- by Bill Stobbe

As we head closer to a municipal election this fall, all prospective councillors and mayoral candidates should be putting forward their fresh ideas on how to make Owen Sound a better place to live and work. How can we make our streets and neighbourhoods safer? How can we attract more development and support our local businesses and industries? How can we make our city departments run as efficiently and effectively as possible? How can we market Owen Sound as the place where people want to relocate to and call home?

Owen Sound is a wonderful place to live and raise a family, however, there is so much untapped potential that can make it even better.

We need more identified bike lanes and more effective traffic control.
Whenever I travel outside of Canada, I am amazed at how well some cities and countries promote bike usage as a means of transportation. The Netherlands is probably the best example of creating a bike centric society. Their bicycle lanes are extensive and extremely well marked and in many areas the asphalt is painted a different colour. In downtown Amsterdam, bikes are everywhere and have priority over cars and even pedestrians. In the right environment, biking can be a fast, cheap and safe mode of transportation. Along with the many health benefits, biking is also environmentally friendly. The Netherlands gets an A+ on their commitment to biking. Unfortunately, Owen Sounds gets a D-. They say there are “family friendly” bike routes on the city website, but most are not marked on the road. It’s not difficult to paint lines and identifiers for bike lanes. We know we have the ability but sadly the desire to do this seems to be lacking.

Right now, biking in Owen Sound is very dangerous. The first step to solving this issue is to create a committee with members from the local bike clubs and interested parties to lay out a city wide network of bike lanes and paths. We don’t need high priced, outside consultants who don’t know Owen Sound to tell us what they think we need. We have enough expertise and knowledge locally to do this right. We can also look to other cities to see how they are transitioning to being more bike friendly. As well, the City should create a bylaw requiring all new residential subdivisions MUST incorporate both sidewalks and bike lanes into their plans. This would apply to developments not yet built including the Telfer Creek, Redhawk and Flato projects on 8th Street East by the hospital and across from Georgian College. This is simply smart urban planning and the citizens of Owen Sound should not settle for less.

Here is a wonderful website to learn more about bike lanes. https://www.reliance-foundry.com/blog/bikeways-bike-infrastructure

When integrating bike lanes into the road network, we also need to use various traffic calming strategies such as speed bumps or humps and lane adjustments. By adding bike lanes, the narrower streets automatically encourage slower driving as they require more concentration and accurate steering. Speed bumps or humps are also very effective in reducing excessive speed for roads that have long distances between stop signs or in school zones. We’ve all seen drivers speed dangerously through city streets. There are many residential streets in Owen Sound that are well suited for bike lanes and traffic calming strategies. Here are a few that immediately come to mind:

4th Ave. West from 8th St. to Greenwood Cemetery;
6th Ave. West from 10th St. W. to Blacks Park (A long section of this road doesn’t even have sidewalks and it is a busy route to Hillcrest School);
All of 7th Ave. East;
9th St. West by OSDSS;

The ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive network of bike lanes throughout the city to encourage a safe, family friendly biking environment. The benefits of a more active, bike centric lifestyle are enormous. Biking improves our physical fitness, it’s better for the environment and it’s an inexpensive mode of transportation. It’s time for our politicians to get behind this initiative. For all Councillor and Mayoral candidates, I encourage you to show your support with a Letter to the Editor and on social media and commit to making Owen Sound more bike friendly.

Bill Stobbe is a long time resident of Owen Sound and a local business owner. He can be reached at [email protected] and welcomes your ideas on how to make Owen Sound better.




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