Saturday, May 5, 2012

Good news for Bridge Street cycling

Regional Council's Planning and Works committee meets on Tuesday and on the docket, in the link below (see page 88) is the staff recommendation about cycling lanes for Bridge St. between Northfield and Lexington.

But wait! sayeth you. Doesn't Bridge have cycling lanes already all the way from University to Northfield, except for that tricky little bit southbound near Lexington?

The answer, I learned last winter when signs went up about this study, is... no, what is currently there between Northfield and "34 metres north of Lexington" are paved shoulders. Parking is permitted. They just happen to look (and function) like bike lanes. I have biked it for years and I was fooled, even as I railed against the (extremely rare) parked car that I believed shouldn't be there.

Heh.  Whoops.

But we're close to correcting this aberration. What's more, it's clear that the region has listened to the responses they got to their request for comments. The majority of comments were supportive of cycling. A substantial minority were against it, and supportive of maintaining on-street parking. So staff went to study how this parking was being used. The answer? Not at all. Most of the houses along Bridge here have mammoth expanses of driveway, and it's clear that nobody likes to squeeze their vehicle into that shoulder if they don't have to.

So, parking that is hardly used, or cycling lane that sees frequent use? It's a no-brainer.

The other win for public feedback is the "34 metres" north of Lexington. Originally this was excluded from the region's study area. But, due to public feedback (including mine) that they had excluded the point in the road that is crying most for improvement, they revisited it, looked at the break and the dangerous right turn lane conflict, had a chat with the city of Waterloo and... holy of holies, they're replacing the right turn lane with a continuous cycling lane!

Cyclists will need to still pay close attention here to the usual danger of the right hook, but it's a simple and welcome improvement.

I continue to be in support of better separated cycling infrastructure, and obviously this ain't it. But I am a practical advocate, and projects like this and the proposed Lexington bike lanes, are important "low-hanging fruit" steps that can show benefit quickly and broadly and extremely cheaply.

There are some things I'd like to see still. Improved markings across the T intersections, sharrows and other steps to highlight the lanes and remind drivers that they have a duty to share this space.

By and large, this is a positive step. Kudos to the region and the city, and here's to P&W passing this on Tuesday.

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