Niagara-on-the-Lake wants money from the province to create more bike lanes in the rural areas of the municipality.
And if there's no money available, the town is asking for legislative power to possibly have bicycle tourists pay a tax to help fund the new infrastructure.
The idea, presented by Lord Mayor Betty Disero, came toward the end of a two-day, nine-and-a-half-hour council meeting that started last Monday and concluded on Friday.
Disero said the town is crowded with cyclists and proper infrastructure needs to be built to accommodate them.
“I get so many calls from people out there living in the rural areas that the bikes are all over the road and there could be problems,” she told councillors.
NOTL encourages visitors to bike to the various wineries around town and that increases the need for bike lanes, Disero said.
“This just is asking the province for some help or some enabling legislation to allow us, either to give us the resources or to help us get the resources, to create bike lanes in rural areas,” she said.
Her motion passed 7-2, with Couns. Clare Cameron and Erwin Wiens voting against it.
Cameron said she was concerned the plan would create a tax applicable only to bicycle-related businesses.
“That could be a possibility,” Disero said. “Enabling legislation could mean a lot of different things.”
Cameron said that she wouldn’t support the idea, noting the businesses had not yet been consulted about the issue.
Disero said consultation would take place after funding was secured.
“If the province refuses anything and everything, then really what's the point (of consultation)?” Disero said.
Wiens echoed Cameron's sentiment but also disagreed with a tax on “green energy.”
“It’s great for the environment and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s going to tax it? I don’t like that idea at all. I think we need to encourage people to get out onto our bike lanes,” he said.
Wiens said asking the province for funding or legislation to create bike lanes before the completion of the transportation master plan will probably be unsuccessful.
Coun. Norm Arsenault was concerned that the motion would trump the transportation master plan, of which bike lanes are a feature.
“(The motion) doesn’t talk about where bike lanes go and all the rest of it. This is just going to try to help us get some money,” Disero said.
“OK, I’m fine with that,” Arsenault responded.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor was supportive.
“My fellow councillors have raised a number of issues with the details as we move along and, yes, all of them need to be considered, but I see this as a way of moving in tandem with the tourism strategy,” she said.
“I see those as detail discussions further down the line.”