Unfortunately, a woman in a wheelchair was killed on Victoria Street in Kitchener. People are concerned that there are no sidewalks on the stretch of Victoria Street near her motel home. This is a serious problem but I do want to bring up some points about this issue.
First of all, the Region of Waterloo only took over the building of sidewalks on Regional roads a year ago. Before that it was the city responsibility. Yup, a sneaky upload of responsibility to the Region took place without the Mayor of Cambridge noticing.
The cost of building sidewalks on all the regional roads in the region would be $15 million dollars. To add this to the budget in one year would be an increase of 5% on the regional tax base, an increase of $71.15 added to the average tax bill on top of the 37 dollars of this year’s tax bill. That of course wouldn’t fly.
That being said, lack of sidewalks is a serious problem. How could we solve it?
First of all, many Regional roads are rural roads that don’t generally have sidewalks. This leaves the sections where the cities have grown out into rural areas and no sidewalks are available.
One thing the Region is now doing is adding sidewalks to new projects. This of course is the same idea as for cycling (which is a giant step forward from when I was first on council and no bike lanes were being built at all or very few on regional roads)
But I believe that we need a plan to fill in the missing sections of sidewalk just as we now have a plan to fill in the missing sections of bike lanes. The missing sections must be found and a multi-year plan put in place. A multi-year plan that may take some funds from the sacred gas tax funds is something we must look at seriously. We must have a comprehensive plan, not one that looks only at roads. Compared to 2000 when I came on council, a huge amount has been put into road repair, as it should. I voted for more money for road repairs and building roads. But when is enough enough?
I suggest that we start with the locations where we know people in wheelchairs or other disabled like the blind live then move to other urban locations missing sidewalks.
Snowplowing is a continuing problem for clearing cycling lanes. I should point out that motorized wheelchairs are considered a vehicle and must ride on the road, so clearing major roads to the edge of the road is a must.
And drivers! Watch out for reflective vests and pedestrians and bikes when you are driving. A pedestrian was recently killed at King and Conestoga Mall while crossing the street and there are sidewalks there.