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Cycling Infrastructure in PEI's Capital Region: Charlottetown, Stratford, and Cornwall

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To the Municipality of Charlottetown, the Municipality of Stratford, the Municipality of Cornwall, and the PEI Department of Transportation:

I write you today to advocate for increased and improved cycling infrastructure in the capital region of PEI, including Charlottetown, Stratford, and Cornwall. There are many benefits to increasing our cycling infrastructure, and though there are associated costs, these are offset by both financial and intangible benefits to Islanders.

It should be pointed out that tremendous work has been done already. The trail in Stratford has done much to connect its trails with the stretch of the Confederation Trail to Murray Harbour. Charlottetown also boasts a spine of the Confederation trail running North/South, a number of smaller trails, as well has painted bike lanes. The Planning Department of the City of Charlottetown has worked to develop a Master Plan, the Eastern Gateway Waterfront Development Plan, and clearly has intended increased cycling infrastructure in the future. The Town of Stratford’s official plan includes a vision for a Waterfront Plaza, interconnected with existing and future trails to other parts of the town. The Town of Cornwall also recognizes the importance of cycling in its official plan. The three municipalities have worked together to develop the Regional Active Transportation Plan in 2012. Credit is due for the vision and hard work that has been done by many on these projects.

Still, there is much room to grow. Although these plans exist, only the bravest cyclists venture between the three towns across the Hillsborough Bridge or the North River Causeway. Children and vulnerable persons may feel daunted at the prospect of braving the streets with only a (sporadic) painted line as protection. The existing infrastructure remains frustratingly disconnected in places, and other areas leave much room for improvement.

It should also be noted that these paths would incur a short-term cost to municipal budgets. It’s understandable to ask why this cost is justified. In terms of our provincial economy, think of Islanders’ hard-earned money that flows out of the province in the form of cars and gasoline. In 2014, the average Island household spent almost $12 000 on transportation (source). Approximately 23 000 cars cross the North River Causeway every day. (Rudimentary math makes that over $200 million per year sent away to Esso, Irving, Ford, Toyota, etc.) If only a fraction of those cars were taken off the road for only half the year, those peoples’ salaries would instead be spent on other local products and services, resulting in more tax revenue and direct economic benefit here on PEI.

In addition, the status quo incurs health care costs for a couple of reasons. PEI has one of the highest obesity rates in Canada. A car-based lifestyle is associated with a higher rate of obesity. Getting people out of their cars and onto their bikes would not only save our healthcare system money, but would improve people's health and well-being; intangible but priceless. At least one study suggests that those who cycle live longer than those who don’t. (source) Another concern, is the danger of cyclists and motorists sharing the same roadway. There are tangible health care and productivity costs due to accidents (source). Even on PEI, every few years there is a death. One could argue that we have a moral responsibility to reduce these risks in order to save lives.

Finally, we have to ask about the climate impact of so much vehicular transportation. Cars have a huge impact. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, one car produces almost 10 000 lbs of CO2 per year (source). If we are serious about our commitment as a province of Canada to the Paris Agreement of 2015, then we must do more to curb our carbon emissions. Prince Edward Island is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels as the decades roll on. The switch to cycling is an obvious solution to a persistent problem, the car-based transportation network that we as North Americans take for granted.

I’d also like to be specific about what I’m advocating for. Painted lines may provide a safety reminder to drivers, and perhaps even a legal protection for cyclists (similar to crosswalks for pedestrians), but statistically, they are not as safe as cycling paths separated from the roadway by a curb or other barrier. More timid riders, parents with young children, and older people would feel more confident venturing on a bike ride if they knew they weren’t on the street in traffic. This is especially important on high-speed stretches, such as the North River Causeway and the Hillsborough Bridge. Separate cycling paths would do much more to increase ridership in a safe  way.

I call on the Town of Cornwall to create a separate cycling path to connect the core of Cornwall and the populated area of North River with a separated cycling path to the base of the North River Causeway. I implore you to increase the necessary section of the municipal budget to make this possible in the short term, within the next 1-2 years. A future phase of this infrastructure could extend along other arteries of the Town, such as around the Ferry/York Point Roads, up the Warren Grove Road (possibly to connect to the Confederation Trail directly at Milton), up the Kingston Road, and past Elliot River School to the town limits as far as Clyde River.

I call on the Town of Stratford to bring the Confederation trail right to the base of the Hillsborough Bridge, and to continue connecting populated and commercial areas with existing trail infrastructure, eliminating gaps and designing safe crossings and separate cycling paths when possible. Once the main part of the Town is interconnected and connected to the trail, future trails could extend down past Tea Hill or around Keppoch, and up the Bunbury/Fort Augustus roads as far as town limits.

I call on the Prince Edward Island Department of Transportation to install barriers on one side of the North River Causeway, creating a two-way cycling path, while narrowing the existing four lanes and the emergency shoulder on the other side, connecting a new path in Cornwall with a new path in Charlottetown. I ask the Department to do the same on the Hillsborough Bridge, connecting the Joe Ghiz Memorial Park trailhead in Charlottetown to the Confederation Trail in Stratford.

I call on the City of Charlottetown to design a cycling path that connects the North River Causeway via Maypoint to the Confederation trail, either around Ellen’s Creek and the Hermitage Creek trails across UPEI, or directly along Capital Drive to connect near Canadian Tire. I ask the City to re-designate the walking trail along Murchison Drive, Acadian Drive, and Robertson Road to a shared walking/cycling path, and to connect this trail seamlessly across Park Street to Joe Ghiz Park on the south end, and design a connection through East Royalty and up Route 25 to connect with the Confederation Trail at York on the north end, or as far as city limits on St Peter’s Road. I ask the City to link the spine of the Confederation Trail in town to neighbourhoods such as West Royalty, Sherwood, Brighton, Spring Park, and the downtown 500-lot area; using safe cycling paths that are separated from vehicular traffic. This may require narrowing two-way streets to one-way and installing barriers, or other traffic flow changes.

I call on all parties to swiftly implement the changes recommended in the 2012 Regional Active Transportation Plan by adjusting budgets and making cycling a priority.

I wish to acknowledge and thank all parties for the work they are currently doing. It takes vision and courage to steer the ship of government while managing the taxpayer’s dollar.

I wish merely to express how I want my dollar spent.
Thank you,

Josh Underhay
Charlottetown, PEI

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