Tag Archives: cycling

Transportation : Cycling and Walking, part 3 of my Fourth of Five Priorities

My Pledges: I will continue to advocate for more cycling and walking infrastructure. I will fight for better snow clearing.

Cycling

Some people think that cycling is only done by rich, middle-aged men in Spandex. In fact it is the primary transportation for many poor people who cannot afford a car and find that transit can be expensive.

When I first got on Regional Council in 2000, I became the representative on the new Regional Cycling Advisory Committee because no one else was interested. We worked on the first Cycling Master Plan, putting lines on maps where bike lanes should go. We asked for money to build a network and begged staff to include bike lanes in roads projects.

Since then, along with the new staff person who works on alternative transportation and the cyclists, I have quietly and sometimes not so quietly worked on improving cycling in Waterloo Region.

Bike racks on buses, bicycle racks by bus stops and boxes to store bicycles, bike lanes down University and many other roads, bike lanes now included in every Regional road work, route maps, bike routes on Google, the Waterloo Spur line, segregated bike lanes. It is time to point out that the councillor who championed all this at the Region is ME.

We still have a long way to go. Segregated bike lanes are just beginning. We still need to fill in the gaps on the cycling routes. Cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists need more education to work together. Snow clearing is also an issue for cyclists. Like in Scandinavia, more cyclists are riding in the winter. Bike lanes are not for dumping cleared snow.

I was so happy that the argument for segregated bike lanes for Manitou Dr. was about multi-use paths versus segregated lanes, not about whether cyclists should even be on roads.

Walking

It’s only been a few years since the Region took over the care and building of sidewalks on Regional roads from the cities. Like bike lanes, sidewalks are not on both sides of all regional roads. It is patchwork, though some are being installed with road upgrades. Snow clearing on the sidewalks and at bus stops continues to be a problem. It can be particularly difficult when a snow plow goes around a street corner and blocks off the way onto the street with a high hill of snow.

Walking across a roundabout is a problem, both for the able-bodied and the disabled. Where people nearby are disabled, the Region will, in the near future, put up a light away from the crossing right at the roundabout.

Constituents have asked why the crossings are so close to the roundabout. The answer is that pedestrians will not walk back a car length or two but will cross where it seems natural to cross.

Drivers are supposed to stop to let pedestrians cross at roundabouts. I would like to see all the small signs saying that traffic must stop for pedestrians made bigger, like those at Block Line road.

Walking is the basic form of locomotion for humans. Some use it for transportation and many use it for exercise. Why should people be stuck walking down a dirt path on the side of busy roads like Manitou?

Transportation LRT Part 1

Transportation Roads Part 2

Transportation, Transit, Part 4

 

 

Good News for Regional Transportation

  •  Grand River Transit annual ridership has already achieved the RTMP forecast for 2016, four years ahead of schedule, and is now 22 million;
  • Current ridership on iXpress and Route 7 between Conestoga Mall and Fairview Park Mall is 20,000 rides per day, which is approaching the 2017 target ridership of 25,000 on the ION light rail;
  •  Since 2006, cycling lanes have nearly doubled to almost 300 km;
  •  Since 2004, almost $250 million has been invested in expansion of the Regional road network;
  • Since 2009, the Province has invested about $150 million in Regional highways;
  • The Transportation Management Association has been promoted to more than 8% of the Region-wide workforce, and in one year 5% of TMA-participating employees surveyed have shifted from driving alone to more sustainable modes of travel;
  •  All Grand River Transit buses are now fully accessible; and
  • The EasyGo electronic traveller information system has increased to over 5 million uses annually, compared to less than 1 million in 2008.

Here’s where you can find the full report under the planning and works agenda for January 28:

http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalGovernment/standingcommittees.asp#P&W

 

 

Urban Agriculture in Vancouver

A hydroponic garden sits on the top of a parking garage. A farm covers a parking lot beside a raised highway. Urban Farming was one of the most interesting study tours at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Vancouver in June.

The tour started off with a local community garden beside a school. Most of the plots were cultivated by aboriginal students at the school. Having a plot in the Sunnydale community garden, I knew about this form of  urban farming. Most interesting was the comment from one of the councillors on the tour that her city’s community gardens have barbed wire on top of the fences. Hope we never go that far. Our chicken wire fences are to keep out bunnies, though not raccoons or squirrels as I have discovered.

Beside the garden sat a transport truck trailer. A similar trailer sat beside the urban farm we visited. I asked what they were, thinking they might hold supplies for the gardens and farms, though pretty big. Turns out the trailers are located throughout Vancouver and hold several days worth of emergency supplies for citizens in case of earthquake.

Solefood Urban Farm

Solefood Urban Farm on a parking lot in Vancouver

The urban farm on a parking lot is located near the Rogers Arena. The land is owned by a developer and could eventually become condos. The farm is portable, all the beds raised just above the asphalt of the parking lot. The farm workers are recovering drug addicts, the mentally ill or homeless. The produce is sold at farmers’ markets and restaurants. Solefood, the organization that runs the farm has several throughout Vancouver though this is the largest. They have also started a fruit orchard on contaminated land with the trees in containers.

Hydroponic farm

Hydroponic farm on top of a parking garage

The hydroponic farm on the top of a parking garage shows what happens when a city moves away from car dominance. The farm grows hydroponic greens for local markets and restaurants. The farm is not yet quite breaking even. No, it doesn’t grow any of B.C.s other hydroponic crop.

One of our group asked how they paid their rent as normally each car space in a car park is pretty profitable real estate. The owner said that in fact, parking garages in Vancouver are often half empty as people take transit and don’t use their car to get to work. It was true, as we walked back down, the car park was half empty.

Our bus driver said this is because parking is so expensive in Vancouver but a glance at the Metro parking website shows parking costing about a dollar an hour, less than Toronto or even Kitchener. Another article said the maximum for on street parking is 6 dollars an hour.  Toronto is around 5.50 an hour, but I have parked for less in lots.

The ease of biking is also blamed for the decline in car use. There are separate lanes for bicycles as my husband found out in Stanley Park when he was yelled at for standing in a cycling lane. We found a pedestrian walk beside the sea and quickly moved there.

There is also a 12 percent tax on the sale of used vehicles.  The ease of using the Skytrain and transit is listed as a cause of the decline in cars. Certainly we didn’t even use a taxi in Vancouver, using transit and walking to get to our destinations.

Here is an article about Vancouver’s decrease in car use.

Pictures of the LRT in Strasbourg by Guest Blogger Kevin Thomason

Kevin’s observations can be read in the previous blog.

Bicycles are encouraged on the LRT and plentiful bike racks throughout the city
make it extremely easy to get around.

coreluxem

LRT’s, pedestrians, bicycles and cars mingle together in the core quite successfully.  Notice the clearly labelled public washrooms on the left.

driver2luxem

The broad mix of transportation choices that have been so integral to Strasbourg’s success are shown here – the two lane paved bike road on the left, the LRTs in the centre, the road on the right and the sidewalk for pedestrians on the far right with lots of greenery between them all.

grassluxem

Some LRT medians are so green and tree-lined it is like creating a park the length of the city!  If they can do this in compact, space-challenged Europe amongst 600 year old buildings surely we can do this in vast, spacious Canada.

lrtbikeluxem

Another example in a Western suburb of a road on the left, a paved two lane cycling path, and then the LRT lines running on a natural grass surface.

luxembikepath

The dedicated bike lanes and trails are well marked, segregated and signed too –
lit here even at night.

luxembourglrt

A sleek, modern ground level LRT in the central station in Strasbourg, France

luxemclosedstreet

One of the dozens of streets closed to cars and instead enjoyed by pedestrians, bicycles and cafes.  In the foreground this gate/post system still allows delivery and other vehicles in as needed.

luxemlrt

An LRT coming into a suburban station.  Note the use of grass right up to the station and the people waiting for the train with bicycles, buggies, etc.

nightlrt

The LRT’s are still busy at night too.  The huge windows and flat floor on these models of LRT trains are wonderful.  Each train can hold up to 300 riders and is far more efficient than buses.

parkingundergroundluxem

This parking lot has been moved underground and the area turned into a thriving square, plaza and fountain area in the core of the city.

signageluxem

Clear signage makes the system easy for everyone to use.

 

ticketsluxem

An electronic payment system makes it convenient and affordable.  A ride anywhere in the city costs about $1.80 Cdn, an all day unlimited pass costs about $5.00 Canadian.

King St Waterloo On a Diet.

There has been a lot of misinformation about the narrowing of King St. to two lanes between Central and Erb St.

First of all, no decision has been made and in fact it will not be made until 2011. The report coming to council tomorrow is to pass having another public information centre on Ðec 2 from 4 to 8 at Waterloo City Hall

Facts:

The LRT is not going through this part of King St. from Central to Erb.  One lane of the LRT will run from Allan to Erb then down Erb to Caroline and the rail spur. http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/

There are actually 5 alternatives for this part of King St.

 
1. leave the road alone at 4 too small lanes and parking
 
2.Widen the 4 lanes to a sized that the regular buses can use (this could take out some of the historic buildings!)
 
3. A 3 lane road with parking lanes on the side. The middle lane for turning.
 
4. two lane with parking lanes
 
5. two lane with shared parking bicycle lanes.
Here is the report
 
However there is space for bike lanes on Regina.
I’m still waiting for Erb and Bridgeport to become two way again and it has been suggested that perhaps the Post office parking lot could become municipal.

Speech in Response to Removing Sensitive Re-charge Lands from being Part of the Countryside

My speech on Tuesday in response to Tom Galloway’s motion to not include the sensitive SW corner of Kitchener as part of the protected countryside.  The motion was defeated, 14 to 3, and so the land will remain agricultural. Tom, Mayor Zehr, and Jim Wideman voting in favour.

The following would have been removed from the motion for the final changes for the official plan

Request the Province to modify Maps 4 – Greenland Network and 6g – Other Source Water Protection Areas to designate the southwest corner of the City of Kitchener as Regional Recharge Areas as originally recommended to Regional Council on June 16, 2009
d) Request the Province to modify Map 7 – The Countryside to designate the southwest corner ofthe City of Kitchener as Protected Countryside as originally recommended to Regional Council on June 16, 2009;

Speech 

Kitchener is leaking out onto our farmland and deflating our environmental plans.

The owners of the land in the SW corner have been led on a string, first for 12 months now proposed for 5 more years, that their land might be developed.

Many developers, consultants and land owners from all over the region have come before us asking to have their piece of land put back into the urban area. They have been turned down.

Just like Kitchener  council did for the SW corner, the previous council of the City of Waterloo opposed designating the NW corner of Waterloo, another sensitive water recharge area, as part of the Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes.  The Region designated the area anyway, which I agree was the right thing to do.

Why should Kitchener be treated  differently than the rest of the region?

It is time we drew a line in the sand around the urban area.

 

The ROP report on final changes and provincial response: http://bit.ly/abjUFG

ROP passed last year without SW corner included for one year for further consultation. http://www.region.waterloo.on.ca/web/region.nsf/DocID/CA5BC18540AE6A2185257555006D0304?OpenDocument

After we also passed the transportation master plan, I thanked staff for all their hard work. I reminded council once again, that when I voted for the Light Rapid Transit, it was because I had been assured that the ROP with the firm countryside line protecting our farmland and environmentally sensitive areas and putting limits on urban sprawl; and the transportation master plan with its emphasis on more transit everywhere and more cycling and pedestrian routes would be passed. I was now satisfied that those requirements had been fulfilled. Because without those other pieces, the LRT would certainly not work as a method of intensification.

http://www.region.waterloo.on.ca/web/region.nsf/8ef02c0fded0c82a85256e590071a3ce/AB487A489BD086708525774600577521/$file/P-10-059.pdf?openelement

Help the Region Help Cyclists

I know many readers of this blog are cyclists. The Region and the University of Waterloo are outfitting cyclists with GPS units so the Region can know where cyclists go, what routes they take and how often they use bike racks on buses. This will help us craft the update to the Cycling Master Plan. The data will be analyzed by UW mapping software. The information will help the Region prioritize cycling routes, maintenance and even snow clearing. To take part contact John Hill at jhill@regionofwaterloo.ca or 519-575-4019.

The Region has inked an agreement with Google to have bike routes in Waterloo Region on Google. However, it must still be in progress because I have been unable to use it or to get anything to come up on maps.google.com/biking.  Will ask at the next regional cycling meeting.

The Road Diet

Roads

I’m all for diets. Some work, some don’t.

I was at a seminar a few years ago about changing our cities to be healthier (e.g reducing obesity), less polluting and more people friendly. We were shown pictures of places around the world that are much more pedestrian friendly and I also visited some of these areas when in Portland (And also a six lane road that was not!) People in Portland and Vancouver are statistically healthier than people in Waterloo Region (Oh, we come out badly in those surveys) because of efforts made in their cities.

The City of Waterloo is going to actually narrow a road and may narrow another. It seems to go against the common sense of our car crazed society. Bearinger, which is near where I live, needs some further thought as the road was just repaved as a four lane this past fall. My neighbour, Louise McLaren, wrote a great letter to the Record in support of this “diet”,

http://news.therecord.com/Opinions/LettertotheEditor/article/667089

Davenport is another story. It is a short street between a subdivision and the Conestoga Mall with an industrial park at one end and a dead end to a nursing home at the other. It has traffic to the mall and local homes but I have never found it super busy.

It is, however, with the four lanes, difficult for pedestrians to cross. And we need to make our cities more pedestrian friendly. The new change will have two lanes, cycling lanes, a median and a pedestrian island. The traffic will slow (the wider the road, the more cars speed — watch how that works when you are driving down Northfield then into the new Westmount extension) , and alternate nonpolluting forms of transportation will grow.

Franklin Boulevard up for some pedestrian/cyclist friendly Changes

In the fall, the Regional Cycling Advisory Committee of which I am the Regional Council rep, went out and looked at Franklin Road. Franklin is a very busy road corridor in Cambridge. It will be upgraded to a four lane road (yes, I know it is already four lanes, bear with me here) with 11 roundabouts, some two lane roundabouts and some three lanes. This is between the 401 highway and Myers Road (2 lane between Champlain and Myers)

Obviously this busy road and the roundabouts are a concern for those using alternate transportation.  The committee looked at it and recommended having an mixed-use trail (3 metres) instead of sidewalks. Staff has made this their recommendation.

So pedestrians, disabled and cyclists will have a safer place to go along Franklin.  It’s a great step forward.

The downsides? Cyclists will have to dismount and cross at the roundabouts like pedestrians. Though the cars are supposed to yield for pedestrians. Bart Forwell suggested that staff look into the way cyclists are accomodated in Scandanavian countries with a separate lane at roundabouts. Staff are looking into it.

The second downside? When you get to the 401, it is almost impossible to cross to Hespeler unless you are a car. Cambridge is considering a temporary pedestrian bridge (steel span that can be moved when a permanent bridge is build by the MTO).

Enforcing no bikes on sidewalks reduces riders

I had a chat with one of our traffic planners who lives in Guelph.  Guelph police are inforcing the no bicycles on sidewalks by-law. The result. Less people riding bikes.

Instead of riding on the road, people are going back to cars.  Her question to me: Do I want less people riding bikes and more riding cars?

Darn. Well of course I want more people riding bikes. 

Apparently 60 percent of riders ride on sidewalks at some point. Having had  trucks blow by me, I understand that riders just feel safer.

In fact, bicyclists are no safer on the sidewalk than on the road. Why? Most collisions occur at driveways and at corners.

We next discussed whether the no bikes on sidewalks is a by-law that should be removed since it isn’t enforced.  I suspect though that it would be enforced on complaint.  I’m not prepared to remove the by-law as I worry that even more bicyclists would be on the sidewalks.

The region is presently looking at multi-use trails by the road (so cars can see cyclists at those corners, not have them pop out from nowhere) instead of sidewalks for some regional roads. Road warriors could still ride on the road and in bike lanes.

Since our planner is on a provincial committee on pedestrian safety, I pointed out that bridges going over the 401 and other highways often don’t have sidewalks or bike lanes as these are usually provincial bridges. Or should we build more pedestrian/cycling overpasses?  I like to point out that  you can cross a river with a boat but you can’t cross  a 401  or expressway when you are a pedestrian or cyclist. So how do you get across the highway?

Our planner would like trails to be 3 meters not 5 as proposed. I suggest everyone get out a meter stick and measure how wide that is. 5 meters is much wider than a traffic lane. I find from GRCA where people worry about a house 120 meters from a wet land (approx half a mile) that perhaps we don’t know the real distances with measures.