As I was riding home from work last week, I found myself riding into a steady head wind which forced me to ride in first gear. I must admit that I really don’t like head winds and I hate feeling like I am not getting anywhere.
I came to realize that where cycling policy in Ontario is concerned that cycling advocates have been riding in a steady head wind for years. As a politician in a decision making capacity and now working hard to be a cycling commuter, I really am starting to see all of the opportunity we have to make significant improvements for cyclists here inWaterloo.
I spoke in an earlier blog about the trail closure in Hillside Park and promised to return to the conversation. Well as frustrating as the closure is, it facilitated a discussion with City Staff related to the need to recognize the requirement to maintain trail connections during construction and highlighted the fact that trails are not necessarily for recreation, but also for commuting and transportation. Certainly you would not close a road in this manner. This closure helped to raise the awareness of our trail system to staff and Council and will form the basis for a policy related to maintaining trail connections during construction in the future.
As we are all well aware, there are significant challenges inWaterloo related to East West Connections over the Expressway. I have explored crossing at University (terrifying), Lexington(do able), and Northfield(a bit scary). The City is undertaking an Environmental Assessment related to road improvements on Lexington and all of the preferred alternatives consider on-road cycling infrastructure by way of a dedicated lane. City Staff, our Transportation and Trail Committee and I have been in conversation with the Region of Waterloo and the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) regarding improvements on Northfield. With the LRTcoming through in the future and the need to reconstruct that roadway at that time, significant improvements to the overpass will likely have to wait. I don’t see much opportunity to makeUniversity Avenue more cycling friendly, but trying to find an alternative across the expressway near University is on the agenda for the City Transportation and Trail Committee. I have come to understand that the MTO has the first and last say in anything related to the Expressway. I hope that the soon to be released coroner’s report on cycling deaths inOntariowill help to lead a change where MTO holdings are concerned.
To all of my cycling friends I say, thank you for riding in the head wind for so long. Valued change takes time and the changes that have occurred are valued by new cyclists like me and those that will follow in my footsteps. Please know that even in first gear, you have made a difference and you have moved the cycling conversation ahead.