By DENIS GIBBONS
Automobiles, bicycles, runners and construction crews are combining to make Lakeshore Road one of the most crammed corners of Burlington.
Already a major east-west artery for cars, often resulting in bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour, the street underwent reconstruction this summer.
Last year ratepayers debated with the City about the layout of bicycle lanes and now residents are complaining about blockades caused by a road race.
They say the Chilly Half-Marathon, held annually on the first Sunday of March, is creating a lot of headaches because of street blockages.
The race starts in downtown Burlington, then follows Lakeshore Road east to Burloak Drive and back again along Lakeshore. Some streets are blocked from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Karen Buckingham, who lives on Birett Drive which runs south off Lakeshore, said caregivers can’t get to a lot of senior citizens who live in apartment buildings on Lakeshore Road.
“I know of one lady who had a broken shoulder and stayed in bed all day,” she said. “They wouldn’t let her caregiver in.”
Buckingham also said her husband is a dentist and is unable to get out if he has an emergency.
She said the City has told residents they can go a few blocks west and park their cars on the side of Poplar Street overnight, but that isn’t a very inviting choice.
Buckingham suggested race organizer Kelly Arnott of VR Pro is slightly overemphasizing the benefits.
“She’s saying the money goes to the hospital. She’s not letting on that she’s a for-profit organization. Four dollars for every runner is not a lot of money.
Actually, $5 of every entry fee of $75 goes to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.
Marianne Meed Ward, councillor for Ward 2, suggests the starting and finishing time of the race should be altered.
“In other municipalities races of this magnitude do start a little earlier,” she said. “A linear route also would be better so that as soon as the last runner goes by, officials can start opening the street.
That’s what happens with the Around the Bay Road Race, which takes place near the end of March and passes through Aldershot at the west end of the city. That marathon begins in Hamilton and takes runners in a circular route around Burlington Bay.
Discussion has taken place about starting the race at Burloak Drive and letting runners head west along Lakeshore, down the Beach Strip towards Confederation Park in Hamilton, then looping back and finishing in downtown Burlington.
This would require only one passage over the main part of Lakeshore but Arnott said having the start at Burloak would create even more congestion in that area, which has a lot of senior residences. Last year the race attracted almost 4,000 participants.
At a recent meeting of the City’s community services committee, Ward 4 resident Donald Belch expressed concern about being unable to attend church on the morning of the race because of the barricades.
Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church, however, took a positive step when its parishioners were barricaded in after services. Now they provide oranges and bananas for the runners. In some ways, they say it has improved attendance.
Arnott told The Bay Observer the two-way route on Lakeshore Road was approved by council three years ago, making sure that there was one lane left open for emergency vehicles.
“Before the event we have the City drop a letter to all residents in the area two weeks in advance letting them know if anybody needs to go anywhere during that time we will provide a driver to get them out. Last year we had only three requests.”
Arnott said the first leg of the race used to take runners east along Spruce Ave., but that routed resulted in about 16,000 residents being blocked in, a much higher number than the 5,000 in the Lakeshore area.
“We bring 2,000 new people to Burlington every year,” she said. “Some of them have never heard of Burlington before. They eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores.
“Over the last 18 years the race has raised $500,000 for charity.”
Besides the hospital, Community Living Burlington, the TB Radio Club and St. John Ambulance have been big beneficiaries.