Corp Comm Connects

Some residents want Newmarket to park proposed bicycle lanes

Loss of on-street parking, reduced road width, flawed public consultation cited by homeowners as concerns
June 26, 2020
Kim Champion

Concerns about bicycle lanes raised in the 11th hour by some residents in north Newmarket may prompt a rethink of how the town consults the public on such issues.

At issue is the fall 2020 installation of bicycle lanes slated for London Road from Yonge Street to Main Street North, Alexander Road from Srigley Street to Davis Drive, and Bonshaw Avenue from Woodspring Avenue to Gilpin Drive.

The proposed lanes would remove some on-street parking spaces on London and Alexander roads, but all three bicycle lanes provide much needed connectivity, stated a staff report presented at the June 22 council committee meeting.

“The London Road bicycle route will link Yonge Street (and the existing bicycle lanes on Bonshaw Avenue) with the Main Street North bicycle lanes, and will also connect with the Holland River Trail (Tom Taylor Trail) system,” staff said.

“The Bonshaw Avenue bicycle lanes offer only a very short proposed section, but which is vital to connect the bicycle lanes on Woodspring Avenue and Bonshaw Avenue with the Dave Kerwin Trail. The Alexander Road bicycle lanes are also over a relatively short section of the road, but they connect the east-west bikeway on Srigley Avenue to Davis Drive.”

London Road residents Susan and Phil Shrewsbury-Gee said in a written deputation they are “extremely upset that we have found ourselves in a position that we have to defend against the town’s proposal to remove parking and reduce lane width of the road in front of our residence”.

“Not only are we disappointed and frustrated with the actions of council with respect to proposed (done deal) changes to our street and our access to and use of, we are upset with the process invoked by the town and its employees with respect to this report,” they said.

Similarly, London Road residents Rick Warner and Martina Drover submitted a written deputation at the June 22 meeting, saying the removal of all parking spaces on London Road would impact their family members who get together for special occasions like Easter, birthdays and Christmas.

“A lot of our homes do not have sufficient parking to accommodate four or five family members' cars, and the few allotted parking spaces on side streets off London Road is not enough,” they said. “What are we to do at such times for parking? Will there be an exception to the rules of ‘no parking’ on London Road?”

The homeowners say the town’s consultation process on the bicycle lanes project was flawed and they weren’t provided fair opportunity to air their concerns.

For example, the town’s first of a three-part outreach to residents occurred with a public meeting and open house on Feb. 27, 2020. That came during a time, Phil Shrewsbury-Gee said, when many residents travel, and some who are snowbirds, are out of the country.

The second notice was a letter mailed to residents June 4, which did not advise of any ongoing meetings or discussions, but only stated the lanes would not be implemented immediately. A map showing alternate temporary parking adjacent to London Road was provided,  said Shrewsbury-Gee.

Finally, a letter dated June 12 was received by the homeowners June 19, advising a town report would go before council on June 22 and that residents had until the end of day June 21 to file comments or objections.

Both Warner and Drover pleaded with the town to reconsider the proposal for the London Road bicycle lanes, the section of which they say poses a danger because of the road’s steep incline.

“How can the Town of Newmarket give such a short timeline for anyone to respond and voice their objections, especially during this time of COVID when most services are closed and suspended, which is understandable due to the ongoing pandemic,” they said.

Mayor John Taylor took the residents’ concerns to heart and said while objections tend to come up late in the planning process, perhaps staff could revisit the way the public is engaged on such matters.

“I feel uncomfortable when people say they didn’t feel they had the chance to (provide feedback),” Taylor said. “Maybe we could put out street signs for a month as we do with development proposals. I’ll admit it first, I couldn’t tell you what streets are slated for (bicycle lanes) in the next two years.”

“Should we look at this a little differently ...people should feel they had the opportunity to be heard,” he said. “I think we could all do a little more work to engage people as much as possible. Let’s spend more time looking at this, perhaps do a workshop on the active transportation implementation plan, to get the concerns earlier in the process.”

According to the town’s engineering services director, Rachel Prudhomme, there was a 344 per cent increase from April 2018 to April 2020 in the use of bicycle lanes on Srigley Street and Eagle Street.

London Road is an important east-west connector in the north part of Newmarket, and the road was chosen for a bicycle lane, in part, because resident feedback showed it was the best connection to link Yonge and the existing lanes on Bonshaw Avenue with Main Street North and the Tom Taylor Trail system.

Additional parking has been identified on area side streets about 100 metres away to make up for the loss of parking spaces due to the bicycle lanes.

As well, stopping is permitted in the lanes for pickup and drop-off, and residents can request parking exemptions if they have out-of-town guests or need extra parking for such things as family celebrations.

The bicycle lanes project will be back before council for a decision at its Monday, June 29 council meeting at 1 p.m. There is still time to provide feedback. Visit here for more information.

Here are the bike lanes that have so far been completed in Newmarket: