I’ve been at my current day job for about six years, and when I started in 2011, the commute was a short 9-10 km distance that I didn’t cycle enough. I even had the luxury of secure bike storage, a shower, and the Grand River Trail. In March of this year, my employer moved to Guelph, and my commute jumped to about 22 km. Strangely, I’ve commuted by bike this year a lot more than in previous years when I had a shorter commute.
When I ride to work in the mornings, I usually take the same route. A 22 km ride that’s the shortest distance without riding on Highway 7. Our new office has secure, indoor bike storage and a shower. At the end of the work day, I’ll usually ride home a different way to add variety and a bit of distance.
With this experience, I’ve learned a lot about cycling routes between Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) and Guelph (or, I should say… lack of cycling routes). There’s actually no direction connection of bike lanes between the Region of Waterloo (RoW, which ends about half way along my commute) and Wellington County. The RoW has cycling maps and plans available online (including: http://www.explorewaterlooregion.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/RegionalCyclingNetwork_11x17_0.pdf), and I found a cycling map for the City of Guelph and their proposed network, but nothing beyond the city limits.
If you look closely, the long-term plan is to include Highway 7 (Victoria Street in Kitchener) as an “Approved On Road Cycle Route”, but the map (in the link above) ends at the boundary between the RoW and Wellington County. There’s no indication of any kind of continuity in cycling infrastructure between these two municipalities.
For reference, here’s the proposed route of the “new” Highway 7:
This highway will be four lanes (two in each direction), and motor vehicles will be moving at high speeds (>100 km/h, likely). But what about cycling? On a highway of this scale, it is highly unlikely that cycling infrastructure is part of the plan, However, here are some other ideas for cycling connectivity between KW and Guelph:
- The Dream: With the construction of the “new” Highway 7 starting, wouldn’t it be great to have the “old” Highway 7 as a multi-use path/road? Think about it: pedestrians, joggers, cyclists. The distance (along “old” 7 from Bingeman’s to Highway 6 in Guelph is only about 15 kilometres. Why not close this road to motorists (when the “new” 7 opens) and fix it up for cyclists and walkers/runners? Think about how this would connect KW and Guelph. You’d see small businesses opening up along here – coffee shops, bakeries.
- If “old” 7 can’t be turned into a bike/pedestrian path, how about creating one along the rail line (I’m not sure how much it’s used, but it runs from downtown Kitchener to downtown Guelph, and I’ve seen trails on it, so this could be a fantasy).
- A two-way bike lane along the “new” Highway 7. From what I’ve read, land has already been purchased. A segregated two-way bike trail could be part of the construction process.
- Continuous bike lane options that connect the Region of Waterloo with Wellington County. I realize this covers two different municipal governments, but I also think that it’s not too much to ask. Here is one plan:
- Speedvale Road in northeast Guelph already has some (disconnected) stretches that include bike lanes. There are also some stretches where there is no paved shoulder and cars and transport trucks pass too close at speeds that are intimidating. But connecting the bike lanes makes sense. Speedvale starts at the Woolwich-Guelph Townline road, and a bike lane from here to Victoria St. in Guelph would be a fantastic idea!
- From the KW side, we’d need a way to get to this bike lane on Speedvale. Woolwich-Guelph Townline Road is partly paved and partly gravel. I ride it when I commute to work. The paved section is from Highway 7 south to Speedvale. North of Highway 7, it’s gravel, and south of Speedvale it’s gravel. (Gravel roads tend to have a lot less motor traffic because… who wants to get stone chips on their car?). Bike lanes along the paved portion of this road make sense. If the gravel portions are paved, then bike lanes would be a great idea. (But who pays… RoW or Wellington County? Here’s an idea… they split the cost because technically, the bike lanes on one side of the road are in the RoW, and on the other side, they’re in Wellington!)
- As you move west, there are different options, but bike lanes along Village View Road, and Forester Road make a lot of sense. These roads are north of Highway 7 and they lead towards the town of Bridgeport. And there are already good bike lanes on Bloomingdale Road into Bridgeport.
- There’s a stretch of Ebycrest where there’s no paved shoulder. Bike lanes could be added along Ebycrest from Bloomingdale Road all the way down to Highway 7. That would be a fantastic idea! In fact, Bike lanes on Ebycrest all the way to Bridge St. would make even more sense. The new Highway 7 looks like it’s going to cross over Ebycrest just south of Bridge Street.
- Finally, extend the bike lanes along Bloomingdale Road. The bike lanes in Bridgeport are nice and wide, but they get a lot thinner as you head east out of Bridgeport (coincidentally, where the speed limit goes from 50 to 80 km/hr). Bike lanes remain thin until Ebycrest, where they widen again until the town of Bloomingdale, where they disappear, but that’s another story.
- Another option for continuous bike lanes between KW and Guelph is a bit further north. St. Charles St. connects the towns of Bloomingdale and Maryhill. There’s a good bike lane on this entire length of road. But the bike lane ends as you go further east towards the RoW/Wellington County border. How about adding a bike lane along Maryhill Road/30? This would allow cyclists to continue east toward Guelph. Then we’d need a way back south, either Elmira Road or Silvercreek Parkway would be great options for bike lanes north of Highway 7 towards Guelph. Road 30 crosses between the RoW and Wellington County, so adding bike lanes might require communication between these municipal governments…
Sure, the “new” Highway 7 is going to move a lot of cars and trucks between the cities. But I see it as yet another barrier for cycling. Interchanges across this highway could most definitely be an issue for cyclists (Read my previous blog post about the barrier of the Conestoga Parkway in Kitchener-Waterloo for an idea of how short-sighted thinking creates barriers to cyclists). Here’s a link with the RoW’s plan for the “new” Highway 7 (Note: It’s from 2011): http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalGovernment/resources/PM2011-0412.pdf
Seeing how the planning for this began so long ago (the Environmental Assessment was in 2007), how about we open the table to cycling infrastructure during construction. Apparently the RoW has purchased the land already. Let’s consider cycling when huge infrastructure like this is built!