Council Got It All Wrong at Bizarre Meeting

The Saskatchewan Rattlers will begin their Canadian Elite Basketball League season on May 9 against the Hamilton Honey Badgers. Michael Linklater, pictured here playing FIFA 3x3 basketball, is one of the players who will provide a local flavour to the team. Game time is 7 p.m. at SaskTel Centre. (Photo by Darren Steinke)

It was a gong show. 

There is a somewhat vulgar word used to describe meetings like the one that took place in city council chambers last week when councillors gathered to decide on the future of bike lanes and bus rapid transit in our fair city. 

I missed the afternoon session, but was home for the evening portion of the meeting. I put my television on Shaw’s local channel and settled in for three hours. I needed a night off from CNN, Netflix and sports anyway. 

What I watched was chaotic and sometimes nonsensical. I hope those involved watched the replay of the show. 

Earlier in the day, council wrongly chose Broadway as the east-side street for bus rapid transit. Council rightly chose First Avenue as the downtown street. With this council, 50-50 isn’t bad.

If you are going to have rapid transit in a city, shouldn’t it be on a street — or freeway — that allows for rapid transit? The Sen. Sid Buckwold Bridge would have been the correct choice. One of its two exits goes onto — you guessed it — First
Avenue. Buses could zip down Eighth Street, turn onto the freeway and hit First Avenue in no time flat.

Do the fine people on Broadway really want buses clogging their street in five- to seven-minute intervals? Do passengers want the delays of two school zones and numerous intersections with lights? 

Only Coun. Randy Donauer saw it the same way I do, bless him.

Council had three choices for bike lanes: leave the hideous things on Fourth Avenue, move the hideous things to Third Avenue, or scrap the whole thing. 

An array of speakers took to the microphone to offer their opinions. One woman was really angry as she spoke about bike lanes being a waste of money. She was speaking for the angry majority.

Others spoke glowingly of bike lanes in other cities and the benefits to health et cetera. One man said he defied death by riding on 42nd Street. It drew a chuckle.

Council decided to scrap the lanes on Fourth Avenue, voted against removing them from 23rd Street and voted against killing the project in its entirety. Council will move slowly before adding Third Avenue and 19th Street to its network. The downtown network is currently 23rd Street from Idylwyld to Spadina.

If we have to have bike lanes, council got it wrong when it decided to use Third Avenue. It should be Spadina Crescent. The crescent/River Landing links four bridges. There is no retail and few parking spots to decommission, if any. 

Eliminating bike lanes on Fourth Avenue passed by a vote of 9-2. The other two were 6-5 votes. We were within a vote of having no bike lanes downtown and having the issue off the table. Thank you to councillors Donauer, Bev Dubois, Troy Davies, Darren Hill and Ann Iwanchuk for being on the side of bike-lashers, as one speaker called those who don’t agree with her position.

There was plenty of discussion both before and after the votes. Mayor Charlie Clark’s head appeared to be spinning. He looked frazzled. It’s like that feeling you have when a shoe lace gets stuck in your bike spokes and you aren’t sure what is about to happen. It isn’t good, though.

Coun. Hill, at some point, talked about an 18-month deferral. He said the city has to make cycling great again. Hill is about as far from being a Trumper as I can imagine, but his choice of words led to a red hat joke on Twitter. 

Coun. Dubois said she isn’t against bike lanes per se, but that a plan for protected bike lanes should start from outside downtown and flow toward it. That made sense. It won’t happen because of the incredible expense.

Other councillors, including Coun. Davies, said a decision on bike lanes shouldn’t be made until the location of an arena and a new library are determined. That also made sense. 

Coun. Cynthia Block wanted the ghastly Fourth Avenue experiment to go back into its test tube, but encouraged council to be bold and forge ahead. I am not sure what that meant, especially since this council hasn’t been known for boldness or forging.

Late in the meeting, Coun. Mairin Loewen discussed a motion that she had put forward. 

She suggested administration take a blank slate to stakeholders and users in considering what the design might look like. 

“I hope we can do that with a fairly open concept on what we might want to see in the downtown.”

In other words, let’s start over. 

The council meeting can best be described as a s—show. There, I said it.