Yesterday my husband decided to take the dog for a walk while I was at Sobey’s. Our dog Amber loves the city plowed trail behind our house. To get to it, my husband and the dog decided to go down the walk through. My husband fell on the ice of the unmaintained route. He scraped the side of his head and strained his arm. He was lucky he didn’t break a bone.
Discussions on social media from active transportation activists have talked about having the Cities of Waterloo Region plow all the sidewalks, as is done in Elmira. Waterloo decided to up bylaw enforcement instead. As you can see from the above pictures, the residents in my neighbourhood are very good at keeping our sidewalks clear. The only place on the sidewalk that is solid ice is in front of the pedestrian walkway. A sign says “No Winter Maintenance”. This seems to include the patch of public sidewalk in front of the walkthrough. I talked my neighbour who lives beside this patch of ice. He says that part of the sidewalk doesn’t belong to him. It doesn’t belong to the neighbour on the other side either. It belongs to the CITY OF WATERLOO.
The unmaintained walkthrough is used by children going to school, dog walkers, cyclists, and pedestrians generally, many with strollers. If the City of Waterloo is really for increasing active transportation, if the City of Waterloo is really for clean sidewalks in the winter, as they say they are, they should maintain pedestrian walk ways. I know at one time men from the House of Friendship cleaned the sidewalks in downtown Kitchener. It’s an idea that could work.
Fortunately, my husband will heal and probably won’t need physiotherapy, but I am sure that if we talked to the lawyer who got my older daughter $10,000 dollars after a car ran into her when she was cycling, the City of Waterloo would be liable, despite the “No Winter Maintenance” sign.
How does the city get away with leaving a solid patch of ice on the sidewalk when the rest of us have to clean our walks? How does the city get away having a heavily used pedestrian walkway left as a sheet of ice? This policy must be changed.
Yesterday Kitchener Councillor John Gazzola said the following on twitter regarding being against bike lanes on Westmount Road:
In an effort to more fully explain my thoughts on cycling let me share my experiences. I have been cycling on Westmount Rd for the last 18-20 years. It is a very busy street with miles & miles of sidewalks on each side of it. I continue to ride on the sidewalk. No harm to pedest.
When my old dog was a puppy, we were leash training down a sidewalk. A cyclist riding on the sidewalk ran over my dog. We rushed him to the vet. He ended up OK but for his whole life, my sheltie was afraid of bicycles.
A month ago, I was standing socially distancing in a line waiting to enter a bus on University Ave. Along came a man riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. All of the people standing in line moved over. I did not. I yelled at him to get off the sidewalk. He swerved around me, swearing. Pretty clever making that rude hand sign with only one hand on the handle bars.
Whose sidewalk is it anyway? There are laws against riding on the sidewalk, but despite me asking Regional staff and police over the years, they have never been enforced.
Another person on twitter said as part of the bike lane controversy: Pedestrians don’t want cyclists on sidewalks, car drivers don’t want them on roads. I wonder if giving cyclists their own lanes would work!
If I had a nickel for every time a politician invoked the words “silent majority”, I would be rich. If I had a dime for every time a person (usually old), looked out their window and said, “that cycle lane, that bus is empty”, I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. There once weren’t sidewalks along stretches of Westmount. I’m sure home owners said, “No one walks on the sidewalks, we don’t need them.”
According to numbers provided by the Uptown Waterloo Cycle Tracker, located on the southeast corner of King and Erb streets, from the beginning of April through the end of July, a bicycle was detected 23,873 times. That’s up almost 5,000 trips from a year ago (17,928) during the same time period.
This is during the pandemic when there are no university students, the biggest bicycle users, in town.
I have also been told that there is apparently a bicycle shortage as more and more people buy bicycles. A friend (Thanks Suzanne) checked this out at Canadian Tire and found very few bikes for sale. People are riding bikes and they need to be able to do it safely. That is why Regional Council is putting temporary separated bike lanes on Westmount, University, and Erb.Oh yes, and Coronation Blvd in Cambridge.
The cries of pain from car drivers because narrower roads mean they have to drive slower. Yet it is common for constituents to complain that people should drive slower, say the speed limit. Cambridge, unfortunately has always had a number of very angry people. Council caved and removed the temporary lanes from Coronation boulevard before even a month was gone. This is unfortunate because the wide medium on the road that once displayed wonderful flowers and now is full of weeds could be narrowed to include separated bike lanes.
Now that we have heard from former Mayor Doug Craig that Cambridge has been once more ignored by the wicked Region that put bike lanes on Coronation Blvd, you can be sure they will stay removed.
You may not remember, but Mayor Craig said Cambridge did not want the LRT and so Cambridge got express buses for their first stage. Once Kitchener Waterloo got LRT, he and his council complained that Cambridge was once more ignored and left out. (Even though the Region has been working for several years on the Cambridge extension). Expect Cambridge to shout about their lack of bike lanes when the temporary lanes in Kitchener and Waterloo become permanent.
If I had a quarter for every time Cambridge shouted about being left out …
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.
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.
IT IS ILLEGAL.
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.