Thursday, September 19, 2013

Waterloo Trail Improvements - summary

These are based on my recollections and conversations at the open house Wednesday.

The "Interior Loop Trail" (contest to come up with a name!) was the showcase of the proposal, and was generally positive, though with some caveats.

Link to PDF

Overall, it's ambitious (as trail improvement plans go) to address this route so systematically, and with (according to staff) a lot of potential for change to take place even in the next year. Creating a loop enables a lot of different trips, not just back and forth from uptown, but from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in the north. Improving the quality and consistency of the trail, and taking a serious stab at wayfinding aids, are also welcome.

In addition, a lot of intersections and crossings would be improved. Not a huge amount of detail here, but again the term "systematic" really jumps to mind. Virtually every trail segment and intersection has been looked at.


As you can see, it won't be a "loop" for a while. In the north is a large section that remains to be worked out, with a couple of possibilities (working out an agreement with Waterloo Inn if/when they redevelop, or following city-owned land close to the highway). But they're still conceptual.

Another small gap lies in Uptown, in the King St. area, though that's not surprising given the LRT construction plans. Also, LRT is responsible for delaying surface improvements in Waterloo Park. But, the same project may yield opportunities to extend paths and trails along the rail corridor up to Northfield and beyond (...St. Jacobs?) This intriguing possibility was raised by Jan D'ailly, chair of the Waterloo advisory committee on active transportation (WACAT).

Other noteworthy items:

Carter and Mackay streets (between Weber and University on the south-east side of the loop) are being proposed with sharrows. I had a discussion with a staffer about whether this was appropriate or desirable. These streets are very low volume wide residential streets, with sparsely used on-street parking. It could be that sharrows will be benign here, and useful wayfinding devices. It struck me as an odd context to apply sharrows in, though.

The proposed trail crossing at Weber/Mackay is still a work in progress. A couple of options were presented. This crossing will be a challenge, but also of great benefit.

Big picture:

The trail system in Waterloo is still disjoint and inconsistent, but this proposal would be a major step in bringing it together if it is followed through.

For cycling, the way we should look at the trail system is as a place where very casual or novice cyclists of any age should feel comfortable and confident to ride. Unfortunately with all of the current breaks, bad intersections and lack of signage, they are not so appealing. When a gentle trail is interrupted by 4 lanes of speeding traffic without any crossing, it is effectively a dead end for many people.

The city of Waterloo should be congratulated for attacking this problem. It's not a perfect proposal, and it's not a complete solution. But as incremental improvements go, this one is bigger than most.

Now we need to see it happen. And that's where we come in: to provide feedback and shape the proposal, and then to be willing to speak to council about the benefits it will bring.

Stay tuned.


  1. The Waterloop!

    Erb and Caroline remains one of the most jarring intersections when it comes to cycling in this region.


  2. 'Waterloop' - I like it, be sure to submit it!

    Thanks for the summary, I agree, it still feels disjointed but a huge step in the right direction. Now we just need to see the money being spent.

  3. Ha ha! I came here to suggest Waterloop as well. Hopefully someone in charge also thinks the way we do.