths in the city.

        Furthermore, while Lakeshore Road is not longer part of the highway 2 route, it still serves as a major thoroughfare in this area. It’s not just a residential street.

        Finally, just because the city doesn’t give you your very own dedicated lane doesn’t make cyclists unwelcome. It just means you have to share the roads and sidewalks with cars and pedestrians. I can appreciate your passion for your sport, but the suggestion that the city is anti-cyclist seems a little over dramatic.

  2. The left hand turn lane is vital to the safe use of Lakeshore Road by local residents (I am one and can see Lakeshore traffic easily from my window) as the turn lane allows;

    1. me to sit to wait for traffic to clear to make my turn into my home without stopping all traffic behind me,

    2. emergency vehicles to use the center lane even when traffic is heavy,

    3. the ability to merge with very heavy traffic in the west bound lane by turning into the center lane when the east bound lane is clear,


    4. passing of city and school busses, garbage trucks, hydro & city vehicles, stopped delivery & maintenance vehicles without waiting for oncoming traffic to clear.

    I regularly cycle and walk on the south sidewalk and bicycle path. In my over 10 years in my present location the most common cyclists I see on Lakeshore Road (not the path) are sports bikers dressed for distance cycling and not commuter or recreational cyclists. These cyclists often ride through stop lights when cross traffic is not present, fail to ring a bell or otherwise notify others of their fast approach (noticed when attempting to cross the road with children) and I doubt if many live or work in Burlington.

    Rarely do I see people on Lakeshore cycling with shopping yet I do see shoppers riding on the bike path and streets north of Lakeshore with evidence of downtown shopping.

    As a mature women who enjoys cycling in Burlington one of my greatest fears is being hit by one of the speeding racers, sometimes in packs, that use Lakeshore as a part of their distance cycling.

    You have my support on this Marianne!

  3. Sounds a little Rob Ford-esque to me. Points 1,3,4 are arguable – albeit we have no data to advise us on this. As for point 5 and 6, every jurisdiction that has built bike lanes has seen increased in the number of cyclists. Look at the stats on Jarvis St. for example – not only did cyclists triple, but car accidents declined 23% as well. Where is the contrary evidence? What research have you done to support your position? I assure you that Rob Narejko has done his.

    Do you believe that the people in Burlington are somehow a different breed from the people in other cities that have been successful at increasing cycling rates by building infrastructure? Are you familiar with Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, or others that have tried this and had overwhelming success?

    As for point 7…I’ll believe that you are supportive of that when I see it. Where’s your alternative? If taking away space for left turns (not even a traffic lane) creates so much controversy, how and where do you propose to allocate space for seperated bike lanes? Pathways are nice, but in order to have real impact, you need to put the bike lanes where the people go…i.e. downtown, the GO stations, shopping and recreation. That is why Lakeshore is such a key part of the network.

    The City of Burlington has put together a somewhat unambitious, but realistic Master Cycling Plan. It is foolish to throw that plan away just because a very vocal segment resists attempts to make modest changes to the unsustainable status quo.

    Obviously, getting “everybody out of cars” is not a realistic goal. But what will allow us to make substantial progress as a city is for measured and continual growth in the number of people that are able to get around by other means. Halton Region is spending $600 million over the next 5 years to build and expand roads. The city is soending a comparable amount on roads. In Canada, we collect $15.5 billion a year in taxes and spend $29.4 billion a year on road construction and maintenance. Most of the burdens fall on the same residential taxpayers you represent, whether they drive or not. Those costs continue to skyrocket, and yet there is a maintenance deficit. Not to mention the private costs we have to pay to own and operate a car. It’s no secret that car ownership has fallen dramatically for young people – they cannot afford those costs at present. Neither can municipal taxpayers.

    Having a connected and complete cycling network will provide a massive benefit for the drivers of this city. If we are able to attain even 5% rate of cycling over the next 10 years, that would likely mean considerable improvement in travel times for the motorists of this city, as well as providing all the external benefits – health, environmental & social, that cycling provides.
    It will also save many millions of dollars in road expansion costs. If we look at the Portland example, they were able to increase the modal share of cycling by 7%, by spending only 1% of the total roads budget on bicycles. For the cost of 1 mile of freeway, they got a complete network that connects a city of 500,000. Portlanders aren’t any different from us…they just started earlier.
    I live in the Uptown community, Nobody is forced to drive outside the community for work. 50% of trips in the city are less than 10 kilometres. Many stop at the GO stations to use transit. Parking lots continue to expand at the public’s expense. Bike lanes would be a better option for more in the community if they were connected to anything – they stop at Mainway and one must be part of the 1% that are comfortable riding in traffic alongside transport trucks and fast moving cars in order to get to places like the GO. Look at the map, close the gaps, and you will see significant uptake.

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Marianne Meed Ward

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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