Posted July 24, 2015
In the first seven months of the new Guelph council, it seemed like a redux of the one that it replaced.
The voters clearly and decisively voted for change or a new direction. They soundly defeated three-term mayor Karen Farbridge and elected Cam Guthrie to replace her.
Last Monday following a disappointing attempt to change the methodology of preparing a city budget, council heard a number of delegations commenting on changing Speedvale Avenue to accommodate bicycle lanes.
There were four basic options including a staff recommendation that eventually was adopted by a seven to five vote. Voting for the resolution were Councillors Mayor Guthrie, Billings, Bell, Wettstein, Van Hellemond, MacKinnon, and Gibson. Voting against were Councillors Salisbury, Allt, Gordon, Piper, and Downer, all former Farbridge councillors with the exception of Phil Allt.
The result is the first major decision by the new council in which the staff and majority of council delivered a common sense plan.
The stretch of Speedvale between Riverview Drive and Manhattan Court is one of the most heavily travelled in the city. Yet it is almost impossible to widen the road to accommodate bike lanes. It is because the high cost of appropriating frontages along the route and building a new bridge over the Speed River.
The staff proposal made sense and yet the five councillors who voted against it, don’t seem to understand that the people did not want their property impacted to accommodate bike lanes.
The silliest proposal came from a former city councillor, Vicki Beard, who pushed to have the street re-marked into three lanes with only one lane open in either direction. This so-called ‘road diet’ has been installed on Silver Creek, Stevenson and part of Elmira Road. The result is increased vehicle congestion and frustration.
When Speedvale was resurfaced earlier this summer from Woolwich to Westmount, east and westbound traffic on Speedvale was squeezed into a single lane as the work proceeded. The result was long line-ups at Woolwich, that stretched east past Delhi and west from Westmount to Edinburgh and beyond.
This was a precursor to the effects of the ‘road diet’, favoured by the five councillors who would have Speedvale vehicle lanes reduced to permit bike lanes.
But the vote was more meaningful than all that. It was a victory of common sense by a majority of councillors and a sound plan brought to the table by city staff.
James Gordon who represents the people living on Speedvale, voted against adopting the staff plan that did not include bike lanes. He put his politics ahead of the common interest. Maybe he should get out more and talk to his constituents.
Perhaps its time to scrap the city bicycle lane plan until some pressing other capital projects are addressed. These include, the Wilson Street Parking garage, the south end recreation centre, and downtown library. Also, has council forgotten that the Urbacon settlements must be repaid to the three reserve funds that were used to pay off various judgments and construction costs?
This is 2015 and council cannot continue the abortive spending policies of the previous administration. The city must live within its means and serve the people. That’s all the people, not just the minority that prefers ‘active transportation’ and demand expensive special lanes.
Congratulations to staff and council for restoring the people’s confidence.