If you saw this Terry Pender story on The Record website or in the paper itself, you might have wondered if Kitchener cyclists are on their way to becoming Kitchener pedestrians.
The article says that a multi-use paved trail will replace the sidewalks on either side of Block Line Road in Kitchener, from Strasburg Road to Homer Watson Boulevard. There is already a multi-use paved trail on one side of Block Line from Homer Watson to Fallowfield Drive, and the expectation is that another will be added from Fallowfield to Courtland Avenue, where one of the LRT stations will be established when the rapid transit service launches in 2017.
My first concern was that the existing trails/sidewalks funnel cyclists to crosswalks, where, by provincial legislation, they have to dismount and walk their bikes across. Seriously? That'll never happen. Making cyclists dismount at every intersection turns cyclists into pedestrians.
Josh Joseph and Ron Schirm, of Kitchener's transportation department, inform me that the plans are that the trails will offer cyclists the option to return to the street within 30 metres of an intersection, so that they can join the traffic flow and ride through the intersection, and then rejoin the multi-use trail 30 metres farther on.
The big roundabout at Homer Watson and Block Line will be handled differently, in that cyclists will be instructed to remain on the multi-use trail, and will have to dismount and walk their bikes across Homer Watson. (Frankly, that roundabout is so scary, that using the crosswalk seems like a smart alternative.) For smaller roundabouts, such as the one at Fallowfield and Block Line, cyclists can join the traffic and ride through the roundabout.
That's the plan, anyway. The same plan was recommended for the multi-use trail on Huron Road, from Strasburg Road to Fischer-Hallman Road. Those ramps to allow cyclists to ride off the trail and join the traffic flow haven't been built.
Between announcement and implementation, a lot can happen, and I fear someone will decide that the on/off ramps for cyclists add too much cost to the project. So my guess is that the multi-use trail will be separate and distinct from the roadway, and cyclists will have the legislative obligation to dismount to use the crosswalks at Country Hill Drive and Kingswood Drive, for instance.
I have other concerns, so here's my voice crying in the wilderness: There are already painted bike lanes on Block Line Road, all the way from Westmount Road to Homer Watson. And they work. Except for the occasional right-turning bozo who decides the bike lane was meant for his compact car, cars stay out of the bike lanes and cyclists can ride care-free and car-free.
Why spend the cash to tear up the existing sidewalks and replace them with a paved multi-use trail, when there is already functioning bicycle infrastructure there? Think how many more painted and signed on-street bike lanes could be created with that cash.
And if the pedestrian population isn't already ticked off with the occasional hotdogging cyclist who crowds their space on the sidewalks, what are they going to think of the bicycle commuting crowd that fills the multi-use trail on their way to and from the LRT station? Oh man, I don't want to see the traffic jams when the St. Mary's High School crowd and the cycle commuters are filling all the crosswalks on the roundabout at Homer Watson.
I know, I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Segregated cycling lanes are seen by many non-cyclists or occasional cyclists as safer than on-road cycling lanes. Hesitant cyclists are even more hesitant when fast cars and trucks go zipping by. A separated bicycle lane (aka multi-use trail) will encourage more people to ride, and will help feed non-car traffic to the planned LRT station on Courtland.
But the speed limit on Block Line is 50 km/h. Assuming an average cycling speed of 25 km/h, those cars will go by at, well, the speed of a bicycle! How frightening is that? That's if the motorists aren't speeding, and that may be the back story to some of this interest in a multi-use lane on Block Line. Almost no one (other than me) goes at 50 km/h on that stretch of road. I've had cars jamming me from behind even when I was doing 60. Is it that there is no budget money for traffic enforcement on this road, but there is budget money for roadway infrastructure changes (the multi-use trail isn't being built on its own; it's a part of a general roadway widening of Block Line)?
This should be a gift, and I should be happy with it, but I want a good luck inside its mouth, first.