One of my most read posts over the last year has been “Adult cyclists don’t belong on the sidewalk.” It also had one of the most vigorous discussions this blog has ever seen. I think it shows how important that issue is in Waterloo Region. It also shows how important it is to address the concerns of cyclists who don’t believe they are safe on the streets. I intentionally steered clear of the debate over infrastructure for cycling at the time due to a contract I held.
But what I wanted to say was that we definitely need more dedicated bike lanes. And the feedback I got from cyclists convinced me that we need bike lanes that are physically separated from vehicles to provide the greatest safety and comfort to cyclists. Doing so will help ensure sidewalks can be safely used by pedestrians especially children, seniors and anyone who requires assistance to get around. I’d also like to see more mixed used pathways such as the Iron Horse and Walter Bean trails so that cyclists have more alternatives to the road network.
Make your voice heard!
I’m revisiting the topic now partly because the Region of Waterloo is in the midst of a consultation process about how we can encourage more people to walk and ride their bikes. The focus is about roads that are “Regional” roads. In the cities, that’s mainly the major arterial roads like Victoria, King, Weber and Ottawa.
Public centres have been held but you can still participate. The Walk Run Waterloo Region website has all the information online in an easily read format. At the bottom of the page, there is a link to the consultation’s online comment form. I’ve submitted my comments. If you haven’t yet, do so now or anytime by November 28. Don’t procrastinate though. If this issue is important to you, do it now.
Adult cyclists still don’t belong on the sidewalk
Just because I’m now saying that we need better biking infrastructure doesn’t mean I’ve changed my original position. I still strongly believe that adult cyclists do not belong on sidewalks. I concede there may be a need for exceptions on short stretches where a cyclist is clearly taking their life into their own hands but they should be exceptions, for a short distance and when there is no viable alternative.
I maintain that cyclists are for the most part safe on the road–and in general safer than sidewalk cyclists perceive themselves to be. Infrastructure improvements will help but cyclists shouldn’t wait until they see a dramatic improvement before they stop using sidewalks. They often have alternatives but choose not to use them. For example, the cyclists riding past me along King Street East could be on Charles or Duke Streets. Both are much better suited (for the most part) for cycling than King Street. Both run parallel to King and are close to it so they don’t take anyone out of their way. I know. When I choose to bike to the downtown core, I choose Charles Street for that reason. Residential streets are also normally a better choice since they don’t have high volumes of traffic going in both directions that force cyclist to hug the curb and doesn’t allow vehicles to easily pass. It’s not always possible to cycle with the same mindset as a car drive and use what is considered the most direct and/or quickest route.
I think that cyclists have to take some responsibility for their own safety and comfort level by planning routes that deliver those objectives. To help them out, here’s a link from Google just for local cyclists: Waterloo Region Cycling Routes.