Anybody who rides a bicycle knows the challenges of riding in traffic. You might start your trip on a local street or a rural road, but sooner or later (usually sooner) you hit a busy arterial, speedy highway, or difficult intersection. Although seasoned riders can often cope with high traffic speeds and volumes, for most riders this can be a major deterrent to cycling. As long as riders have to contend with and behave like cars (which they are not), cycling’s tremendous potential will be held back.


Streets Designed for All Ages and Abilities

Changing attitudes about our transportation system has led to new planning and design ideas that recognize the limitations of mixing cars and bikes and seek ways to disentangle them. This thinking, championed by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), is referred to as bicycle design for All Ages and Abilities (AAA). AAA inspired plans are already transforming Canadian cities like Victoria, Vancouver, Canmore, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and are commonplace in Europe (see Netherlands 27% bicycle share of nationwide trips).


AAA arrived in Nova Scotia when HRM passed the Integrated Mobility Plan. With it came plans for an AAA Cycling Network that would connect a system of traffic-calmed local street bikeways, protected bike lanes, and pathways. By creating an uninterrupted cycling experience comfortable for novice cyclists, it has the potential to attract thousands of new riders and make cycling more appealing in terms of convenience, safety, and enjoyment on short trips. For people that want to get active on their way to work, or save a few thousand dollars per year on household expenses, it could be a game changer.


HRM’s Commitment

HRM pledged to build the AAA network by 2022 with the understanding that the network has a $25M dollar price tag. When budget deliberations kicked off this week however, the Proposed 2019-2020 Multi-Year Capital Program Budget had a multimillion-dollar hole in the way of completing the AAA network, which includes some big-ticket items such as the Macdonald Bridge Bikeway connections. Underfunding the network is deeply problematic as benefits to residents will be delayed and roadwork projects could proceed without including necessary bicycle infrastructure; cycling and AT plans will be set back decades.


Although listed as priorities in the Integrated Mobility Plan, each piece of the AAA network, including the North End-West End Bikeways projects and the Downtown Bikeways Project, will need to be approved by HRM Council on a project-by-project basis. Even though Council has endorsed these plans in principle, councilors will only gain confidence to move forward if residents actively voice their support and reaffirm that compromises made at the project level will reduce the overall long-term benefits of the AAA network.


Support Cycling in HRM

The AAA Cycling Network is a big turning point for HRM and it’s a plan that could lead to transformational changes in how residents move around the city. But it won’t get done without allocating the proper funding.


It’s important that we all reach out to our councilors and show our support. A straightforward email supporting investment and adherence to prioritizing bikes on bicycle routes in the AAA Network is enough to help bring the importance of this issue into focus. Support for specific projects, particularly from individuals who will benefit directly, are also important; the more people who write the better.


HRM residents that wish to voice support for the AAA Network can find their councilor’s contact information here. We’d appreciate it if those who do write can keep us in the loop by cc’ing us in your email: [email protected].