Macdonald Bridge closures have been havoc for cyclists

As the bike lane re-opening keeps getting pushed further and further, I continue to feel frustrated and disheartened.

click to enlarge Amanda Stevens is a librarian, indexer, DJ, and forager who lives in north Dartmouth and gets around by bike most of the year. - SUBMITTED
Amanda Stevens is a librarian, indexer, DJ, and forager who lives in north Dartmouth and gets around by bike most of the year.
Since June 2015, cyclists have not been allowed to cross the Macdonald Bridge on their bikes. While drivers have only had to deal with bridge closures on evenings and weekends, the bridge has been closed to cyclists all of the time. As the bike lane re-opening keeps getting pushed further and further ahead, I continue to feel frustrated and disheartened.

Since you may not be a cyclist who travels regularly to Dartmouth yourself, I will try to explain what it's been like. You live in Dartmouth, about a 15-minute drive from the Macdonald Bridge. There is another bridge that connects Dartmouth to Halifax but you're not allowed to drive on it ever. Other than that, you're used to being able to drive wherever you want, whenever you want. It takes you five minutes to cross the bridge to Halifax, for a total commute of 20 minutes.

One day you're not allowed to drive on the Macdonald Bridge either. The only way to get to Halifax is to be escorted across by a shuttle that only leaves on the hour and the half hour. If you get there at any other time, you have to wait until the half hour or the hour. Do you have an appointment in Halifax at 12pm? Well, you'll have to cross the bridge at 11:30 and then wait around until noon. Do you arrive at the bridge at 4:05pm? You'll have to wait until 4:30 before you can cross the bridge. Want to chat with an old friend you ran into on the street? Better not, or you'll miss the shuttle and have to wait around for a half hour. During rush hour you are supposed to cross “on demand,” but actually the shuttle leaves when it's full, so you often have to wait 10 to 15 minutes.

Once you're on the bridge, it takes about the same amount of time to cross as if you were driving, except when there is traffic—which cyclists never have to wait in, by the way—or if you're going from Halifax to Dartmouth and the shuttle takes a roundabout route that takes twice as long. Also at night and on the weekends, the bridge is closed and it takes 20 minutes for the shuttle to drive to Halifax via the other bridge instead of five minutes. On the whole, most days that you go to Halifax you spend an extra 20 to 60 minutes commuting. That's 20 to 60 minutes you could be exercising, spending time with loved ones, working, studying, cooking or relaxing. You go to Halifax a lot less than you would like to and you sometimes feel lonely and isolated.

You put up with this for a year-and-a-half, counting down the days until you can drive freely again. But then they make you wait another month, and then another month and another month. And now it's been almost two years and they might make you wait even longer.

The bike lane is now scheduled to re-open in mid-May 2017. The Bridge commission needs to make this a priority and commit to making sure it happens. By keeping the bridge open to drivers through the re-decking process and thereby extending it, Harbour Bridge Commission has chosen to benefit drivers at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians. We are tired of being burdened and disregarded.


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