The public will have a chance to comment on Sidney’s draft active transportation plan, with several councillors predicting parking will be a hot-button issue.
Council voted unanimously to send the draft plan to public engagement. But if all councillors favoured that move, residents also heard reservations, perhaps none more loudly than from Coun. Richard Novek.
While he expressed support for it in principle, he hoped that its potential effects on parking will get considerable consideration during the review.
“(On-street) parking will be an issue,” he said about the potential loss of up to 150 parking spots — many of them in Sidney’s commercial area — if proposed improvements to the cycling infrastructure were to go ahead.
Novek is concerned the municipality currently lacks a plan to mitigate these potential losses.
“I just fear that we might be creating a monster with this (active transportation plan) if we don’t have a plan to deal with this (parking),” said Novek, adding later that he hopes the municipality’s parking study due in the first quarter of 2023 will also take a look at the active transportation plan.
He later stressed that he is not against the plan going to the public.
Perhaps standing most opposed to Novek was Coun. Sara Duncan. She said she was happy with this report going out the public as is.
“With all due respect to Coun. Novek, there is nobody who has ever done anything regarding bicycling who does not know that people are very anxious about parking spots.”
She also later tried to preemptively ease concerns.
“Every time somebody has done data collection, they have found no impact to retail businesses from the installation of bike lanes that required the loss of parking,” she said.
She also called for a data-driven approach and added that council ultimately controls which parts of the proposed 10-year-plan come into existence and which do not in echoing comments from Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith, who called the plan a living document subject to revisions.
“To portray this as some sort of a binary choice — do we have bike lanes or do we have parking — ended up being a big controversy in other cities and is simply not portraying it accurately,” said Duncan. “I really don’t want that to be the narrative that comes out here.”
Coun. Scott Garnett said he is certain municipal staff will hear from the public about parking issues and Coun. Steve Duck said the plan would inevitably impact parking because its point is to re-shape traffic.
Council also voted later 5-2 with McNeil-Smith and Duck opposed to referring the plan to the Saanich Peninsula Accessibility Advisory Committee for review and comment, with staff preparing a short presentation.
Coun. Terri O’Keeffe said such a referral not only allows a regional perspective, but also pools feedback from individuals with mobility issues, a key group. Novek agreed with the referral, pointing to Sidney’s aging demographics.
McNeil-Smith and Duck, meanwhile, did not disagree with the argument that the committee would not provide valuable feedback, but wondered whether it would set precedent. If that committee were to receive a special presentation, why not other stakeholder groups, they asked.
Sidney’s draft active transportation plan proposes 20 improvements for local sidewalks and nine for cycling over 10 years totaling between $7 and $9 million — improvements that could help fight climate change.
The plan also proposes improvements to 12 local intersections totaling $250,000 to $300,000 over the the same time frame.
In short, close to $1 million per year could go toward improving active transportation in the community if every identified proposal were to be realized.
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