At the December 17 meeting, Sarnia City Council directed City Staff to solicit public input on a proposal for the addition of bike lanes on Michigan Avenue from Christina Street to Colborne Road.
Michigan Avenue is a County Road and the County of Lambton is planning to reconstruct this section of the road in 2019. The current lanes are narrower than modern design standards but widening the road would require moving the hydro pole line which would be very expensive. The volume of traffic on Michigan Avenue does not require four lanes to function efficiently so the County is planning to proceed with a road diet to reduce the road to three lanes. This provides the opportunity to add infrastructure for other modes of transportation like cycling.
Dedicated on-street bike lanes provide a safe space for cyclists and make active transportation a more attractive option for the approximately 60% of the population who are not comfortable cycling in vehicle lanes. It also eliminates the need for vehicles to shift lanes to pass cyclists. Providing active transportation alternatives makes our city a better place to live, enhances the health of our community, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Wouldn’t a separated bike path be better than on street bike lanes?
Separated bike paths are the ideal cycling infrastructure but are not appropriate in all situations. A separated multi-use path on the south side of the road was considered but insufficient space exists to install one. The multi-use path would be narrower than the minimum recommended width and would by immediately adjacent to the curb on one side and hydro poles on the other side without any minimum buffer space from those obstacles. Moving the hydro poles is prohibitively expensive. The other complication with separated multi-use trails are that cyclists are technically supposed to dismount and walk across intersections as they are crossing the road at the pedestrian crosswalk locations but there is a very low compliance rate at other locations for this.
Why Was This Route Selected?
This route was identified as a long term cycling route in the Transportation Master Plan. It would connect the existing bike lanes on Colborne Road with the multi-use trail system starting at Christina Street. The reconstruction of the road by the County provides the opportunity to implement the bike lanes now.
What is a Road Diet?
The project includes the implementation of a road diet on Michigan Avenue from Christina Street to Colborne Road. A road diet is the conversion of a 4-lane road to a 3-lane road. 3-lane roads are safer than a 4-lane road for all modes of transportation as they align opposing left turning vehicles, reduce conflict points by eliminating lane shifting, and simplify crossing for pedestrians. Studies have shown that road diets have led to a decrease in overall collisions in the range of 19% – 47%. Colborne Road which recently underwent a road diet carries approximately 11,000 vehicles per day and this section of Michigan Avenue only carries around 5,500 vehicles per day.
A Traffic Study was completed in November 2018 to analyze the impact of reducing Michigan Avenue at this location from 4-lanes to 3-lanes. The study concluded that all intersections would still operate at a good level of service.
Will This Project Impact On-Street Parking?
Existing road width currently used for on-street parking will need to be reallocated to be used for the proposed bike lanes. Parking between Newell Street and Errol Road will need to be fully removed. The road diet needs to be extended east of Colborne Road on Michigan to ensure the lanes line up at the intersection. Residents who currently utilize this on-street parking would have to use nearby side streets.
The section between Christina Street and Newell Street has a number of alternative options each with their own pros and cons. One of the alternatives could allow some on-street parking to remain.
Christina Street to Newell Street Alternatives
The section from Newell Street to Errol Road needs to remove all on street parking in order to accommodate the centre left turn lanes for the intersections. The section from Christina Street to Newell Street has a few alternative options because a dedicated left turn lane wouldn’t be required beyond the intersections to serve the residential properties along the north side of the road.
This option would reduce the width of the road in between the intersections. There would be minor cost savings with less asphalt. All on street parking would be removed and eastbound left turning traffic to residential properties would block the through lane.
This option allows for on-street parking along the north side of the road. It would force the westbound through lane to shift over for this section and eastbound left turning traffic would block the through lane.
This option would maintain the same cross section from Christina to Colborne. Although the amount of left turns into the residential properties on the north side of the road would not require a turn lane it would be a benefit to through traffic to move them out of the through lane. It also maintains the through lanes consistently through this entire section.
The cost for the minor additional road width, pavement markings, and signage related to the proposed bike lanes is $150,000. An application has been made to have this project covered by the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling grant that the City received in 2018. The grant would cover 80% of the project cost and the remaining 20% ($30,000) would be covered by the City.
A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at King George VI Public School at 585 O’Dell Avenue from 6:30pm – 8pm. It is a drop-in style meeting where you can come at any time to view the proposed design, get answers to your questions, and provide input.
The City welcomes your feedback on this proposed cycling route and the alternative options. Written comments related to the project should be submitted to the Engineering Department by Thursday, January 31, 2019. Comments can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to the Engineering Department, 3rd Floor, Sarnia City Hall, 255 North Christina Street, P.O. Box 3018, Sarnia, Ontario N7T 7N2.
A report will be prepared for the Monday, February 11, 2019 Sarnia City Council meeting with a summary of the feedback received.