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Centre Wellington council reopens debate on St. David Street bike lanes

Councillors will discuss a motion to reconsider their decision to add bike lanes to the thoroughfare at an upcoming September meeting
2021-07-09 St david st AS
St. David Street North is slated for reconstruction in 2023 as part of a project that will replace underground infrastructure.

Two months after Centre Wellington council unanimously agreed to add separated bike lanes to St. David Street N. when the busy corridor is reconstructed in 2023, some councillors now want to take a second look at that decision. 

At Monday’s meeting, council heard from Ed O’Shaughnessy, the author of a petition against the plan to include the cycling infrastructure on the street at the expense of losing 43 parking spots. As of Monday afternoon, the petition had amassed 1,014 signatures.

O’Shaughnessy argued that public feedback gathered through an online township survey had been ignored in selecting the street’s redesign, local businesses would be negatively impacted by the loss of parking, and biking on busy St. David Street would be dangerous for cyclists. 

Coun. Bob Foster, who represents the area of Fergus where the bike lanes are planned to be installed said the petition confirmed what he’s been hearing from constituents. 

“There is widespread opposition to bike lanes on St. David,” said Foster. “I think a lot of people want to see bike lanes somewhere, in many places in fact, but I think we’re starting in the wrong place, the busiest roadway in Centre Wellington is St. David Street.”

Foster said he wanted council to reconsider its decision. Councillors Stephen Kitras, Steven VanLeeuwen and Kirk McElwain supported the idea. 

“I must say I actually felt guilty for voting the way I did within two days of the vote as soon as I started hearing public feedback,” McElwain said. “Because I realized we really hadn’t considered all of the ramifications of our decision.”

Meanwhile Mayor Kelly Linton, and councillors Neil Dunsmore and Ian MacRae remained firmly in support of the bike lanes.

MacRae noted the online survey was just one factor in council's choice and councillors also weighed correspondence from residents and research from staff. 

“What we decide today has a bearing on what we want to achieve as a small city of 52,000 people in 20 years,” MacRae continued.

Referencing “urban sprawl that can gut downtowns,” MacRae said the St. David Street redesign selected by council that includes bike lanes and wider sidewalks is part of creating a downtown where people want to live and visit. 

Mayor Kelly Linton similarly said his vote on the matter wouldn’t change. 

“It’s important that we’re building our roads for future use, not for current use,” Linton said. “And I think it’s absolutely critical that we start having a spine that is conducive for active transportation, for bike lanes, in downtown Fergus.”

While Foster wanted to have his motion to reconsider the decision heard on Monday, after conferring with staff, Linton said the item was better discussed at council’s next committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 20. Council ultimately agreed. 

“The community deserves to have notice that we’re having this discussion,” Linton said, referencing the “principle of open government.”

A two-thirds majority vote is required in order for council to reconsider a decision that's previously been passed.