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Downtown businesses weigh in on St. David Street redesign

23 parking spots will be cut as part of a plan to add separated bike lanes to the thoroughfare
A plan recently approved by council will see the addition of separated cycling lanes when St. David Street North is reconstructed in 2023.

Support for a plan to add separated bike lanes to St. David Street North may be unanimous among Centre Wellington councillors, but some downtown businesses are concerned about losing valuable parking spots. 

Council agreed to move ahead with the cyclist friendly option for the street’s redesign earlier this month. 

The plan will see the total number of parking spaces on St. David Street N. between St. Andrew and Hill Streets reduced from 42 to 19, and the number of “highly utilized” spaces between St. Andrew and St. Patrick Streets cut from 14 to four, township staff said at the meeting.

The decision has left Nathalie McNeill, owner of Fountain Head Health Food Store “disappointed.”

“I really think it’s an absolute waste and it’s not going to do anything in particular for the town,” she said, adding that she doubted the cycling lanes would be well-used during the winter. 

“We have enough trouble with parking without having to eliminate all the spots up there,” she continued.

A block away at the corner of St. Andrew and St. David Streets, Lori Clarke, owner of The Vault Coffee and Espresso shared some of McNeill’s disappointment over the loss of parking but also said she thought the new bike lanes would be good for pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

Ultimately however, she said the move could reduce the number of people coming through her doors. 

"Possibly we'll get a few more cyclists, we already get cyclists," she explained. "But people, if they're thinking about stopping for a coffee, if there isn't a convenient place to park, they'll just keep going a lot of the time."

Meanwhile Joyce Reimer, owner of Fergus Scottish Corner Shop, said as a cyclist herself, she’s advocated many times for the creation of a bicycle path between Fergus and Elora, however she has concerns about adding bike lanes on St. David Street at the expense of parking. 

“My clientele, in general, is an older clientele,” she said. “The goods they buy here, they’re not going to be able to carry them on a’s beautiful to make the downtown prettier, but to take away parking spots, I don’t know how a retail store can support that. We’re barely hanging on as it is.”

As Fergus Business Improvement Area Chair, Kim Jefferson said she’s heard from business owners concerned about the loss of parking, but also from others who are supportive of the plan as a way to beautify the downtown and encourage bicycle traffic. 

While parking has long been “in high demand” in the downtown, she said there’s been improvements with the recent implementation of three-hour parking in the area. 

Going forward with the St. David Street project, Jefferson said she’d like the township be flexible and make changes on the fly if more parking is going to be lost or additional spots can’t be created elsewhere,

"The wider sidewalks are good for accessibility, bike lanes are great for the environment, but we still have to consider that we are in Canada where everyone does drive,” she said.


Alison Sandstrom

About the Author: Alison Sandstrom

Alison Sandstrom is a staff reporter for GuelphToday
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