I live in Kitchener-Waterloo in the northeast end of town and one of my biggest pet peeves about cycling infrastructure in this part of town is the lack of bike lanes or safe roads to cross Highway 85 to get across town.
There’s been considerable improvement in bike paths and bike lanes in K-W in recent years. However, whenever roads get repaved or rebuilt, I’m disappointed when I don’t see bike lanes added.
On the map below (from Google Maps), I’ve highlighted Highway 85 (a.k.a. Conestoga Parkway) and I’ve circled eight possible places to cross it. Google Maps has an option to show dedicated bike lanes (solid green lines) and “bike friendly roads” (dashed green lines).
The first thing to note is that for the eight possible crossings of Highway 85, only one (#6, King Street at Conestoga Mall) has dedicated bike lanes. This is great and there’s been a lot of construction in this area for the new LRT. However, you’ll also notice that these lanes aren’t connected to anything. To get there from the east end of Waterloo, you’d either have to ride through the mall (and it’s very busy parking lot), or ride up to Northfield, turn left onto King Street, ride towards the mall and eventually get a bike lane.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a summary of the Highway 85 crossings:
- Victoria Street, Kitchener. No bike lanes, busy traffic, four lanes. I drive this road frequently and I never see cyclists. No surprise, given that cars move fast. It’s a busy road for commuters between K-W and Guelph.
- Lancaster Street. No bike lane. This road could easily have a bike lane. It doesn’t have full ramps in all directions for the Highway and it doesn’t get too busy. Bike lanes would make sense. Cyclists could link up with Union St., Breithaupt Park, the bike lane on Margaret Ave. and the Spur Line Trail.
- Bridgeport Rd. No bike lane. This is a busy interchange with the Highway with cars merging to and from the ramps. Still a bike lane from the east to Bluevale St. or Margaret Ave. could at least get cyclist across the highway into quieter neighbourhoods.
- University Ave. No bike lane. Another busy interchange but a bike lane would still be safer. There’s bike lanes on University from Northfield to Bridge St. Then the lane disappears until Lincoln on the other side of the highway. This is a frequent route for me when I ride to the Hydrocut trails. A bike lane would sure help here.
- Lexington Road. No bike lane. Great bike lanes exist on Lexington from University to Davenport, then disappear. They reappear at King St. I use this road a lot as well. There are paths once you get across the Highway that are paved but you still need to get across the Highway.
- King Street at Conestoga Mall. Bike lanes (see above).
- Northfield Drive. They’ve recently re-opened this bridge and the ramps. So I’ll reserve judgment until I see it more.
- King Street at the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market. No bike lanes, and turning left from King St. to the outlet mall always seems risky on a bike.
I’m not a city planner and I know there are a lot of considerations when it comes to these kinds of things. But it seems to me that bike lanes should be part of all resurfacing or rebuilding plans. City planners seem to want to force cyclists onto certain roads, rather than make all roads (other than major highways of course) accessible by bikes. They’re catering to cyclists who already ride these roads, rather than trying to get more people onto bicycles and out of cars.
Certainly, we live in a car-centric society. I drive a car so I’m part of the problem. Everything is too convenient for car drivers and too inconvenient for cyclists. How do we get more people out of their cars and onto bikes? Again, I’m no planner, but I’ll add my wish list:
- A well-connected network of bike lanes, paths (My dream: all roads will have bike lanes). K-W is getting there, but there’s still a lot of disconnection in our network.
- An efficient and affordable public transit system (If public transit was cheaper than parking, my guess is that more people would use it).
- Safe and secure bicycle parking. Too many bikes are stolen in K-W. The last thing cyclists should have to worry about is having their bike stolen.
These things aren’t easy, but they are possible. Other cities are investing huge $ into cycling infrastructure. Let’s make it happen!
UPDATE: See comments below. I’d forgotten about two other options for crossing the Highway: (1) Guelph St. This has recently been updated with a bike lane (I believe). From there, you can continue on Guelph St (I’m not sure how long the bike lane continues as you ride west) or ride to Union St. and to Margaret Ave. (2) Wellington. Lots of construction going on here. Cars come off the Highway fast so cycling won’t feel safe. I’m not sure if there’s a plan for bike lanes on Wellington or not.