Tag Archives: pedestrians

Adding Sidewalks Not a "Walk in the Park".

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.

Should cars stop for pedestrians?

On my way home from the region in my car today, I had to stop on Albert St. for several university students standing in the middle of the road. The traffic was stopped while a line of summer camp kids crossed the road and headed to the park. The university students were their counsellors.

Presently in Ontario, those councillors were disobeying the Highway Traffic Act because pedestrians do not have the right of way like they do in many other jurisdictions.

But Albert St. is so busy, they would not have been able to get the kids safely across the street or across the street at all if they had to wait for traffic to clear. They could, of course, gone to the pedestrian light a little further up the road.

This was an interesting moment for me as I had just finished a conversation with one of our planners who is on a provincial committee looking into making our province safer for pedestrians. Right now pedestrains have the right of way at roundabouts only and cars must stop for them.

The provincial committee is suggesting changing the traffic act so pedestrians always have the right-of-way. So the campers would be legal.

I wonder what it would do to jaywalking by-laws? Make them redundant, I guess.  In Waterloo, I can cross the street in downtown Waterloo  in mid-block without getting a ticket but in Kitchener, I would get a ticket.

Studies of pedestrians note that they tend to move in a diagonal pattern from store to store if say they are in a mall or on a quiet street.  Does the fact that I can cross mid-block in Waterloo while dodging traffic (though many politely stop) create another reason why Waterloo’s Uptown is healthier than downtown Kitchener?

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.

Sidewalk Bicycles a Menace

Talking to my neighbour on the sidewalk this morning when a middle aged guy on a bicycle came barrelling down the sidewalk and barely swerved by us onto the boulevard. This on Sunday morning with no cars on Highpoint. I said in a loud voice “Shouldn’t be on the sidewalk” and “A woman was killed in Toronto,” but he ignored us.
My neighbour told me how her little dog had had his lead tangled in bicycle spokes and was dragged along by a sidewalk bicyclist. She managed to untangle him with a lot of angry words but the cyclist just rode away with out an apology or anything. My previous dog was runover by a sidewalk cyclist when he was a puppy and was afraid of bicycles all his life.
My husband when he was walking to the bus stop at WLU used to yell at the cyclists riding on the sidewalk along University.
“My wife had those those bike paths put on the road at great expense, get off the sidewalk!”
I told him not to say that!
I’m the regional rep on the Regional cycling advisory committee. They are all keen cyclists and the committe and staff and myself have worked hard to improve a, frankly, poor cycling network. Bike racks on the front of buses, more bike lanes and trails, cycling facilities (bike racks) at the bus station, etc.
Recently, staff cut the size of bike lanes to .65 of a metre from over a metre. (two feet from three feet basically) to get more lanes on the roads and clean up the patchwork. It’s still a big job, but snowy places like Denmark and Sweden have lots of bike lanes, why can’t we?
The committee just had a look at Franklin Blvd in Cambridge and suggested that an off road multi-use trail be used instead of bike lanes on such a busy street. There are multi-use lanes on Northfield in Waterloo and Fischer-Hallman and I find them very useful.
Actually though, it is no safer on a sidewalk than on the road especially with a bike lane. It just seems safer.

On a multi-use trail or sidewalk along a road, a cyclist by law must stop at each cross road and driveway (Ha! not likely). On a bike lane, the bike is the vehicle it is under the traffic act and can ride along the road without stopping  — like a car. That’s why we have bike lanes along roads.
While I can see people’s concern on busy roads, it seems to me that people are riding on the sidewalks all over the place.
This past week in Toronto, a woman was killed by a cyclist who hit her while she was walking on the sidewalk. The cyclist was also on the sidewalk.
I am going to bring up at Planning and Works this incident and ask that police have a crack down. Except on multi-use trails, cyclists on the road! And ring your bell (you do have one on your bike, right?) so we know you’re coming on trails.

New Mall in Waterloo

Went to a public meeting by the developers of a new mall on Ira Needles Boulevard and University (approx)

I was very pleased to see a design that resembles some of the malls I saw in Portland and Whistler. The buildings are around the edge with the car park inside. The cars are separated by trees and planters.

It is very easy for pedestrians to enter the mall by walkways from the sidewalk instead of trying to walk through the parking lot wasteland of a traditional mall. There will be outdoor cafes and a fountain in the middle.

Access to transit right from the get go.

Residents pleased at possibilites for teen-ager jobs. Liked idea of a movie theatre and Loews.

Only difficulties that came up,  people are leery walking across the roundabout to get to the mall. (You just have to meet the eyes of the drivers and they will stop as they must yield to pedestrians. )

Concerns about Thorndale open to Ira Needles, traffic on University pass the high school, illumination on Ira Needles for pedestrians.

And, of course, possible landfill odours as mentioned below.