Transportation

Kitchener Approves 114 Kilometres Of Bike Lanes

By Adrian Duyzer
Published August 24, 2010

Kitchener city council has approved a $6.1 million plan to build a network of bike paths and trails that will significantly boost the amount of cycling infrastructure in the city.

The goal is to greatly increase the number of people who choose to travel by bicycle, with the focus on people who are interested in cycling more but are concerned about doing so on city streets, not on already committed cyclists.

Much of the new cycling network will comprise so-called bicycle priority streets, or traffic-calmed areas that will make it easy for cyclists to navigate existing roadways.

The improvements will include signage indicating routes to major destinations and changes to major crossings that would give cyclists priority.

The plan also calls for eight kilometres of separated cycle lanes that can safely accommodate cyclists past driveways and intersections.

The remainder of the network will be made up of typical bike lanes and marked areas on shared roadways.

The idea is to make Kitchener a "bicycle-friendly city" and encourage people to use their bikes more for commuting, short outings and leisure.

While the plan takes into consideration the views of those already sold on cycling, the idea is really to reach out to the majority of residents who are typically "interested but concerned" about cycling on city streets, said [transportation planner Ron Schirm].

An interesting part of the new plan is the requirement that city engineers consider the needs of cyclists when they plan road projects. This move has "flipped the responsibility", says Schirm, so that if planners don't include cyclists in road planning the decision "needs to be justified at a senior level why it cannot be".

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 22:06:08

Sounds like a great plan, certainly better than the alternative.

Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2010-08-24 21:11:35

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 22:24:43

Sounds like a great plan, not so dissimilar to Hamilton's Cycling Master Plan,and one can only hope it will not also get endlessly bogged down by NIMBY's and ward-centric politiking.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 23:09:29

It wonderful to see communities moving forward with alternative, green transportation but I am always concerned about the lack of driver education. How does a community encourage drivers to be more conscientious of the cyclists on shared roads? Every day I drive along York Blvd on my way to work and the changes along there are scary. Drivers often completely disregard the cycling lanes.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 24, 2010 at 23:36:17

I spend enough time commuting through K-W to know that this is sorely needed. The town's traffic makes even the worst of Hamilton's snarls seem like a long and endearing hug. I've biked there, bused there, and even hitchhiked it once on a warm winter's day (guess which options beat the bus, time wise?).

In such a situation, every car you take off the road makes the situation a little better. Roads which surpass their capacity turn into parking lots as soon as someone hits the brakes. You can tell anyone on the 401 who makes the trip regularly because they triple their following distance right before they hit the edge of town. Between accidents, arseholes and construction the whole thing slows to a crawl on a regular basis, and people compensate with some very bad driving habits.

K-W is one of the most beautiful cities I've seen in North America. It's a living, breathing example of the viability of things like historic, walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods. This is amazing news.

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By mdruker (registered) - website | Posted August 24, 2010 at 23:37:16

I'll be interested in seeing the network that was approved. I wasn't terribly impressed by the connectivity in the draft network, nor do I think $6 million over 20 years is nearly enough. But this is definitely a positive thing, especially with road redesigns now expected to consider the cyclist.

The Region of Waterloo will be starting its own "active transportation master plan" this fall. As most of the major arterial roads are under the Region's authority, that will be particularly interesting. There have been many voices expressing support for segregated cycling tracks and the Region just might be receptive.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 25, 2010 at 06:28:06

How does a community encourage drivers to be more conscientious of the cyclists on shared roads?

Simple exposure to a growing number of cyclists will be a big part of this.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 09:39:58

Hamilton (old business hats with old business politics): Less bike lanes, unknown LRT

Kitchener (progressive students, corporations and politics): More bike lanes, faster confirmed LRT

Anyone else notice that stubborn, ill informed people are holding us back?

Comment edited by synxer on 2010-08-25 08:44:26

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 09:56:53

Kitchener (progressive students, corporations and politics): More bike lanes, faster confirmed LRT - synxer

Kitchener and Waterloo are two separate cities... some people seem to be missing that fact. Kitchener has an aging blue collar workforce, high unemployment, a downtown that continues to struggle and other very similar problems to Hamilton.

I grew up in Kitchener, the notion that it is a bastion of progressive students, corporations and politicians is an inaccurate one.

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By JM (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 10:20:03

I went to school in Waterloo - lived in uptown - but traveled to and through downtown Kitchener fairly often (by transit). Often enough to notice a rapid change within the Downtown. They seem to be moving a lot faster than Hamilton with everything.... even LRT, and now the cycling network. But that is hard to compare, because they are being funded by the Feds and not tossed around by Metrolinx. Might I also mention that they converted their major one way streets almost a decade or so ago?! I never heard anyone complain... they had a nice "downtown loop" too.

I'm hoping were able to get the same momentum going here at home! The UW Research & Technology Park is bringing a lot of top jobs in town, in addition to RIM. Will the MIP do the same?

JM

Comment edited by JM on 2010-08-25 09:22:23

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 11:46:03

The UW Research & Technology Park is bringing a lot of top jobs in town, in addition to RIM. Will the MIP do the same?

Not if we pave it over for a stadium parking lot.

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By mdruker (registered) - website | Posted August 25, 2010 at 12:26:14

Downtown Kitchener is doing quite nicely, actually. It has substantial downtown development going on, including three loft conversions -- one of which has recently attracted Google from its current Waterloo office.

The redesign of King Street (the central drag) in downtown is making it the nicest major street I've seen in a while: very wide sidewalks, a narrow roadway, and bollard-controlled parking essentially on the sidewalk. In front of city hall, the square visually extends to the other side of the street, where the roadway is raised and is the same texture as the sidewalk. Businesses are moving to the remaining empty storefronts along the street. I hope Waterloo follows suit in uptown, but I'm not sure they have the guts.

Kitchener has designated several different areas outside downtown as mixed-use corridors, with new urban-focused zoning that allows mixed-use and does not allow car-oriented design. New subdivisions actually feature street grids.

Kitchener and Waterloo are hardly separate cities. I live literally a couple of houses away from the border, and there really is no dividing line. With the King Street West mixed-use corridor and a light rail stop at Grand River Hospital, we'll likely see intensification in midtown making for a continuous urban stretch from downtown to uptown.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 14:47:28

Kitchener and Waterloo are hardly separate cities. I live literally a couple of houses away from the border, and there really is no dividing line. With the King Street West mixed-use corridor and a light rail stop at Grand River Hospital, we'll likely see intensification in midtown making for a continuous urban stretch from downtown to uptown.

Don't kid yourself they are two separate cities. Yes there is a regional strategy (including Cambridge) in place and to the untrained eye it is hard to distinguish where Kitchener ends and Waterloo begins. But they are two cities with two separate city councils and two very different mindsets and dynamics.

As for the recent downtown improvements, those have been 30+ years in the making. Moving the farmers market has helped, the remote UW campus at King and Victoria has also helped but improving downtown has not been fast and has seen many false starts in the past. Kitchener has many problems. Downtown revitalization has been a topic since the 70's an LRT has been discussed for two decades and a loss of manufacturing jobs has been occuring since the 1980s with the closure of Uniroyal, Budd Automotive, Kaufman footware (one of those great loft projects), and many others. In fact Kitchener has a higher unemployment rate than Hamilton and one of the highest in the province. Not to mention many people in Waterloo (and some in Kitchener) feel the same way about downtown Kitchener as people on the mountain feel about downtown Hamilton. Also both cities have and still are supporting classic examples of unsustainable sprawl. With much of the sprawl to the north eating up what used to be Mennonite farms.

Pardon my prickliness on this issue, but this thread is starting to give off a grass is greener in Kitchener vibe. Trust me, it is not.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-08-25 13:48:51

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 16:09:37

"with the focus on people who are interested in cycling more but are concerned about doing so on city streets"

IMHO that statement is very progressive thinking. Whereas in Hamilton, we have definitely utilized bicycle lanes & the addition of bike racks on city buses (all good), but we are still encouraging cycling in areas that are potentially very dangerous to anyone travelling by any means other than car. The intersection of Stonechurch Road and Golf Links comes to mind, very hazardous to be cycling around the Meadowlands. It's one thing to change your the lines that are painted on the road, but their commitment to planning around a cycling culture is very commendable.

From my own observations, in Hamilton we do have a huge segment of the community that rely on bicycles for transporation. This speakes to issues other than the greening of the City. Some choose to ride their bikes out of sheer economic necessity. I live East of downtown and there is a huge difference between 'cyclists' and 'dudes on bikes'.

This is why I had previously questioned how drivers can be more engaged and aware of anyone that is on a bicycle. Every day I witness some pretty reckless moves made by both drivers and those on bicycles.

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By Cannon street (anonymous) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 21:00:56

Bike lanes on cannon street

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted August 25, 2010 at 21:23:00

Andrea writes ...

The intersection of Stonechurch Road and Golf Links comes to mind, very hazardous to be cycling around the Meadowlands.

Here's what this looks like ... right there between the minivan and the truck, heading toward the highway on-ramps. That's supposed to be a bike lane.

It quite literally makes me laugh when I drive past it. I bike on King, Cannon, Wilson, James, Wellington and Victoria without much worry. But that stretch on Golf Links? Dear God, no ...

Sometimes, no bike lane is better than a bad bike lane.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-08-25 20:23:26

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted August 26, 2010 at 23:19:23

I saw this pic on BoingBoing and it made me think of this article.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted August 27, 2010 at 09:25:20

@ moylek

That picture is perfect! On the way into work today I saw 3 cars driving IN the bicycle lane on York Blvd. The drivers always seem to be surprised when the come across cyclist and have to move over.

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By Uh oh (anonymous) | Posted August 27, 2010 at 15:27:28

Speaking as a driver who enjoys and prefers biking, I have often found myself in the wrong lane on York Road, at times when I unintentionally loom up behind a cyclist. I'm not sure why this is, why I'm having trouble adjusting, but apparently I'm not the only one, so I'm wondering if something more definitive than lines painted on the road are required here. It does seem to be to be a problem we're likely to face with a road system where bike lanes appear and disappear often for no obvious reason.

On the other hand, when out biking I'm increasingly and pleasantly surprised to not only see more and more folks on bikes, but more and more drivers who automatically accommodate us. There is change on the streets of this city.

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By MarioSal (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2010 at 16:53:43

This is great, more lanes are needed to keep riders safe from the evil autos. Bike riding is good for the environment, as well as great excercise. I regularly ride my beach cruiser and somtimes bmx ride for a rush. I love my bikes that I got from http://www.2wheelbikes.com/.

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