Stephen Harper of Cycle Newmarket said he has pushed for five years to get bike lanes on Prospect Street for the many cyclists using it.
With York Region starting resurfacing work on it in July, Harper said he and fellow cyclists had hoped to convince the region to add bike lanes while they were working on the street.
But the biking advocate was unable to make any headway.
“We thought it was a perfect time to re-enforce there should be more, rather than fewer, bike lanes. It just makes cycling safer,” Harper said. “Our primary concern is the safety of cyclists in Newmarket.”
Local cycling activists have pushed to dramatically expand bike lanes throughout the municipality for years, but Harper said they have struggled to make much progress. He said bike lanes on Prospect Street are important given the Mulock GO Station proposed for the area on Mulock Drive. The town is still planning to redevelop the Mulock corridor, in part to help whenever the stalled GO station project proceeds.
“Since the Mulock GO Station is going to be located on the south side of Mulock Drive, there are going to be an increased number of cyclists that want to use Prospect (Street) in order to get to it,” Harper said. “The time is right. If they're resurfacing, go ahead and put bike lanes in.”
In a response to Harper’s requests, the region said the project is limited in scope to laying new asphalt to keep the street in good repair, not configuring lane arrangement. But the reply said the region is working closely with the Town of Newmarket in developing the area, through the town’s Mulock Station Area Secondary Plan process.
“The addition of cycling facilities requires additional planning and coordinating beyond the scope of a resurfacing project,” customer relations coordinator Deborah Alves told Harper. “Staff are working closely with the Town of Newmarket to expand the region’s active transportation network through the Mulock Drive multi-use path (MUP) feasibility study and to investigate opportunities for future cycling facilities.”
The town’s active transportation plans came under fire in March, when the town opted to delay to bike lanes on Clearmeadow and William Roe.
Peggy Stevens, also of Cycle Newmarket, said the town needs to do more to promote active transportation. She also questions the direction of the multi-use path planned for Mulock Drive, which she said could lead to conflict between cyclists and other pedestrians.
“There are far more people in cycling than there were pre-COVID,” Stevens said. “The town needs to make sure people understand active transportation.”
Harper said the region has a “paralysis of perfection” when it comes to planning for bike lanes, and should make them a bigger priority in the planning stages.
York Region is historically dominated by cars — with 75 per cent of trips made under two kilometers done by car, according to a 2016 survey from the region. But Cycle Newmarket wants to help change that as municipalities plan for increased active transportation. Their hope is to get more cars off the road, for both the environment and congestion.
“The more cyclists we see on our streets, the better our community is,” Harper said.