Two delegations present on Beckwith St. redevelopment in Smiths Falls
Two more delegations have come before Smiths Falls council to raise concerns over the complete street design that council has chosen for the Beckwith St. redevelopment.
The first delegation by Marshall Hogan, raised new concerns over the position of the bike lane in relation to cars with wheel chair ramps and drivers with accessibility needs.
“Once I descend from my van, I will encroach 1.38 meters (4.5 ft) into the bike lane,” said Hogan, who drives an accessible van with a ramp to accommodate his wheelchair. “Who will get injured…the disabled person,” he asked and answered.
The complete street design chosen for the Beckwith Street reconstruction currently includes a 0.7 meter (2.29 ft) buffer between a parked car and the 2.4 meter (8 Ft) wide bike lane. The design also places designated accessible parking at the beginning of each block where the raised intersections mean that cyclists are elevated and better able to see pedestrians on the bike lane, explained Troy Dunlop, director of Public Works and Utilities.
“Seeing the measurement of ramps and encroachment, I think I would like to go back to Parsons and examine some of those design elements, certainly we do not wish to put people at risk,” said Dunlop. “If there is a better approach to side ramps, we certainly want to get it right.”
Current MTO rules designated bike lanes as shared space with pedestrians, and cyclists are required to yield to wheelchairs or walkers.
“Your point is well taken regarding the risk to side ramps and wheelchairs, and the example you just showed us with the bigger buffer zone around handicapped parking sites is something we will consider,” said Mayor Shawn Pankow.
Hogan also pointed out that eliminating the bike lane would likely make it more feasible for businesses to accommodate accessibility needs.
“I hesitate to say this, but without the bike lane you have more room for the building owner to do what they have to do to allow more accessibility in the downtown, whether building ramps or bringing the door down to me,” said Hogan.
The second delegation was from a non-resident and former Smiths Falls interim CAO Steve Fournier.
“A highly functional downtown should meet the needs of the community and look to the future,” Fournier told council.
He also urged council to consider engaging with the public, and seek ‘meaningful input’ to the delight of many audience members who loudly supported the suggestion.
Fournier’s main issue with the complete street design was what he sees as a loss of parking spaces on Beckwith.
“In my opinion, the reduction in parking supply will have a negative impact on shoppers and merchants,” he told council.
In response CAO Malcolm Morris referenced the recently completed Parking Study conducted by an independent consultant, which showed that parking occupancy at peak hours in the downtown rarely exceeds 75 percent.
Fournier went on to question the need for bike lanes in the downtown core.
“From a tourism perspective it’s a huge advantage to have cycling lanes on Beckwith,” said Councillor Chris McGuire to derision and booing from the audience.
Fournier went on to question why parking spaces are not been delineated with painted lines.
As Morris explained no decision has yet been taken as to whether parking spaces on Beckwith will or will not be delineated. That decision will be made after the second phase of the parking study, which will look at how parking payments are managed. However Morris did point out that it has already been proven that the lack of delineated spaces tends to result in people parking close together and better accommodates vehicles of varying sizes…giving the example of Princess Street in Kingston to more booing and derision from certain members of the audience.
As a former land use planner and CAO Fournier was asked by Councillor Niki Dwyer what he would have done differently 18 months ago.
“I would sit down and analyze how the street design is going to function,” said Fourner. “I’m not suggesting that you haven’t done some functional analysis, but I would have liked to have gone back and dived into the details.”
While Fournier’s comments delighted the audience and were very well received by council, they did not bring any new information to the issue.
“If we want a downtown that functions for everyone, we look towards a complete street, which best meets the needs of the majority of needs. The reduction in parking spaces is the same with either street configuration,” concluded Pankow.
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