Separated bike lanes pilot project coming to Waterloo region

Waterloo region is looking to pilot the idea of implementing separated bike lanes in the region. This means having a physical barrier between cyclists and traffic. The region will be having two consultation session to see what people think.

The region is looking to test separated bike lanes in uptown Waterloo

The Region of Waterloo is looking at the idea of implementing separated bike lanes through a pilot project they hope to launch next spring. The region said it will test the pilot project in the areas around uptown Waterloo and the universities. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Waterloo region is looking at implementing separated bike lanes through a pilot project they hope to launch next spring and they want to know what the public thinks of the idea.

The region said it will test the pilot project in the areas around uptown Waterloo and the universities, but will determine what specific streets to add separated bike lanes during the two consultations sessions next week.

"Part of the consultation is to ask people what roads [separated bike lanes] should be on," Geoffrey Keyworth, manager of transportation planning at the region told CBC's Craig Norris on The Morning Edition. 

"Obvious candidates for that study area are University Avenue, which has a lot of traffic and does currently have bike lanes, Columbia Street is another example of that. But the public may tell us other streets that might be good candidates."

Feeling safe

Keyworth said there is a large population of people in the community that want to ride their bikes more often but are discouraged because they don't feel safe on the road. 

"One of the main reasons is because they are afraid of being hit by a car," he said.

Currently parts of Kitchener and Waterloo have painted bike lanes and "sharrows" which indicate to cars that cyclists are allowed to ride in the centre of the street, but this pilot project will take things to the next level.

Staff is looking at installing different methods of separated bike lanes like curbs or plastic bollards on different streets to see what method works best and to create a network of streets to help cyclists with their commute.

"We may have different types of separation on different roads and interview the public during the study about which ones they prefer," Keyworth said.

He adds that they hope to fully launch the pilot project in spring 2018 and end it in the fall of 2019 to get a good grasp of what the community wants and proper maintenance of the lanes.

Road space a challenge

However, there are a few challenges ahead of implementing separated bike lanes in Waterloo, space being one of the main issues.

"Because it's a pilot project we're not reconstructing the road and so the biggest challenge is going to be using the available space," he said, adding that one solution could be to narrow vehicle lanes or take lanes away.

"For the consultation, that's going to be potentially controversial for drivers as well as cyclists, so that's something we want to ask people aboout."

Consultation sessions will be on Dec.12 at the Albert Mccormick Community Centre and on Dec.14 at the main branch of  Waterloo Public Library from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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