Turf war brewing over cycling and pedestrian lanes in London
LONDON, ONT. -- A political push by cyclists to have the curb lane closed to cars along busy London roads has suffered a letdown.
Expectations were rising that City Hall would temporarily close some traffic lanes in time for the unofficial start of summer this weekend, but instead just a single 100 metre stretch across the Thames River on Wellington Street was closed with pylons.
"It’s a little bit appalling when the call from the city is to get out and explore your neighbourhoods, and explore new area, and there isn’t safe space to do so," says Jesse Cablek.
Cablek recently launched an online petition calling on city hall to consider converting the curb lanes of four-lane roads to cycling and pedestrian space.
With traffic volumes down, the lanes would give pedestrians sufficient space to maintain a two-metre distance from others during the pandemic.
To date, city hall has temporarily installed an active transportation lane on three bridges leading into the core: Kensington Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge and Clark’s Bridge (on Wellington).
On Twitter, many cyclists are demanding much more be done. The pandemic has prompted the creation of kilometres of pedestrian and cyclist routes in cities including Montreal, Mississauga and Brampton.
Londoner Shelley Carr tweeted, "It appears that city transportation staff, after reviewing all of the changes other cities have made for active transportation and physical distancing have decided to open a bridge. Thanks for your courage."
The London Bicycle Cafe tweeted, "Wow. One lane for 100 metres. Bravo."
But Director of Roads and Transportation Doug MacRae says closing traffic lanes is complicated.
Some businesses are relying on loading zones and street parking to facilitate delivery and curb-side pickup.
And London transit buses need to stop close to the sidewalk.
“Transit buses need to be able to pull up to the curb to assist Londoners who need accessible loading,” explains MacRae.
But Cablek is unmoved, “Other cities have already come across that, they’ve already found solutions. You can look at temporary raised platforms for buses, you can open up other spots. There are ways around it.”
As London gradually emerges from the COVID-19, MacRae will consider additional locations where more space may be temporarily required.
"The city is taking a very targeted approach, recognizing that physical distancing is very important in current times."
Cablek intends to speak with councillors on city hall’s Civic Works Committee soon.
A link to his petition can be found here.