Friday, May 27, 2011

Lemon Growers of Eastern Passage Unite!

Yesterday, I was almost struck by a car. I was walking my dog near my home, enjoying the sights and sounds of Eastern Passage, when a driver misjudged his speed and spacing. Fortunately he missed, and my children’s weekend was saved.
Typical scenery one would see safely if there was a sidewalk.
It was the second time on this stretch of road. After my first non-flying brush with death, I emailed my city representative and asked: “How would you recommend I proceed with getting a sidewalk/bike lane established along Shore Rd to Hartlen Point Gulf Course? 

Thankfully, I live in the highest taxed province in Canada, so there were plenty of people that came to my aide. 
My elected City Representative forwarded my one line email request to her ‘Council Constituency Coordinator.’ This nice lady replied to my email by giving me a reference number where I could track my inquiry’s progress online. She then forwarded my one sentence email to the Halifax Regional Municipality’s Traffic and Right of Way Department. There my sentence was reviewed and sorted and forwarded to the correct sub departments. 

Within a few days I received a very lengthy email detailing the municipality’s position on sidewalks and bike-lanes in my neighborhood. The email was drafted by two city staffers. One was responsible for “new sidewalk installations,” and the other was responsible for “on street bicycle infrastructure.” This is what they said.

This response is further to your request through Councillor XXXXXXXX for consideration of the installation of a sidewalk and bicycle lane on Shore Road to the Hartlen Point Golf Course. Thank you for bringing this request to our attention. I have coordinated this response with XXXX XXXXXX, who is responsible for new sidewalk installations, while I look after on-street bicycle infrastructure.

The bicycle lane in Eastern Passage currently runs on Main Road from the intersection of Hines Road to Cow Bay/ Shore Road. HRM's Active Transportation plan does not identify Shore Road beyond Cow Bay Road as a candidate route for bicycle lanes, probably because the road is not very busy and may have been considered adequate for use by cyclists without a dedicated facility. I did a quick Google Streetview assessment of the area nonetheless, and because of the curb on the inland side from Cow Bay Road to Shoreview Drive, it would be challenging to widen the road to install bike lanes on both sides. In one area around Norman's Lane, it would be impossible due to the proximity of the ocean. From Shoreview Drive down to the Golf course, paved shoulder bike lanes could be installed relatively easily (there would still be a cost +/-$80,000/km per side), but given that the connection inbound would be challenging, that it is not currently on the plan, and this cost would represent more than ½ of the best budget we have ever had in any one year for on road bike infrastructure, this is unlikely to happen in the near future. 

Typical scene one would see safely if there was a sidewalk.
Sidewalk Request
Prior to amalgamation, sidewalks were not required in several areas of HRM including areas of Sackville, Dartmouth and Halifax. Since then, all new developments have been installing sidewalks and we are rating areas without sidewalks and installing them, with the highest rated first. The rating takes into account potential for pedestrians including proximity to schools, daycares, parks, shopping, and public transit.  There are currently more than 250 locations on our rated list, based on our current funding, we are able to install 5-10 new locations a year.  The new sidewalks are funded 50% through capital budget and 50% through local improvement charges with limits approved by your local Councilor.
There is a sidewalk on the inland side of Shore Road from Cow Bay Road to Shoreview Drive. Sidewalks have been previously requested on Shore Road from Cow Bay Road to Government Wharf Rd, from Shoreview to Romkey, from Romkey to Caldwell Road and from Caldwell to Sandkey.  All of the above locations rate either at or below average, and therefore not high enough to be included in next years budget.  
I'm sorry I couldn't respond with better news, but I hope I have been able to give you some appreciation of the challenges faced in HRM with regards to the installation of infrastructure for Active Transportation.
I was impressed with the city’s response. My one sentence email request touched the desks of at least five city staff. Although my question wasn’t answered, I was impressed with the system in place that was able to tell me no before I even asked.
Oh sure I was disappointed to learn that while technically possible and economically feasible to have either a bike lane or sidewalk installed, my neighborhood development wasn’t in the city’s immediate plans. The 1.7 km of requested infrastructure would cost $140,000 and would cripple the city. In fact, based on their summation, I estimated that my neighborhood wouldn’t get a sidewalk or a bikelane for the next 25-50 years (250 areas listed/5-10 new infrastructure per year).  
I also walked away from my brush with civic government with a new sense of community pride. I was proud to live in a city that had a “Traffic and Right of Way Department,” and was dynamic enough to have people allocated for “New Sidewalk Installations” and another for “On Street Bicycle Infrastructure.” I was also impressed with how they referred to walking and bike riding as “Active Transportation.” It sounded very modern.
My one sentence crusade to city hall fizzled in December of last year. Life distracted me, and to be honest I was not that passionate about championing a sidewalk. Who gets passionate about sidewalks? My motive was pretty basic. I just didn’t want anyone to die. Plus, I think the view is a selling point for the city and could be marketed to help local businesses. 
My near death experience last night still didn’t inspire me. I was comfortable living dangerously in a sidewalkless world. Until that is I read this and this.
Surfing. Impressed?
The Halifax Regional Municipality, the very same people who informed me that my neighborhood could not get a sidewalk for 25-50 years, was approving $145,000 in public funds to give to a private company’s surfing competition. 
They say ‘you can’t fight city hall.’ They also said, ‘don’t argue with an idiot because you will loose every time.’ These articles inspired me to fight idiocy with idiocy, and believe me there is no bigger idiot than me. 

I have decided to organize an international sidewalk festival- Eastern Passage Lemon Aide Stand Celebration.
According to Mr. Bousquet there are several steps in receiving funds from the city.
Step One is to set up a non profit organization to front the grant.
I am very pleased to inform everyone that I am the new Chairman of the “Eastern Passage Lemon Growers Cooperative.” Lemon Growers in Eastern Passage have always felt under represented within the local community, and it was thought that by pooling resources together we would be able to reach more people with limited marketing capital. Eastern Passage lemons are known world wide for their bitterness, and some aficionados have claimed that they are ‘liquid sarcasm.”
Step two: Create a Promising Budget
Lemons: $50.00
Sugar: $100.00
Water: $15.00
Sidewalk: $145,000
Lemonade Concessions: $15.00
Concert Concessions: $190,000*
* I have yet to invite U2, Rolling Stones, and Old Man Luedecke. They have neither confirmed nor denied their attendance.  
Step Three- Inflate attendance figures.
Estimated attendance to the festival is 1 billion people.
Step Four- Pull the economic impact out of the ‘air’
The Festival will pull the province and the country out of debt. There will be a lemon in every pot and a lemon aide stand on every sidewalk or bikelane. I believe my business plan is as credible as the surfing competition. All I need for this to be a success is to have the City build me a sidewalk.


  1. Never mind -- in 25 years Shore Road will be under water. Did you know that its current location is its THIRD location ? The sea moves in and the road moves inland.

  2. I'll be there! Let me know when it's taking place and you can count me in!


  3. Chris, I can confirm my attendance and that of approximately 15,356 of my personal friends. Andrew.

  4. I'd recommend a boardwalk extension rather than a sidewalk. Cheaper to build and maintain, better view, and further from cars.


Please feel free to comment.