Thursday, September 27, 2012

Feed Fiddling

Heads up feed-based readers: I've tried turning on full feeds. This came as a request from a blackberry user whose antiquated mobile device struggled with advanced concepts such as "embedding", and "blogs" and "pixels".

The feed is available as before at and also through feedburner (this drives the "subscribe by email" feature) at .

I confess I'm not a feed expert. All I hope is that I haven't slammed a few subscribers' inboxes with 70 or so republished articles. My apologies if this goes pear-shaped.

Oh, what the hell. If they were worth reading once, they're worth reading again. Right?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

[LOABKW]: Getting from NE Waterloo to SW Kitchener by trail!

I work near Northfield and Bridge.

My dentist, for reasons best left unexplained, is at the Sunrise Centre at Ottawa and Fischer-Hallmann.

This is quite a trek: almost 16km! And today I did it by bike. The resulting ride shows off how well you can get around by trail, if you:
  • Know where you're going
  • Are willing to bridge the gaps in the cycling network.
Green, yellow and red dots highlight the good, meh, and bad parts of the ride. Blue dots are informational.

I hope this record helps you find better ways to get around on two wheels. And to learn how good our cycling network could be, with some key strategic improvements!

View the map.

Update: I had some good feedback on Facebook from a friend of mine, Chris D, who knows the southwest side of Kitchener better than I do. His advice is helpful:

"Some ideas in my neck of the woods (SW Kitchener):

During construction there is a bike/pedestrian crossing of the express way at Fisher-Hallman divided from normal traffic by a ba
rrier. Of course, with the speed of traffic through the bottleneck there you probably could ride with traffic (as I have).

After you get across the expressway you immediately gain a bike lane that can be used to get to the trails that border the culvert all the way to Victoria Park. As an added advantage, you can follow the trails under Westmount so crossing there isn't too bad... and if you don't like the bike lane on Fisher-Hallman, you can turn at McGarry Drive and pick up a trail along the creek that takes you to the culvert trails.

Another interesting path is to follow the paths on the hydro corridor, which will take you from Kingswood (a block from Homer-Watson) to Fisher-Hallman at Activa. Based on your path I'd cross Ottawa at Westmount and you'll find access to this trail on Westmount 50m past the intersection. It can be a challenge to follow between Westmount and Fisher-Hallman because it splits a few times, but if you end up on Dinison St it's easy enough to pick up the small trail to the lights at Fisher-Hallman and Activa further down anyway.

Once you're on Activa, take Grey Fox to Orchard Cresent and you can pick up a trail that drops you across Ottawa from the Home Depot at the Sunrise Centre.

The advantage here is that despite needing to cross Ottawa twice you don't need to travel along it at all..."
My notes on this: Fischer-Hallmann (I believe) will have bike lanes across the expressway-- and a removal of a dangerous basket weave-- when construction is complete. But FH is (to me) a route of necessity only, not a preferred choice. Much better for roads of this size and speed to have a separated trail or cyclepath, as parts of FH already does and will soon.

He also provided an alternative route segment. But it involves an un-improved section of Westmount, which doesn't seem better to me than a bike-laned section of Ottawa.

I see this as a key area for strategic infill. A little work along Westmount could greatly improve connectivity for the whole area!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Routes and Secrets of east Waterloo

Fall looms

It's that part of September that is still officially summer, but is fall in spirit. It's positively autumnal these last few days. And it feels good! Even if it's a tad wet. I admit that I wussed out of cycling through Tuesday morning's deluge and took transit instead.

I've not blogged much about #loabKW lately, because there hasn't really been anything very interesting to say. I bike during the week. It's normal. The Lexington expressway crossing still sucks, but that's normal too. Groceries get bought, places get visited, life is surprisingly unremarkable.

But I do like the ducks. And the bunnies. I see a lot of each on my rides. Flickers, too, for some reason-- you can recognize them by their white butts as they fly away.

That's one thing I haven't really talked about: the rides, and the routes that I'm on every day. I do try and explore as much of KW as I can on bike, but most of the time I'm going to and from work. Much of these rides are on quiet streets or trails (though some trails have only recently been reopened) and when you're on two wheels, you can take in the scenery a lot more.

Route secrets

If you need to move to and from north-east Waterloo, you move from embarrassment of cycling riches to awful choke points and back again. There is great cycling in the neighbourhoods around Bridge Street, north of University:

<<<< sorry guys, Google doesn't embed maps with the cycling layer turned on, because Bob returned late from lunch last Friday and didn't spend 5 minutes implementing that feature... please click the links to follow along. As for Google, they and I need to have a few words. >>>>

Snippets of trail, lots of cut-through paths (although not on Allenby Court), and cycling lanes on roads like Bridge and Davenport. Even the ward councilor, Diane Freeman, is an avid cyclist.
Unfortunately, you can't get there from here. Literally: if you don't have the intestinal fortitude to mix with speeding traffic-- or are willing to flaunt the rules and sensibility by biking a sidewalk perilously close to a low guardrail and a 30 foot drop to the expressway below-- this neighbourhood is entirely cut off from the rest of Waterloo. But we've been here before and we know the solution is: road-diet Lexington. Just waiting on staff and council to see the light.

Still: if you can stomach Lexington, the city is your oyster. Well, maybe not quite-- UW is a major high-traffic gap away (the Columbia/King mess), but you can get to Uptown and to Kitchener if you know where you're going. Dearborn Boulevard is your gateway off Lexington and away from the 80km/h traffic, and connects with the great trail system that is the Forwell Creek and Hillside Park. From here you can ride trails up to Manulife headquarters, over to Canadian Tire, or all the way down to University Avenue near a small street called Carter Avenue.

It's hard to get across University right now, but that will change in a year or two: reconstruction will add a refuge island here. And Carter leads you to Moses Springer Park and into the heart of the bike-navigable Lincoln neighbourhood.

Infill! Infill!

Last night I saw something that piqued my interest: a City of Waterloo planning map that shows a proposed trail extension from Lincoln Park across Weber to connect with a trail leading to Uptown, here at Mackay Crescent. Getting across Weber here is key. I hope discussions between city and region bear fruit.

If you can get across Weber right here (here's a hint: you can't. It's stupid.) then you have almost clear sailing all the way to Uptown Waterloo, the Laurel Trail, the Iron Horse, you name it. Otherwise, there are some options if you filter along Lincoln Ave and through the Sobeys plaza (pick up your groceries while you're there!) and then on down Devitt or Moore. Moore provides access to Duke, which is the best way to downtown Kitchener on a bike if you can't get to the Iron Horse... or it will be, until the Spur Trail is constructed.

(Do you sense a theme? A theme of being close to a great cycling network but for a few critical gaps? Talk to your councilors. Explain to them the wonder of infill. Tell them you're not willing to wait until the gaps get reconstructed.)

Of course, this also passes the Mount Hope cemetery, which is my stomping grounds (or... maybe a little less in the cemetery as near it.) From here you're on your own.


But if you want to make the same trip in a different way, you could try riding past the Canadian Tire, braving a short stretch of Weber and Columbia, and head down Regina. Not too bad, especially if you work the lights right. You still have to cross at Lexington though.

Or you could take a different plot and head down Bridge to Lancaster (possibly avoiding the roundabout by taking this dogleg). This is not pleasant cycling, as it's decades-old infrastructure with no cycling accommodation-- but the widths are generally good, and if you don't mind a brutal hill or two, you could do okay. Lancaster happens to lead right to Queen, which is a great gateway to Kitchener too. But it's a traffic lunatic asylum, so be warned.

Look, what I'm trying to say is that there's some great cycling in the City of Waterloo, especially on the east end. But to enjoy it, you have to deal with the fact that the City of Waterloo is in fact two cycling networks, disconnected by an expressway. Maybe this will be fixed soon, but in the meantime you should ask yourself if you really need to wait for that.

I can't. I have to be out there.

There's ducks, after all. And bunnies. And flickers.

See you on the trails.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A by-election of significance

A brief commentary for today, by-election day in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Today's a big day in KW. Provincial by-election here and in one other riding, where voters have the ability to push the minority Liberals into de facto majority territory-- or deny them that majority. The result has been a huge amount of attention paid to our area, as this column indicates.

We're having a by-election just 11 months after the last general provincial election, because of the resignation of two MPPs: Elizabeth Witmer here in KW, and Greg Sorbara in Vaughan.

I see the results here as having a huge influence on the next election. If the Libs can keep Vaughan and secure the KW seat, it's all quiet on the election front for the next few years as they'll control the house. If the NDP or the PCPO prevail, it could point the way towards how the province will swing in an inevitable no-confidence election some time in the next year or two. And while nobody expects the Greens to win, it will be interesting to see what kind of support will they garner, and how will that affect party platforms next time around.

And to top it all off, the KW result is no foregone conclusion. Nobody is sure how any of the big three will place.