Guelph needs more bike-friendly space: report

Monday, July 20, 2009

  • The City of Guelph aims to triple the number of commuters who take their bikes to work by from 1.1 per cent to 3.3 per cent. (iS

    The City of Guelph aims to triple the number of commuters who take their bikes to work by from 1.1 per cent to 3.3 per cent. (iS

Written by Greg Beneteau

Bike lanes on many Guelph streets would become the norm under proposed changes to the city’s transportation plan.

City staff released a report Monday recommending that bike lanes be added when renovating all arterial roads in the city, even if the lane wasn’t originally called for in the city’s official plan. Council is currently required to approve such lanes individually, and only when roads came up for reconstruction.

The additional red tape meant some roads didn’t get bike lanes when they should have, said Ward 1 Councillor Bob Bell.

“It was happening that roads were being reconstructed and they were bicycle routes, but they weren’t getting bike lanes,” Councillor Bell explained.

Arterial roads carry moderate to high amounts of traffic and are considered a class below highways. Arkell Road and Eastview Road are examples of arterial roads that received bike lanes even though the official plan didn’t call for it.

Bike lanes would more than double if roads updated: report

The recommendation was one of four proposed changes presented by the city’s transportation planning manager, Rajan Philips, to the Community Development and Environmental Service Committee.

In addition to planned cycling path expansions, the report recommended that bike lanes be added to any road that was supposed to have a bike route installed during road reconstruction.

The report said that commuter cyclists preferred using clearly-marked 1.5-metre wide bike lanes over bike routes, where the road width is extended without demarcation, or off-street bike trails.

Safety and efficiency were also cited as reasons to favour bike lanes. “Designated on-street bike lanes are safer than unmarked on-street bike routes, and provide more direct connections between trip ends than off-street trails,” the report said. “On-street bike lanes are also included in roadway winter maintenance unlike off-street trails.”

The report further suggested that the city take advantage of federal and provincial stimulus cash to build bike lanes on roads that aren’t slated for reconstruction “in the near term” but are nevertheless used by cyclists.

The move would affect areas like Gordon Street between Harts Lane and Kortright Road and the section of Stone Road west of Victoria Road, identified in the report as “two of the most heavily used bicycle corridors in Guelph.”

If the city put two-way bike lanes in all arterial roadways, it would more than double the length of all the bike lanes in Guelph, from 50 km to more than 110 km, the report estimated.

Local cyclist Robert Case applauded the move, saying it would bike rides with his kids less of a hassle.

“The key is to make it safe and easy to get where you need to go,” Case said.

Lack cycling space can make road rules difficult to follow: Laidlaw

The city is currently pursuing a Bicycle-Friendly Guelph that aims to triple the number of commuters who take their bikes to work by 2018, from 1.1 per cent to 3.3 per cent.

The program is supposed to promote cycling through a “five E’s” strategy - Engineering, Enforcement, Encouragement, Evaluation and Education - but some cyclists have recently complained that enforcement of minor traffic violations is trumping other priorities.

Case, for example, received a $110 fine and three demerit points on his driver’s license for riding the wrong way down the recently converted Carden Street, despite the fact a detour would have sent him into a construction zone.

It’s part of a constant struggle, he said, where cyclists want to obey the rules of the road but are flustered by the lack of space reserved for them on major streets.

“If the police are going to be vigilant, they should emphasize education... don’t just go handing out tickets to people, especially if there aren’t any bike lanes,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilor Maggie Laidlaw agreed, noting in an editorial to be published in The Mercury that any plan to incorporate cyclists into road transportation would need to acknowledge the difficulties they face, particularly a lack of lane space and drivers who don’t want to share the road.

“It is all very well for people to complain about cyclists riding on sidewalks,” she wrote. “But, until such time as the majority of streets in this city have bike lanes, particularly the major commuter streets, this will continue to happen on occasions when it cannot be avoided, because of the narrowness of certain streets and the belligerent attitude of many motorists,” she wrote.

Councillor Bell expressed hope that more new lanes would help alleviate the problem of cyclists violating traffic laws - and possibly endangering themselves or others - to avoid riding down unfriendly streets.

“The first step is to provide a spot on the side of the road where people can ride there bikes,” Bell said. “Unless we can do that, we’ll never get people riding bikes and if they do ride their bikes, they might be hurt.”

Council will discuss the report’s recommendations at their next council meeting July 27.

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  1. Posted by: Stephanie on Jul 22, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    We don't just need more bike lanes. We need bike lanes with a physical barrier separating the cars and bikes! Montreal has started doing that.


    Now I would feel safe riding THERE. It doesn't matter how large the bike lanes are (1.5 m, 4m), cars can still swerve.

    We also need bike lanes not ending in random locations. For example, there's a bike lane on Gordon going toward Kortright from the University that ends at the Athletic Club/Delta entrance. Bikes are then forced to merge with regular traffic. Bikes can't keep up with cars going 50/60 kph.

    Let's hope Guelph takes it just a tiny step further. Even a small physical barrier would tell cars to stay away from our bike lanes.

  2. Posted by: myra on Jul 24, 2009 @ 7:13am

    we do need more bike lanes, but as someone stole my old, rusty Schwinn at 4am this morning, I won't be able to use them.

    as a single parent who lives in poverty, I can't afford to replace my only means of transportation.

    I suppose the two guys who stole my bike early this morning won't bother using bike lanes -- they don't care about the doing what is right, like not riding on sidewalks or obeying the rules of the road.

    if you see my old, rusty red Schwinn, big basket on the front, white wall tire on front with all black tire on back, post here and let me know where you saw it.

    a police report has been filed -- but it's not worth anything to others, but it meant the world to me.


  3. Posted by: on Jul 24, 2009 @ 10:56am

    Everyone on planet Earth has had their bike stolen at some point in their life.


  4. Posted by: myra on Jul 24, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    wow, my first time and at 51, I'd say I"m not as jaded are you are, Adam.

    thanks for the compassion,

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