City Planning Committee Meeting, Monday, June 25th, 2012 — 2 Comments

  1. I circulated these comments to a few members last week via email. I thought that I’d share them with the larger group here. Sorry about the length.

    I attended the public open house last night with regards to Interpaving Ltd.’s subdivision proposed near Minnow Lake , south of existing big box stores. I have a few interesting observations, and I strongly suggest that the SCU make a public submission on this at the Planning Committee Meeting scheduled for June 25th.

    First, a quick description. The subdivision design is relatively standard, although the density is higher than some other subdivisions which have come forward, due to an area being set aside for townhomes and low-rise apartments (closer to the big box retail). What is interesting is that the subdivision will be bisected by a new north-south road called Silver Hills Drive, which will in the north connect with the existing Silver Hills Drive which now outlets at the signalized intersection at the Kingsway (the one where you turn into Chapters, Kelsey’s) and will connect with Marcus Drive in front of the Rona and create access to Barrydowne.

    In the south, Silver Hills Drive is expected to connect at the Bellvue/Bancroft intersection. This is the real area of controversy. Apparently, many residents don’t want to see the connection there at all (which will turn a 3-way intersection into a 4-way, and given that Silver Hills will be a new connection to the Kingsway, there’s concerns about traffic). I learned last night that the connection to Bellvue/Bancroft has been shown in the City’s Official Plan since the 1980s or thereabouts. It was certainly included in the 2007 plan. Anyway, I’ll write more about the intersection later. Suffice it to say right now is that the southern portion of Silver Hills drive and area of the intersection are located on lands not controlled by the developer. And although the developer will be paying for intersection upgrades as part of the development agreement they’ll enter into with the City, the ultimate design decisions of the intersection rest with the City, and not the developer.

    OK, here are some of the interesting things that I learned. The developer and the City have worked together to identify a few other connections between the subdivision property and other areas, and the developer has agreed to:

    -Upgrade the existing Blueberry Hill walking trail on city-owned lands located to the west of the subdivision. The trail will become more accessible for elderly/young hikers, as it is to be straightened out and woodchipped. Not sure how other hikers might feel about this, but I was left with the impression that this was the City’s idea.

    -Create a new bike/pedestrian off-road connection between the new Silver Hills Drive to the east and the back part of the Carmichael Arena on Bancroft in the west. This off-road trail will mean that cyclists will have another way to access Silver Hills and Bancroft from a midpoint.

    -Create a new bike/pedestrian off-road path/trail immediately north of the subdivision, along its entire boundary. Apparently, the City has a pipeline easement in this area, and wants to see minimal development occur along this corridor. I’m not certain where the corridor begins or ends, so I don’t know what this bike path trail will connect to, but I figure if they start to build part of it, likely the rest of it will be built at some time, utilizing the rest of the utility corridor.

    And finally…Silver Hills drive running north/south throughout the subdivision will have an extra 3 metres added to the right of way in order to accommodate bike lanes!

    More on that in a moment, but generally speaking we’ve got a development proposal here where the developer is planning on creating two new bike connections on lands they don’t own, along with a major new north-south connection running from Bancroft north to the big box area (so it could potentially hook up to the Kingsway or Barrydowne). What’s refreshing to see is that the developer is thinking about the needs of cyclists! Which is why, in part, I think that the SCU should publicly state that we’re in favour of the bike-related aspects of the development proposal.

    Now, back to the Silver Hills Drive bike lane for a moment. Right now, the plan calls for off-street lanes running on the east side of Silver Hills road. Picture the bike lanes on the boulevard along Paris Street between Science North and Bell Park . Two bike lanes, next to each other, running north and south. They’re not proposing on-street bike lanes on Silver Hills. I don’t think that the lanes are intended to be raised up on a boulevard, however. I think that they are intended to be at-grade.

    Of course, I thought that this was foolish, and I still mostly do, however it could be workable. Some of the flaws are pretty obvious, though. There are a number of intersections which these lanes will traverse, where interior subdivision roads meet Silver Hills Drive (there aren’t, however, any new units with frontage on Silver Hills Drive , so there won’t be driveways crossing the lanes). As the lanes are off-road, cyclists would be expected to dismount and cross as pedestrians, as the lanes are more like sidewalks than actual bike lanes.

    Second, not sure how these lanes would connect to existing bike infrastructure along Bancroft, no matter where Silver Hills Drive eventually outlets in the south.

    Personally, I think it’s foolish to build new bike lanes which aren’t on the road, but apparently they’ve designed it this way because people living in the neighbourhood don’t like bike lanes on their roads! And of course, the City went along with this because they also have concerns about on-street bike lanes for safety reasons.

    I told the developer’s planner as much…this is a dumb idea. We talked a little more about it, and apparently there may be a way to allow cyclists right-of-way at the intersections by setting stop signs further back from the road way. I’m not sure if this can be done (and in defence of the Planner, she wasn’t sure either, and indicated that she hadn’t looked into it because everyone just assumed that cyclists would be happy to dismount and behave as pedestrians).

    So, if anybody has ever heard of north-south lanes being given right-of-way at an intersection, I’d love to hear about it.

    What’s apparent, though, is that there hasn’t been any consultation with people who actually bike, else this design would have been relegated to the trash before it ever found legs. So, I suggested that the Planner do some consultation with the people who will actually use the infrastructure. Celia Teale, the Planner, is going to try to arrange a meeting over the next week with interested SCU people, to discuss the proposal.

    The good news is that the 3 metres is going to be allocated for cyclists regardless, so the substantive issues about the lanes could be dealt with later. The fact that they’re thinking of creating a new north-south connection (or at least a part of new connection) for cyclists is what’s important, and is why I think we need to express a good news story for Planning Committee.

    Now, the Bellvue/Bancroft/Silver Hills intersection. Local residents, and the Minnow Lake CAN, don’t want to see Silver Hills connect to Bellvue/Bancroft. The starting point of their objections actually goes beyond that: they don’t want to see any subdivision road connect with the Bancroft corridor at all, as there are fears that any new connection would bring additional traffic to Bancroft/Bellvue/Howey Drive , turning it into the new Kingsway.

    If access must be contemplated, they want Silver Hills Drive to outlet further to the east, at Shappert Drive . But generally speaking, they don’t want a connection.

    The developer has presumed a connection would occur, because of the long-standing depiction of such a connection running through their property to the existing Bellvue/Bancroft intersection. They prepared a traffic study with this connection in mind. The traffic study determined that both a conventional, signalized intersection, or a roundabout, could be used to facilitate traffic flow.

    They had depictions of both types of intersections available for viewing last night. Neither diagram showed existing bike lanes on Bancroft and Bellvue. This made me nervous, so I asked the Planner why this was. She indicated that the drawings were put together very quickly, and the bike lanes were omitted only because of time, and not for any other reason. I expressed to her that in the future it would be wise not to do that, as any time cyclists see diagrams which include areas of existing cycling infrastructure where the infrastructure has been removed, we get nervous.

    Anyway, there is no talk at this time (apparently) of removing the existing bike lanes from Bellvue/Bancroft.

    Now, about the roundabout. Residents apparently really really don’t like it. They believe that it will be a barrier for pedestrians and lead to more vehicle collisions, because Sudbury drivers don’t know how to drive.

    I can confirm that the roundabout is intended to be a single-lane roundabout only, which is actually the safer kind for cyclists. Cyclists entering the roundabout should take the entire lane through the roundabout, and then enter back into bike lanes at their desired exit. All in all, I’m not a fan of roundabouts, but I have to say that with certain elements, this roundabout would probably be less problematic for cyclists than others might be, because of the scale/scope. Example: the addition of signage advising cyclists to “take the lane” will both tell cyclists what they should do when traversing the roundabout, and give motorists the heads-up that a cyclists is expected to take the lane.

    The pedestrian issues are actually more considerable. A currently signalized intersection will be changed to one without signals, which means pedestrians will only be able to cross when it’s “safe” to do so. Cars will have the right of way at all times. Essentially, the zebra lines painted on the ground will have the same impact as those which exist between the bus depot and the Rainbow Mall where they cross Elm Street . Meaning that pedestrians will need to take their lives into their hands when they cross.

    But, from a cyclist’s perspective, the roundabout might not be so bad. The message that the SCU can and I think should deliver is that we want to be involved with further discussions about the intersection (or wherever Silver Hills Drive eventually outlets). The SCU and Rainbow Routes (and probably the Minnow Lake CAN) should be involved in the process of making the Silver Hills Drive intersection safe for all users.

    Interestingly, the traffic study produced by the developer didn’t take cyclists into consideration with regards to the intersection (apparently, there is a single paragraph in the traffic study which speaks to cyclists on internal subdivision streets, but not the intersection). The developer has agreed to share the traffic study with me, and I suspect she’d be amenable to sharing it with others in our organization who might actually have a clue (unlike me) when they read it with their Engineers glasses on.

    Sorry for the length of this email. I’m going to be out of communication from now until Monday morning, but I wanted to get this off to you in anticipation of Celia contacting the SCU over the next few days. I think this is an exciting opportunity for more cycling infrastructure (and it will even connect to existing infrastructure!), but there are a few design elements which we need more say on.

  2. Just sharing some notes that I’ve made regarding the specifics of the Subdivision approval. You may wish to have a copy of the City’s Staff Report on hand when reviewing these notes.

    Silver Hills Subdivision


    Condition No. 11 of draft plan approval indicates that the Traffic Study is to be “finalized” – this would be the SCU’s way in to further involvement in the process, without risking the requested approvals.

    Condition No. 12 – Silver Hills Drive to be constructed to a “collector standard” of 11m with sidewalks along both sides of the road.

    Condition No. 13 – this one is problematic. Calls for the construction of a 3m wide 2-way bike path behind the sidewalk on the east side of Silver Hills Drive. Request the removal of this condition, and amendment to condition No. 12 to reference a 14m width for on-street bike lanes.

    Condition No. 14 – refers to a roundabout as being the preferred intersection option, but says if one is not “feasible” a conventional intersection will suffice. What criteria will be used to determine “feasibility”? Who will make the call, City or Developer? There should be the requirement for continued consultation with neighbours and with end users, such as cyclists.

    Condition No. 17 explicitly indicates that Silver Hills Drive is to be constructed using traffic calming measures (in accordance with City’s traffic calming policy). Time and again it has been shown that on-street bike lanes calm traffic. If traffic calming along this new street is the goal, let’s put the bike lanes on the street!

    Note: review City’s traffic calming policy.

    Condition No. 18 indicates that the owner agrees to provide a 23 metre wide right-of-way for Silver Hills Drive. Likely the bike path will be within that right-of-way. Another option then would be to eliminate conditions No. 12, 13 and 17, and craft a new condition which references only that the roadway will be constructed to a collector standard, with sidewalks on both sides of the road, and two north/south 1.5 metre wide corridors (or something else) for bicycle traffic and that traffic calming be provided. All to the satisfaction of the City. Details to be worked out later in consultation with neighbourhood groups, pedestrians, cyclists.

    But better to get the lanes on the road in the draft plan.

    Condition No. 38 requires the construction of a 3 metre wide mixed use bike/pedestrian crushed stone trail from Carmichael Arena to the new Silver Hills Road, to the satisfaction of Leisure Services and the NDCA. Note that this is not to be a commuter trail, but may well be used as one should Silver Hills Drive not ultimately connect with existing bike infrastructure along Bancroft.

    Condition No. 41 requires the construction of a 3 metre wide mixed use bike/pedestrian crushed stone trail from Silver Hills to Second Avenue, thus linking Falconbridge/Second Avenue corridor directly to Bancroft Howey. Safe cycling infrastructure from Second Avenue south of big boxes all the way west to Van Horne and almost into the downtown, once the Elgin Street Greenway is constructed in accordance with the Downtown Master Plan and the recent Budget request by the DVDC. Also, linking Falconbridge corridor to Bell Park and Laurentian University. Bravo! Connectivity at last!

    Note that this connection will happen with or without Silver Hills Drive connecting to Bancroft, as Condition No. 38 requires a connection between Silver Hills Drive and Carmichael Arena on Bancroft, so whatever Planning Committee decides to do with the Silver Hills/Bancroft connection, it won’t impact this new cycling connection.

    So now we just need to get rid of the centre turning lane on Falconbridge and put some bike lanes on that street and provide a safe cycling venue from Garson to Laurentian University and the downtown.

    Staff report indicates that Roads, Traffic and Transportation Department says that roundabouts reduce collision frequency and severity, due to lower speeds. Although studies show this to be the case for motorized vehicles, I’m not sure that this statement is supportable when it comes to bicycles. Other studies (list them here: ) indicate that the frequency of collisions between motorized vehicles and bicycles actually increases by a factor of 3 at roundabouts. So cyclists are 3 times as likely to be hit at a roundabout versus a conventional intersection. But there are mitigating factors here: the roundabout is only to be a single lane, which is helpful if cyclists “take the lane” when entering the roundabout. Signage should be provided to let cyclists and motorists know what to expect. The bike lanes on Bellvue/Bancroft should terminate within the roundabout, forcing cyclists to take the lane.

    Studies do seem to agree that roundabouts reduce fatal collisions for cyclists, due to lower travel velocities, but studies largely do not support the statement regarding reduced collisions.

    While staff report highlights that pedestrian crossing distances are shorter, there is no mention of that the pedestrian crossing will be signalized, or that pedestrians must be given the right-of-way somehow.

    Nowhere does the staff report indicate that the cycling community was consulted with regards to the proposed infrastructure improvements. We encourage the city and developers to reach out to cyclists during the early part of the consultation process.