Sudbury Working Group

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

Buses, implementation plan for cycling routes, missing from Greater Sudbury's draft Transportation Plan

by Naomi Grant

The bike rack fills up outside of City Hall, at the June 19 open house for Greater Sudbury's Transportation Study
The bike rack fills up outside of City Hall, at the June 19 open house for Greater Sudbury's Transportation Study

Can a transportation plan accomplish sustainable mobility if it leaves out public transit, and implementation of cycling routes? No, say local sustainable mobility groups, in their latest round of submissions to the City of Greater Sudbury’s Transportation Study.

When the terms of reference were first announced for the study, the excitement was palpable.  Growing public support for active transportation appeared to have born fruit. The three main principles of the study are stated as ‘healthy communities,’ ‘sustainability,’ and ‘economic viability’. 

However, frustration and disappointment has grown as the promise of these guiding principles has not been fulfilled. The omission of public transit from the plan, the lack of an implementation plan for cycling infrastructure, and the lack of meaningful consultation are the three main sticking points. Delays, lack of clarity around the process, and inconsistencies with the guiding principles are also very problematic. 

Nevertheless, local groups acknowledge some important positives. Although severely flawed, the study still represents a large shift in favour of active transportation, compared to existing policy. Cycling routes have been mapped out, building on past work by the Bicycle Advisory Panel and the Sustainable Mobility Plan.  A "Complete Streets" policy is recommended.  Adopting such a policy would be considered a giant step forward, since streets would be recognized as being for all users:  pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles alike.

However, cars still appear to be king in this study, with its emphasis on new and expanded road infrastructure. “I was hoping for equal consideration for transporting people and services in a sustainable manner. This was not evident!” said one person (involved in sustainable mobility and healthy community issues) , who asked to remain anonymous. S/he felt the end result would be “more money for roadways and cars, and ‘pocket change’ thrown at bike paths and signs,” resulting in no real difference. The Sustainable Mobility Advisory Panel (SMAP) recommended that the City use road diets, and invest in transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure, rather then build new roads. “We cannot maintain the road network we have,” they stated. SMAP reiterated that an effective transportation plan must be grounded in the context of an ageing population, little population growth, and overall health measures, all of which support a strong shift to sustainable mobility.

The omission of public transit from the study has been especially frustrating. “How can a transportation study that is focused on ‘integrated transportation’ not include transit?” asked the Sudbury Cyclist Union. Local groups have been advocating for inclusion of transit since the terms of reference were first released, but have gotten no clear answer as to why this key aspect of transportation was neglected. Partial answers have been less than satisfactory.  “We have heard that transit was not included because roads and transit are the responsibilities of different departments. We are extremely disappointed that such a crucial study was diminished by excluding critical information due to this reason,” wrote the Sudbury Cyclist Union.

Another major issue is the lack of an implementation plan for cycling infrastructure. Although preparation of an implementation plan is listed as part of Phase 3 of the study, it has not been completed, and there is no indication of whether or not it will be part of the completed study, let alone be available for public input. Sudbury Cyclists Union states, “Our number one concern is that the impact of approving the network (of cycling routes) without a guiding framework means there is no guidance for ensuring that the plans are actually implemented.” They go on to say, “After hearing comments by City staff at the open house that the proposed Active Transportation Network would probably not be completed by 2031, cyclists are finding it difficult to believe that the plans suggested at the open house will ever come to fruition.” Subsequent public statements made by City staff that their preferred approach is to complete cycling infrastructure in a piecemeal fashion during ‘regular’ roadwork further undermined public confidence. Sudbury Cyclists Union add that “it is to be noted that staff who prepared and directed the project are not cyclists and do not see our roads from a cyclist’s point of view.” They reiterate that cycling infrastructure is transportation infrastructure, a fact they don’t believe City infrastructure staff have absorbed.

There are also concerns with some of the proposed cycling infrastructure. Edgelines, for example, are not considered cycling infrastructure, yet are allocated for some important cycling routes. A rally was held this summer to protest the proposal of edgelines along Kelly Lake Road. Recreational mountain bike trails are mapped out with no distinction from transportation routes for cyclists, creating a false sense of the routes as actually available to someone biking for their daily needs.  Finally, no mention is made regarding traffic calming. Recent traffic calming projects have worsened conditions for cyclists. The Sustainable Mobility Report recommends using bike lanes as an effective traffic calming measure that also meets the needs of cyclists.

The Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury notes that the study does not appear to look at the big picture, a requirement to meet the guiding principles of ‘sustainability’ and ‘healthy communities.’ As an example, they point out that the ‘south university link’ is still listed as a future road, despite crossing one of the region’s most cherished and well-used trail systems (walking, running, and cross country skiing). The Sudbury District Health Unit, Conservation Sudbury, the Board of Governors of Laurentian University, and many others have publicly voiced their opposition to this road.

The lack of clarity about the process itself is also problematic. The city website indicates that “Master plans, such as this Transportation Study Report, are required to complete Phases 1 and 2 of the five classes of the Municipal Class EA process.” However, when asked at the June 19 open house, neither senior City staff nor consultants responsible for the study could confirm that this was the case, state the requirements for public input and process for the study, or give clear answers as to the timeline or process to be followed. For example, they could not answer whether there would be opportunity for further public input before the completed study was presented to Council.

The lack of an opportunity for meaningful input and true dialogue has been a large frustration for local groups and citizens. SMAP notes that over 500 residents have commented on the Transportation Plan. Yet a disconnect exists between those comments and the development of the plan. “I made some suggestions on the maps at the last open house. They weren’t addressed and there’s nothing at the open house to indicate why,” said Rachelle Niemela of the Sudbury Cyclists Union. “I have the feeling that the City of Greater Sudbury is influencing the outcomes that the consultants are developing and presenting. I do not believe the concerns of the public will be evident in the plans,” said one involved citizen who asked to remain anonymous. When asked how optimistic they are that the changes they hope to see will be in the draft, s/he responded, “not very optimistic at all!!!”

“The Open Houses, in our opinion, are not the proper venue to discuss specific recommendations; they are a one-way presentation to the public, and not an opportunity for meaningful dialogue,”  wrote the Sudbury Cyclists Union. The terms of reference for the study gave hope for meaningful consultation by explicitly referring to a close working relationship with SMAP.  Material at the 2012 open house stated that “SMAP will be working closely with the project team throughout the project.” However, SMAP noted that the consultants preparing the study had “only attended two SMAP meetings and did not request our input on transportation issues beyond comments on the draft Active Transportation Maps.” The Sudbury Cyclists Union had recently been involved in the development of the Ontario Cycling Strategy and contrasts the many opportunities for meaningful dialogue in that process. “The SCU provided lengthy commentary and we are very pleased with the outcome of the consultation,” they wrote. They advocate for a similar postive process to develop a cycling strategy for Greater Sudbury.

The most recent material on the Transportation Study was presented at an open house at City Hall, on June 19, 2013.  

See the material presented here.

Citizens can send their comments to:

Dave Shelsted
City of Greater Sudbury

Jim Gough
MMM Group Limited


Naomi Grant chairs Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury.


Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.

About the poster

Trusted by 2 other users.
Has posted 41 times.
View Naomi Grant's profile »

Recent Posts:

Naomi Grant (Naomi Grant)
Member since June 2011


Creative Commons license icon Creative Commons license icon

1388 words

The site for the Sudbury working-group of The Media Co-op has been archived and will no longer be updated. Please visit the main Media Co-op website to learn more about the organization.



About the Sudbury Working Group

The Sudbury working-group of The Media Co-op was formed to create independent media in the North, to speak to our issues and outlooks on our communities as well as the world around us. Independent media provides an avenue for people who are wishing to gain critical perspective on the issues that matter most to us, and to give a voice to those people and stories that you won't find in the mainstream media.

The Sudbury working-group site is no longer being updated and has been archived.