40% Chance of Severe Thunderstorms = 60% Chance of Sunshine

Even though I have chosen my bike as my primary mode of commuter transportation since April I still find it a curiosity that I feel daunted by a forecast of severe thunderstorms.  If you are like me and rely on the weather forecast to plan your day, then I would like to suggest that we both start focusing on positive.

Where active transportation is concerned there has been some severe weather as of late related to the following:

–         deferral of cycling infrastructure installation on Lexington Road in Waterloo;

–         the cycling death on Hergott’s Road; and

–         the cycling accidents reported in the local newspaper’s on University Avenue and Lexington Road

Each time these news stories are released I wonder if I am doing the right thing in advocating for more people to become cyclists, advocating for more people to share the road with cyclists and advocating for resources to be allocated to cycling infrastructure.  But in my heart of hearts I truly believe that severe thunderstorms are isolated clouds and that the majority of the sky is blue.  It is frustrating when things happen, when a cyclist gets a ticket for riding on a sidewalk or through a cross walk, but we need to find the blue sky in these things and keep seeking change.

Here is an example of the blue sky.  I received a wonderful email from a constituent who outlined how concerned they had been over the proposed changes to Davenport road in Waterloo which included a road diet from 4 lanes to two with on road cycling lanes and landscaped centre medians.  Having used the road now for over a year, said they like it.  Further they indicated a concern over a potential road diet on Lexington, but they are willing to listen.

So what is the City of Waterloo Staff proposal for Lexington Road?

  1. Installation of dedicated left turn lanes at Davenport Road, Telby Drive, Lexington Court, Dearborn Ave and Marsland Drive so that traffic will have a permanent through lane of traffic.  As many know, Lexington already kind of functions this way because there are no left turning lanes and when traffic is stopped to turn, cars are swerving around the stopped cars to go straight through.
  2. Installation of on-road cycling lanes from Davenport Road to Marsland Drive.
  3. Installation of pedestrian refuge islands at Lexington Court and Marsland Drive to facilitate safe crossing of the road way by pedestrians.
  4. Management of through traffic from Davenport Road to Marsland Drive with one lane in each direction.
  5. Management of through traffic from Marsland Drive to Weber Street with two lanes in each direction.
  6. Installation of a multi-use trail on the south side of Lexington from Marsland Drive to Weber Street.
  7. All of the changes would be undertaken by simply re-painting the road. There would be no asphalt torn up, no long, under-construction work and no change in the road from curb to curb.

Could these changes actually work?  I will restate the fact that I am not a transportation engineer, but I do ask a lot of questions related to traffic flow.  The following are answers to questions I asked and are provided for your consideration:

  1. The pedestrian and cycling experience over the expressway bridge on Lexington will be much improved if there is one lane of through traffic in each direction and dedicated on road bike lanes.  The bike lanes will create a much needed separation between cars, cyclists and pedestrians.
  2. The intersection at Davenport and Lexington will result in less confusion if it is a single lane continuing into a single lane rather than the two lanes as it currently is.
  3. Contrary to what some people may believe many cyclists do ride on Lexington road.  I received an email indicating that the driver has never seen a cyclist on the road, but for myself I am on the road almost daily and I have seen a cyclist virtually every time I have been on the road and not just one cyclist, but rather multiple cyclists.
  4. A two lane road can manage in excess of 23,000 vehicle trips per day.  The traffic counts for the road from Davenport to Marsland indicate the road is operating at approximately 13,000 vehicle trips per day. 
  5. The addition of dedicated on-road left turning lanes will improve the function of the road.
  6. Re-painting is a cost effective way to manage the corridor as the asphalt in general appears to be in good condition.

Council has also asked staff to look at more options for the corridor, most notability the installation of a multi-use trail from Davenport to Weber Street.  Although this sounds reasonable I worry about the following things:

–         A multi-use trail can add confusion at cross walks. Cyclists can ride in any direction on a multi-use trail and will often be riding in the opposite direction to traffic which can result in accidents when the trail moves across a road.  Although cyclists are required to dismount and walk their bikes across a cross walk, this does not always happen and accidents can and do occur. 

–         Some cyclists will still choose to ride on the road so the installation of a multi-use trail will not prevent on-road conflicts with drivers.

–         There is conflict created between pedestrians and cyclists on multi-use trails.

–         The cost for the installation of a multi-use trail may exceed the city budget for the work and result in no changes being made.

–         Cyclists and pedestrians pay taxes too and deserve to be able to use our road ways.

I do not know what the future holds for Lexington Road and it would be an understatement to say that I was not feeling discouraged with the Council deferral in June, but I need to remind myself that meaningful change will only happen when I look beyond the isolated thunderstorms… I know the sunshine is there, I just need to seek it out.

Diane

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3 comments

  1. Michael Druker · July 30, 2012

    Getting more people cycling increases the visibility and safety of cycling, so it is definitely a good thing. It also has a positive impact on the health of all those who start to get around by bike. I’m glad you’re working towards this.

    I’m a big fan of redesigning the too-wide roads we have to make for better space for walking, cycling, transit, and for more trees. Albert Street north of Columbia would be a perfect place for that Davenport-style treatment (but with protected bike lanes).

    No one benefits from road width for the sake of road width. If it’s no change or a paint-only road diet for an overbuilt street like Lexington, the road diet is absolutely the way to go.

  2. Mike Boos · August 12, 2012

    Thanks Diane. I hope more of your colleagues come to support the Lexington road improvements in the fall.

    I just wanted to put in a word about multi-use trail crossings: in spite of the law, very few self-respecting cyclists dismount at road crossings. It’s like asking a motorist to get out push their car through every intersection.

    While the MTO is moving rather slowly on adopting some of these things, there are better solutions. Painted bike crossing lanes are one, or ‘elephant feet’ squares are a common European solution. I recently saw in Toronto a fairly new (not yet on Google Street View) crossing of Birchmount by the Bike Route 26 Gatineau Hydro Corridor. It separated the pedestrian ‘zebra’ crosswalk from what looked like conventional bike lanes crossing the street (one for each direction – I can’t remember if the crosswalk ran up the middle, or to one side) We should be designing our multi-use trails with crossings like these, not pedestrian-only crosswalks that treat bike users like they don’t exist.

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