What is a protected bike lane? How will it be protected?

A protected bicycle lane is a designated space for bicycle traffic that is physically separated from motor traffic and also distinct from the sidewalk.  Methods of separation include curbs, posts, planters, rows of parked vehicles, or any other type of physical barrier. In other cities these are sometimes called “cycle tracks” or “separated bike lanes”.  Protected bicycle lanes have been shown to improve comfort and reduce stress for people riding by physically separating them from automobile and pedestrian traffic. 

In the case of University Avenue, the bicycle lane will be separated from the motor vehicle travel lane by a series of bollards (flexible plastic posts bolted to the asphalt). These will be used in addition to the standard painted bicycle lane symbols and lines, and will be accompanied by the standard regulatory ‘bicycle lane’ sign.  There will also be planters incorporated into the design in a few areas.


Why is a protected bicycle lane being proposed on University Avenue?

The project arose from a vision for University Avenue identified in the 2010 Dalhousie University Campus Master Plan and the Institutional District Cycling Plan (2012) completed jointly by Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, Capital Health, and IWK. Dalhousie initiated this project to enhance the feeling of safety for people of all ages and abilities riding bicycles on the street. 

The Council-approved 2014 Halifax Active Transportation Priorities Plan also identifies the entire University/ Morris corridor as a candidate route for bicycle facilities and identifies the need to explore more protected bicycles lanes in general to help people feel more comfortable riding their bicycles on city streets.

The protected bicycle lane proposed on University Avenue from Robie to LeMarchant Street will be the first such initiative in the city. While the protected bicycle lane is being piloted, Halifax will be conducting a planning study for University Avenue and Morris Street to assess options for adding bicycle facilities along the entire corridor.  

Why is the bicycle lane only four blocks long?

Piloting the protected bicycle lane on a shorter section of the street allows the municipality to understand the many factors that need to be considered in trying a new type of bicycle lane in the city.  It is an opportunity to understand, for example, loading and parking impacts and how these can be accommodated.

Why is the bicycle lane being implemented as a pilot project?

Pilot projects are great ways to test new ideas in the public realm. Piloting a change allows people to see the impacts in the real world, before making a final decision.   Lessons learned from a small scale pilot project can then be applied on a larger scale with greater confidence.  

How will the impacts of the pilot project be monitored?

Dalhousie has retained the Dalhousie Transportation Collaboratory (DalT RAC) to monitor the project and help understand the outcomes. Performance criteria being evaluated include: 

•change in number of people on bicycles
•changes in user behaviours
•user perceptions of safety
•impacts on other users of the street

Furthermore, Dalhousie is installing at least one “ecoCounter” which is a device that will automatically count people riding bicycles.

What happens to the bicycle lane at intersections?

The bicycle lane will go right up to the intersections, but the bollards (plastic posts) will end 15 metres before each intersection. Drivers turning right should yield to people in the bicycle lane, and when there is an opportunity, enter the bicycle lane to make their turn. (Just like on Windsor Street for example).

Where will patrons of the Dalhousie Arts Centre (Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) park during events?

There are opportunities to accommodate patrons of the Dalhousie Arts Centre in a number of ways.  This includes:
  • Parking on side streets;
  • Free parking at Dalhousie University parking lots between 4:30pm and 1:30am on weekdays and all day on weekends e.g. the Central Services Building parking structure (167 stalls) is less than a block from the Arts Centre.  
  • There is also paid indoor parking at the McCain Building.
There will be communications materials developed regarding where the parking is located plus improved web site information.

Will the protected bicycle lanes have winter maintenance?

Under the proposed agreement between the municipality and Dalhousie University, Dalhousie would be responsible for snow clearing of the protected bicycle lanes.

How much is being spent on this project?

The total cost is estimated at $200,000. This includes all hard and soft costs associated with the design and construction of the protected bicycle lane as well as ongoing maintenance, including snow clearing, during the two year pilot.

The design and construction costs are approximately $50,000 of this total cost.

Who is paying for it?

The project funders are:
  • NS Moves: $98,750
  • Dalhousie University: $101,250

What is planned for the rest of University Avenue?

The University/ Morris corridor is identified as a candidate route for bicycle facilities in the 2014 Active Transportation Priorities Plan. There will be a need to carry out preliminary design work --- which will include more stakeholder and public engagement- to determine the best way to install a bicycle lane on the street and identify ways to mitigate any potential impacts on other street users.  Halifax staff plan to carry out this work before the end of the pilot project. 

Are there any possible changes at this point of the planning process?

Dalhousie has already conducted extensive consultation and revised the design in response to stakeholder input. However, we are doing this engagement to ensure that we have addressed all comments. Small adjustments may be made before installation.

Also, as a pilot project, there will be ongoing monitoring and it will be possible to make changes if required during the course of the pilot project.

What will be the impact on the on-street parking, accessible parking, and taxi stands?

Short-term Parking

  • 43 metered stalls will be removed from University Avenue
  • 2 new metered stalls will be added on Seymour Street in an area previously signed ‘no parking’
  • 27 new metered stalls will be added to Dalhousie’s parking lot beside LeMarchant Place (access off South Street from Alumni Crescent in the former location of the Memorial Arena)
  • 3 meters on other side streets and 7 meters on the Killam Loop will be changed to accessible parking
  • Net loss of short term stalls in the area = 24

Taxi Stand

  • A 3-car taxi stand in front of the Student Union Building will be relocated nearby (TBD)
  • Net loss of taxi stands = 0

Accessible Parking*

Out of 9 existing, 3-hour accessible parking stalls on University Avenue:

  • 1 will remain on University Avenue (outside the NS Archives)
  • 3 will replace parking meters on side streets near University Avenue
  • 5 will replace parking meters on the Killam Loop
  • Net loss of accessible parking in the area = 0
  • * Municipal records indicate that accessible parking on University Avenue was requested between 1982 and 2001 to provide short term (3 hour), on-street accessible parking spaces near major buildings. In relocating the accessible spaces, designers have tried to maintain the same level of accessibility. 

What about stopping and loading? Will that be allowed at curbside?

Yes, loading will be permitted in front of all buildings.  There will a break in the bollards (plastic posts) to allow for this.  That means that people driving can pull up to curb in the bicycle lane to quickly load and unload people or goods.  Understanding the impact of this is part of what we are assessing during the pilot project.  Dalhousie is also looking at opportunities, for some buildings, to relocate loading locations to other streets.

What if people park in the bicycle lane in the loading areas? How will this be enforced?

There will be normal parking enforcement and normal police enforcement of the corridor. Targeted information will be sent to those who regularly load in front of the buildings so that they are aware of the rules related to loading and unloading in a bicycle lane.  The impact of this loading on the bicycle lane will be monitored.  

What are the next steps for this project?

Following the public engagement session on March 11, 2015 and the wrap-up of online comments on the Shape Your City website, staff will summarize what they heard, and submit a report to Regional Council who will make the final decision on implementation.  

If Council approves the project, a formal agreement between Dalhousie University and the municipality will be developed to ensure clarity on issues such as maintenance and snow clearing.  

If Council approves the project, the earliest date for installation is May 2015.