Ben Durham

Despite opposition, Bike Lanes in London, Canada means PROGRESS

This is the CBC London article that covers all the details in depth. This blog post is my own personal opinion.

I’M EXCITED about where London, Canada is going! I’ve never said that in my life before because there never has been a reason to get excited. Decisions have almost always been conservative and are rarely made with the future in mind… until recently. I’m quite pleased to see the eyes of London’s City Council opening and following other flourishing cities’ decisions.

How I’m involved with cycling

Over the last two years, I’ve become more and more involved in cycling to the point where I’ve melded it intimately with my life.

In the last year, I officially became:

A group photo of London Cycle Link’s board members, taken at the 2019 Board Retreat. I can be seen over on the top left!

I’d say I’ve inserted myself directly into the absolute center of the fray. I’ve heard all the reasons for and against the two major movements that were passed yesterday by Council. So, what’s happening?

APPROVED: Bike lane (split) through Old East Village

As much as the cycling community wanted a bi-directional bike lane (especially myself) on the South side of Dundas Street (here is the video of London Cycle Link’s Executive Director speaking on our behalf at the first City Council meeting), at this point, I think the split is a compromise that is “good enough”.

Why this vote is a good thing

From what I heard, one of the most vocal and influential Council members is Councillor Jesse Helmer. In the first meeting, he was advocating for the bi-directional bike lane with full force. In the second meeting, he dropped back and doubled down on the most important thing: tangible action.

Forward movement vs stagnation (deferral)

No, the preferred bi-directional bike lane on the south side of Dundas didn’t get approved, but SOMETHING DID. Helmer saw the worst case scenario: All bike lane decisions getting deferred and NOTHING HAPPENING. He stated this in the first meeting multiple times, analysed the situation, and made an appropriate decision based on the evidence at hand. He believes incremental non-perfect steps towards safer bicycle infrastructure is more valuable than getting it 100% right, right away. He’s choosing his battles as best he can for the benefit of the cyclist community.

I agree with this and in his shoes, I would have done the same.

For those who don’t approve of this decision

As I scroll down to the comments of the CBC article, there’s just one so far at 7 AM:

The first comment on the CBC article covering this news reads:
“Stupid decision. I’m not detouring over to King to head back downtown, and neither will most other cyclists. Means that vehicle traffic will have to slow to the speed of cyclists since the westbound lane won’t be wide enough to accommodate bikes and cars side by side. Thanks for listening, city council. Good Job. Not.”

Steve isn’t happy because of the same reasons that London Cycle Link and I have pointed out previously. Clearly, I see his point of view because it’s my point of view as well. But I also see it from the perspective above: action vs no action. While it isn’t the best action to take, it is the best action to take now.

Queens is also getting fixed

Something that was offhandedly said during yesterday’s meeting was that Queens would also be undergoing change as well under this new plan. Dundas was obviously receiving all of the heat, but this Queens change would be a big one for cyclists’ safety.

Instead of: Cars | Bike Lane | Parking, the redesign will see the order of these changed to: Cars | Parking | Bike Lane. Although dooring still might be a problem (depending on how the change is implemented), this would significantly decrease the amount of rear-end vehicle-cyclist collisions. Those are the ones that statistically kill significantly more people.

APPROVED: King Street temporary bike lane until 2021

This one was confusing. After leaving the meeting last night, I was under the assumption that the temporary King Street bike lane was not moving forward. This morning, after reading the CBC article, I saw that I was wrong and that apparently the temporary King Street lane is going in! I can see both sides of the argument but was leaning toward the safety of cyclists… and still am. Here are my perspectives.

$600k on a bike lane? Definitely.

$600,000 is not a lot when compared to numerous saved lives. Just think of the medical (taxpayers’ money) and legal bills (taxpayers’ money) for just one severe accident or multiple smaller accidents. Suddenly $600,000 of taxpayers’ money doesn’t seem like a lot.

Hurting businesses downtown with construction

This isn’t to do with parking. That’s a discussion for another day. This is to do with construction though. Construction hurts local businesses in the short-term. Last summer there was a bunch of construction on Talbot Street and -although I don’t know the numbers- I’m assuming it hurt businesses’ revenues. That sucks. It honestly does.

But you know what also sucks? People dying in front of your business (or anywhere for that matter). Dying from preventable causes such as collisions between cyclists and vehicles. Your customers will find you if they want you. Make sure you’re online and on Google Maps! If you’re not, it’s very difficult to find you!

Knowingly rejecting safer inferastructure

If the City of London Council knowingly rejected putting in the protected bike lane and there was an accident resulting in the death of a cyclist, things would escalate very quickly on the legal side of things. Not to mention the continued reputation of London forever being a “car city”. I’m glad it didn’t have to come to that.

It’s not actually $600k

In other news, Helmer also brought up that after the temporary lane is removed in 2021, around $150,000 will be recovered from the project. This means that the Temporary King Street Bike Lane project will essentially cost $450,000 over the span of the next two years.

Final thoughts

I attended both City Council meetings on February 20 and March 5, 2019 and both were exciting. This was the first time that I’d ever shown up to the chambers at City Hall to observe and I’m glad I did. I got to see first hand how difficult it is to make decisions that make everyone happy. Actually, that never happens – someone’s always left angry no matter what.

It’s a careful balance and whatever decision is made, someone won’t be happy. In this case, I’m both happy and not happy. On one hand, we are gradually seeing bicycling infrastructure introduced incrementally into London which is a GOOD THING. On the other hand, the bi-directional bike lane isn’t going in and is instead going to be the original staff recommendation of one Eastbound bike lane on Dundas.

I’d say that overall this is a WIN for everyone, especially for casual cyclists but also everyday cyclists like myself! Just like my fellow Frostbikers would say:

Facebook comments, reading, Kurt Yelsmlaw: “… Baby steps” and a reply, Jamieson Roberts: “In this case the baby step is a 500% increase in protected lanes in the city and they all connect to each other, its a not Christmas miracle, but absolutely yes baby steps towards a full network

If you have any questions or comments, let me know in the comments below or in the contact form on the homepage. Cheers!

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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

Professional storyteller

Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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