We need safer roads for everyone who uses them. We need to build roads for people.
It is important that Kitchener improves the experience of people who choose active transportation options such as walking or riding a bike. If we do, more people will choose these options more frequently. As a result, they will be both healthier and happier.
Speed bumps and painted crossings are popular and can be effective. At the same time, they are indicators that our city encourages driving and our roads encourage us to drive fast. The solutions for existing are complex and one measure is often not enough.
Most of us will continue to use cars but we need to encourage more people to walk, ride bicycles and take transit–and more frequently–as part of their transportation mix. That means a focus on what is known as multimodal transportation.
For people driving cars, this approach means fewer instead of more cars on the road as our population increases. It also means ending the fight between people driving and riding bikes for space.
Hopefully, we can also shift some of our budget for building new roads to improving the maintenance of the roads we have. Because for example, preventing and fixing potholes contribute to safe roads.
Our environment also benefits when more people frequently choose sustainable transportation options.
I embrace the Vision Zero approach to road safety that believes no deaths or serious injuries on our roads are acceptable. Improved design is the best solution especially when building or rebuilding roads. We need to look at design changes and other strategies when there are serious incidents on our roads.
Encouraging people to ride bikes
We can encourage more people to ride bikes if it is easy for them to get around and they feel safe.
Right now too many bike lanes and trails fail to connect to other bike lanes and trails. Or you are riding in a bike lane that suddenly disappears or you discover it is not really a bike lane at all.
The result is that people who want to ride bikes for transportation often use sidewalks because they don’t feel safe on the roads. A painted line does not help make people feel safe. A good test for if a road feels safe for someone to ride a bike on is if you are a child can ride and be safe. Few of our roads pass that safety test.
So let’s make building protected bike lanes a priority. I like curb protected bike lanes but there are other options such as planters, boulevards, bollards and parked cars. The bike lanes with roll up curbs such as the Region of Waterloo installed on Manitou are not adequate as they are essentially putting bikes onto the shoulder of the road without doing enough to improve safety.
When we do, you’ll see more people riding bikes because that is what has been happening across North America. People who are reluctant to be road warriors and fight for space with cars start riding bikes and parents feel safe enough to ride bikes with their kids because they are safer.
At the same time, our bike routes need to be connected to each other. Our incremental approach to adding bike routes leaves too many gaps where people don’t feel safe to ride–often because they are not safe. Let’s build what’s known as a “minimum grid” to ensure people have a network of bike routes they allows them to safely and easily choose to get around riding a bike. I’m confident we can get this up and running in 12 – 18 months and get more people riding bikes because cities like Edmonton and Calgary have already done it.
Maintenance of our trails and bike lanes is as important as it is for the space used by cars. More than two years, a section of the Walter Bean trail along the Grand River in Deer Ridge is not suitable for anything other than mountain bikes because of being washed out during a major storm. Even walking is a challenge for many people especially people pushing a stroller or using a wheel chair.
The city would never allow a road to remain is such poor condition for so long. There are not even signs informing people.
I have signed the CycleWR candidate pledge to work with the rest of Council if I am elected to ensure adequate funding and a minimum grid is in place over the next four years.
Read Part 2 for how to encourage walking and how we can afford these ideas