Tag Archives: protected bike lanes

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Week in review: September 3, 2016

Consultations and feedback deadlines

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An alternative design for University Avenue

In our last post, we raised some concerns with the Region’s recommended design for the reconstruction of University Avenue between Erb Street and Keats Way.  In particular we have issues with the inadequate separation from motor traffic, and the ability to maintain the lanes in winter.  Here is a quick overview of a design that we believe better addresses these issues.

Illustrated below is the Region’s recommended design.  It features 1.5m bicycle lanes separated from motor traffic by 0.6m buffers.  It also includes sidewalks on both sides of the street – there is currently only a sidewalk on the east side.

University Ave - Erb St to Keats Way, ROW proposal, looking northeast

Region of Waterloo staff recommended design alternative for University Ave

To address our concerns regarding bicycle-car separation and winter maintenance, we would prefer that the bicycle lanes be moved off the main roadway.  Illustrated below is a road layout that takes up the same space as the region’s proposal but provides bicycle paths separate from the main roadway.

Improved University Ave - Erb St to Keats Way, looking northeast

Improved design alternative for University Ave with separated bicycle paths

This arrangement replaces the two one-way bicycle lanes with two one-way bicycle paths.  This type of infrastructure is common in the Netherlands, where it is allows people of all ages and abilities to cycle to their destinations even along fast and busy roads.

In this arrangement, the boulevard forms the buffer between bicycles and cars, freeing up the space from the two 0.6m painted buffers to be used for other purposes, such as widening the bicycle path.  It is important to note that off-street bicycle paths need to be wider than painted lanes, since cyclists do not have the option to leave the lane to overtake a slower cyclist.

Unlike in the region’s plan, we do not propose to add a new sidewalk on the west side of the road.  There is no access to the properties on the west side, and there are few origin-destination pairs that would make for a competitive walking trip.  As a result, the potential volume of pedestrian traffic would be minimal.

With so few pedestrians, it’s hard to justify building and maintaining separate pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.  The handful pedestrians that would walk along the west side of the road would not be inconvenienced by walking on the bicycle path, nor would cyclists be inconvenienced by such a small number of pedestrians on the bicycle path as long as it is sufficiently wide.

To complement this shared arrangement, there needs to be thoughtful intersection design.  The current standard designs for multi-use paths where the path ends at intersections and cyclists are expected to dismount are not acceptable. Fortunately, there are good examples of how to integrate off-road bikeways with intersections.

Omitting the west sidewalk saves 1.8 metres in the first improved design alternative, which can be allocated instead to widening the boulevard and the bicycle paths.  But this is not a critical component of the design.  There could be sidewalks on both sides, or on neither side, and the effect would be generally the same.

The end result of this design would be to make cycling along this segment of University Avenue an attractive option for people of all ages and all levels of interest in cycling.  While the remainder of University Avenue will remain hostile for now, we urge the Region to use this project as a first instance of a new standard of cycling infrastructure for arterial roads that is safe and comfortable enough for everyone.

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Could University Ave slip through the cracks?

On Tuesday, Regional staff will be presenting a report to the Planning and Works Committee, recommending the widening of University Ave between Erb St and Keats Way from 2 lanes to 4, and the addition of a new sidewalk to the west side where none currently exists. However, while staff had considered some sort of protected bike lanes or cycle tracks, the report rejects them in favour of on-street bike lanes with a narrow buffer.

While these on-road buffered bike lanes offer slightly more separation than the existing lanes, and are similar to ones we have supported for Westheights Drive, the context of University Ave makes them less appropriate. University has a speed limit of 60 km/h (which means speeds are typically higher), and sees four times as much traffic during the day. Based on these characteristics, the Ministry of Transportation’s guidelines on bicycle facility design strongly recommends considering segregated bike lanes, cycle tracks, or in-boulevard facilities. The lack of intersections and driveways also makes this block a prime candidate for protected bike lanes or boulevard multi-use pathways (which are less expensive than widened roadways and sidewalks).

So why are staff recommending on-street lanes? The report states that,

“University Ave. both north and south of the project currently has on road bike lanes and it makes the most sense for this portion of University Ave to maintain an on-road bike lane for continuity with the adjoining sections.”

At WaterlooBikes, Narayan Donaldson calls this  justification “the most absurd I have ever seen in a Canadian traffic engineering report.” Basically, we can’t do much to improve the cycling facilities on this section of University Ave, because we have lousy cycling infrastructure at either end – infrastructure where Tiberiu David was struck from behind and killed while riding his bike in 2010.

Donaldson goes on to give examples of where fully protected cycling facilities have been successfully transitioned with on-street lanes, demonstrating that integrating on-street lanes with fully protected facilities is in fact possible.

Why do recommendations like these happen?

Because no one’s paying attention. 

The report notes that only three people attended the public consultation back in November. As much as we like to think we have a Regional government that somewhat ‘gets’ the need for good active transportation infrastructure, as with any large organization, change really only occurs when people stand up and demand it. It’s plausible that after the poor attendance, the staff responsible may have concluded residents didn’t consider this stretch of road to be all that important, despite whatever latent demand may exist.

The Region itself may no longer have the staff resources to keep an “eye on the ball” for active transportation projects like this either. The planner and engineer responsible for developing the Active Transportation Master Plan, along with both Transportation Demand Management planners have either transferred to different departments or to other municipalities, and to our knowledge, none of these roles have been replaced. This void may also be the reason why the Active Transportation Advisory Committee has not been consulted on this project. We hope that as the Region establishes its priorities for this Council term, it will ensure that it has the people it needs to oversee the successful implementation of the ATMP.

The good news is that there’s still a short window of opportunity to change the course of the University Ave project, as Regional Council has yet to vote on the recommendation. Why not reach out to your councillors, or speak up at Tuesday’s committee meeting, and let them know you’re paying attention, and hope they will too.

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Photo credit: Paul Krueger on Flickr

Uptown Streetscape Ride: May 25

Wider sidewalks, two traffic lanes, parking, and protected bike lanes.

Proposed Uptown Streetscape cross-section

After many years of planning, the City of Waterloo will be making a decision on the future design for Uptown King Street on May 25. The recommended design includes wider sidewalks with more space for seating, trees, and other amenities, improvements to the road design to make driving better, and, for the first time in Waterloo, protected bike lanes separated from traffic by raised curbs and parked cars.

To celebrate this milestone for Uptown, and to support the recommended design, the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group and WaterlooBikes.ca are organizing a community bike ride through Uptown Waterloo. We’ll be gathering in the Public Square around 5:45pm on May 25, and bike up King Street where the protected bike lanes are proposed, circling back to City Hall to join the council meeting beginning at 6:30pm.

The proposed design has lots of support – from staff, elected representatives, many of the Uptown businesses, and over 1000 petitioners, and is further encouraged by a study of travel modes and spending habits in Uptown.  However, the more encouragement City Council receives for this project from the community, the more likely they will be to continue expanding the active transportation network with infrastructure of this high level of quality.

We hope to see you in Uptown next Monday.

Photo credit: Paul Krueger on Flickr

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News Release: Community Members Applaud Uptown Bike Lane Proposal

For immediate release

Recommended Uptown streetscape design includes wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes on King Street from Erb to Central.

WATERLOO, ON – May 7, 2015. Residents are celebrating a staff recommendation for protected bike lanes on King Street in Uptown Waterloo. The recommended design, if approved by Waterloo City Council, would see the installation of wider sidewalks and raised bicycle lanes, some protected from traffic by parked cars, along King Street from Erb to Central. (more…)

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Report finds cycling contributes to economic vitality of Uptown Waterloo

On Monday, City of Waterloo Council will be receiving a report from Professor Casello and Professor Moos of the University of Waterloo concerning the economic contributions of bicycle users to Uptown.

Key findings include:

  • There is significant diversity in the modes of travel people use to shop or eat in Uptown – not everyone arrives by car.
  • People who travel to shop by bike do so more frequently than those by car, and spend just as much overall.
  • Lack of bike lanes, traffic, and limited bike parking are barriers to cycling Uptown, (for both cyclists and non-cyclists alike).

This study contributes to the already compelling case for protected bike lanes on King Street. A street that is safe and welcoming to all modes of travel would boost the economic vitality of the Uptown core.

For more details, see the full report below.
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