Tag Archives: paths


Big Changes for Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert

There’s going to be another major road project coming to Uptown Waterloo.

Reconstruction of Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert.

That’s right. After LRT construction wraps up in 2017, and after the King St improvements bring protected bike lanes to King St in 2018/2019, the city and region will be replacing aging services underneath Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert, and are taking the opportunity to revisit the design of these streets as they cut through central Waterloo.

Here’s a look at what’s proposed, (page 46, 12MB PDF) and below we’ll talk about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs serious improvement.

Concept plan for the reconstruction of Erb/Bridgeport/Caroline/Albert

Concept plan for the reconstruction of Erb/Bridgeport/Caroline/Albert

Major changes include:

  • A multi-use trail along the north side of Bridgeport/Caroline linking the King St bike lanes to the Laurel Trail at Erb
  • Narrowing Caroline north of Erb St to two lanes, and adding a new sidewalk on the East side
  • Narrowing Albert from two lanes to one, with a northbound bike lane and parallel parking
  • Changing Albert/Erb to a T-intersection
  • Sharrows on Erb St from Caroline to King

What Works

Adding a multi-use trail along Caroline provides a great bicycle link between King St and multiple trail entrances for Waterloo Park, and finally allows northbound cycle traffic up Caroline.

Crossing Albert on the north side of Erb will be made much easier. The current multi-lane off-ramp nature of Albert St is dangerous, making walking around the old Police Station unpleasant. The new T-intersection design reduces crossing distance, turning speeds, and even introduces new green space.

Reducing Caroline to two lanes helps solve the problem of traffic backing up in the right hand lane of Bridgeport east of King. Now traffic intending to go beyond King will use the centre lane, while those turning onto King and Regina Streets will be on the left and right hand lanes, distributing traffic better across the three lanes.

Potential Improvements

Albert St still needs a legal way to cycle southbound. By moving the parking to the east side of the road, there could be a contra-flow southbound bikelane on the west side, with the northbound lane shared between cars and bicycles, with a more appropriate use of sharrows. This also puts the parking on the traditional right-hand side, which will be easier for drivers to use. Parallel parking is tricky enough, and even more so when it’s on the opposite side of the car.

If the bicycle route along Bridgeport/Caroline is a multi-use trail, then why is there a southbound on-street bike lane and bike box approaching Erb? There is no way for bicycles to access the on-road bike lane from the trail, and if they could, it would be unsafe to merge cross the constant stream of right turning traffic. The intersection design assumes that cyclists are on the road instead of the multi-use trail, when the reverse should be true. We can’t keep ending trails at crosswalks, asking cyclists to dismount to continue. With the first cross-ride in Waterloo now in service at Erb/Peppler, there is now precedent for a two-way crossing on the west side of Caroline, which will finally allow the connection of the Laurel and Iron Horse trails.

What Doesn’t Work

Erb St, unfortunately, has a long way to go.

Erb, as proposed, with many lanes and large excessive shoulders.

Erb, as proposed, with many lanes and large excessive shoulders.

The sharrows proposed for Erb St are inappropriate. Sharrows work on low speed roads, not major high-speed multi-lane arteries. Sharrows are not a replacement for dedicated cycling infrastructure, and 2016 should be the year we stop pretending they are.

The width of Erb St is drastically wider than the planned use. There is no need for 3 through lanes and a painted shoulder lane. Staff mention a potential possibility for on-road cycle tracks, “without the need for additional construction,” but it would require waiting for “a separate, broader study to consider implementation of a two-way cycle track on Erb Street from Caroline Street to Margaret Avenue [which] will be completed by the Region of Waterloo in the future.” In the meantime, Erb will remain gratuitously wide.
A pedestrian crossing at Erb/Albert is dismissed, because there are fewer than 250 people crossing day, a number that is unlikely to change if Erb remains wide and hostile. Bridges are not built by counting the number of people swimming across a river; crosswalks should not be dismissed because few are willing to unsafely cross a high-speed 4-lane arterial.

An alternate concept for a right-sized Erb St featuring a shared bike and turning lane.

An alternate concept for a right-sized Erb St featuring a pedestrian crossing, and a shared bike and turning lane.

Here is a potential way to correct some of these issues. The right hand lane of Erb is used as a turn lane for the WTS entrance, and for King St. To prevent the speeding, cars cannot use it to drive from Caroline to King, only allowing cyclists to continue through, in what will now be a much lower-speed lane. The painted shoulder on the north of Erb is now removed, with the sidewalk moved south where it was. A pedestrian crossover is installed at Albert, allowing direct access from Albert to The Shops at Waterloo Town Square.

Send Your Feedback

These are just some of the suggestions that we have, but we’re sure you have more. Please send your own feedback, and be sure to attend the upcoming public information centre.

Feedback should be sent to:
Mr. Jim Ellerman, jellerman@regionofwaterloo.ca
Project Manager, Capital Projects
Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Mark Christensen, mchristensen@walterfedy.com
Project Manager

Public Consultation Centre #1
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
5:00p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Canadian Clay and Glass Museum
25 Caroline Street North, Waterloo

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Jane’s Walks: May 2-4

This weekend, people all over the world will lead Jane’s Walks to showcase their communities. These walks can teach you about the history of your neighbourhood, show you the hidden beauty that you speed past every day, or open up new opportunities to enjoy you city. In KW, there will be some great walks run by your neighbours, community groups, and civic leaders.

Here are a few that TriTAG noticed, showing off some transportation possibilities and problems in this region.

Photo from  janeswalk.org.

Photo from Jane’s Walk.

Shortcuts and Poetry All Around: In downtown Kitchener, Janice Lee will show off some of her favourite walking shortcuts. There are hidden gems inside parks and
along paths that you might never see if you don’t get off your bike or out of your car! This walk starts on Sunday at 3pm.

Photo from  janeswalk.org.

Photo from Jane’s Walk.

Vehicular Architecture and Parking Policy: In uptown Waterloo, TriTAG’s Michael Druker explores the current parking situation and the governing decisions around parking in the city. Do you think there is too much parking uptown, or too little? The walk starts on Saturday at 2pm.

Photo from  janeswalk.org.

Photo from Jane’s Walk.

Walking and Cycling Challenges and Opportunities: Also in Waterloo, Councillor Angela Vieth and Anne Crowe of the Waterloo Advisory Committee on Active Transportation (WACAT) will examine some of the current cycling and pedestrian routes around uptown. You might find new routes, or learn how our streets could be better designed to help cyclists and pedestrians get around. Join them on Sunday at 2pm.
There are many more Jane’s Walks, and more are added to the website every day. Check out the full list of Waterloo walks and Kitchener walks, as well as a walk in Cambridge and one in Elmira.

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Pave Laurel Trail Already

Earlier this week, Terry Stewart wrote in with the below comments on Laurel Trail.

(In terms of labels for these paths, my understanding is that the path between the University of Waterloo and uptown Waterloo is part of the Laurel Trail, while the Iron Horse Trail begins on Caroline Street.)

The Iron Horse Trail is an invaluable transportation corridor linking communities in Waterloo Region. Most of the Trail is a comfortably wide asphalt strip that follows the former railroad corridor. Hundreds (if not thousands) of commuters, walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders use the Trail each day.

However, at various times during the year, the Iron Horse Trail from Perimeter Institute past the Waterloo Zoo is a wet, dirty, almost impenetrable mud fest. It is one of the few sections of the trail that is not paved. Yes, this year has been unseasonably wet and mild but it doesn’t take much rain or wet snow to make that part of the trail sloppy.

Today when I got home, my boots were soaked and muddy. The rain pants that I wore were splattered with dried muck. As much as I want to walk every day, at this time of the year it makes me want to drive to work just so my socks will be dry the rest of the day.

But it’s not really just about me. There are many other reasons for paving that section of the Trail:

  • People in wheel chairs, rollerbladers, mothers with baby carriages could use the Trail all year long – they could not have navigated that section of the Trail today.
  • It would be safer. The inevitable potholes and puddles that form are dangerous to walkers and bikers. The snow and ice that accumulate also melts more quickly on the black asphalt.
  • It could end up being cheaper. The cost of grading and filling in pot holes could be avoided.

So, please, Waterloo, your section of the Iron Horse Trail is embarrassing! Please pave it in the interest of health, safety and environment.

We whole-heartedly agree, given how important a corridor Laurel Trail is for walking and cycling in Waterloo.

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Safety on the Iron Horse Trail

How many streets do you know that close at night?

The recent murder on the Iron Horse Trail has sparked public discussion of trail safety and how to improve it. While suspects have been apprehended, the safety of the trail remains an important issue, particularly as the attack appears not to have been targeted. Whether or not the trail is actually as dangerous as often portrayed, there is a strong feeling in the community that one shouldn’t use the trail when it’s dark, and that’s unacceptable for such a major transportation link.

Many people have suggested that the trail should be lit at night, which is an obvious thing to do and which should have been done long ago. Most know that the Iron Horse Trail used to be a former railway, but it also used to an electric railway. So if you look carefully along the entire length of the IHT, you’ll actually find hydro poles going all the way along. Adding lighting should not be a difficult proposition.

Why is lighting important? The obvious answer is it lets people actually see the path at night. It also makes people feel safer using the trail, as it is thought and felt that would-be criminals avoid well-lit areas. The latter may well be true, but if people feel safer and thus use the path more, that is already important. Moreover, many people likely avoid using the trail during the day because they are afraid of returning when it’s dark. Well-travelled areas are safer, due to the possibility of someone walking by or biking by. And this possibility of witnesses both discourages crime and increases the chance of assistance.

Another suggestion has been to put more eyes on the street, which is a concept from the work of Jane Jacobs on cities. It’s about having housing and shops facing the street in such a way that people there are able to respond to incidents on the street. I’m not sure how possible this is on the Iron Horse Trail, but it’s worth looking into having more housing facing the trail. And there are a number of connections that should be made and improved between the Iron Horse Trail and the neighbourhoods it passes through.

But I would argue that the biggest danger and deterrent to trail users is motor vehicles. As I showed previously, the Iron Horse Trail essentially doesn’t have any road crossings. The trail just stops and resumes on the other side; in between you’re on your own to navigate the often fast-moving traffic. It’s worse at the two places where the trail crosses near an intersection, as trail users (including cyclists) are supposed to go out of their way on the sidewalk to cross both streets at the signal. Making the Iron Horse Trail as continuous as possible, with really good road crossings, would cut down on the hassle and time for using it and substantially improve the experience.

If we’re serious about safety on the Iron Horse Trail, we should add lighting to the trail, but we should also improve the path so more people are using it at all times of day.

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