Comment 87008

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2013 at 14:54:50

City councillors here are about to become the first in Ontario to officially make comments and recommendations to improve the Ontario Cycling Strategy that calls for a provincewide network of trails, more funding for infrastructure and better education for riders and non-riders.

And while cycling advocates applaud the move they note Kitchener is far behind many other cities in southern Ontario when it comes to built infrastructure for bikes and per-capita spending on cycling.

Mary Sehl, the chair of Kitchener’s cycling advisory committee, said the group is really pleased to see councillors support a stronger provincial cycling strategy.

Cyclists will be watching closely to see if the province adopts some of the recommendations from the City of Kitchener, she said.

“There has been a fair bit of disappointment in the cycling community with the strategy, it wasn’t as strong as people had hoped,” Sehl said.

“I think it helps to have their municipal partners supporting the kind of changes the cycling community would like to see, asking for the strategy to be stronger,” Sehl said.

Among the city’s recommendations:

• There should be more high-density, mixed-use development in the future that results in shorter bicycle trips

• The Ministry of Transportation should adopt a “Complete Streets” policy that has roads designed for all users of all ages and all abilities

• The province should work with cities in identifying trails for commuters, recreational riders and tourists when building an Ontario-wide network.

• The Ministry of Transportation should establish a fund for cycling infrastructure to help cities pay for trails and programs, and should provide money and staffing for a provincewide cycling education program.

Peter Dedes, a member of Kitchener’s cycling advisory committee, said Ontario’s proposed strategy and the city’s response are short on specifics.

“Until there is real, concrete money for implementation, it doesn’t really mean much to me,” Dedes said.

Last August, city councillors became the first to endorse the Ontario Coroner’s review of cycling deaths and support the recommendations that came out of that review.

With this detailed response to the proposed Ontario Cycling Strategy, the city is again taking a leadership role.

It’s great that Kitchener has decided to become the lead municipality on those issues, but it has to increase spending on cycling and trails, Dedes said.

“London spends four times the money per capita than what we do on trails infrastructure — it’s crazy,” Dedes said. “Clearly there is a lot of catch-up we have to do.”

Both Dedes and Sehl are disappointed there will be no bicycle lanes put on Moore Avenue when it is reconstructed later this year between Emma Avenue and Graham Street. Moore Avenue was identified as a cycling route in the master plan that was adopted in 2010.

Jim Witmer, the city’s director of operations, said the road is not wide enough for lanes, but there will be signs installed that say Moore Avenue is a shared cycling route.

“It is consistent with the Cycling Master Plan,” Witmer said of the approach.

Cycling and walking are viewed by urbanists as two of the best ways to make cities more lively, safe, sustainable and healthy, says Jan Gehl, a Danish architect, urbanist and international spokesperson for active transportation

About two-thirds of vehicle trips are less than five kilometres long, and a healthy adult can ride that in about 15 minutes. More cycling means more lively streets and greater safety for everyone. It means less green house gas emissions and a more active population.

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