Safer crossing coming for Iron Horse Trail at Victoria and West

Mark Parris, the project manager for the Iron Horse Trail, told CBC News change is coming to the troublesome intersection at Victoria and West in the form of a pedestrian island.

Crossing improvements are part of a $2.65 million project to revamp the 5.5 km trail

Much like the Victoria and West crossing, another troubling intersection for cyclists in Waterloo region is the Spurline Trail's Union Street crossing. (City of Waterloo)

Crossing Victoria Street on the Iron Horse Trail has never been for the faint of heart — but it will get safer.

Despite signage by the City of Kitchener that implores cyclists and pedestrians to cross at the lighted intersection where Victoria Street meets West Avenue, almost nobody does.

Instead, cyclists like Nathan Church, dart straight across Victoria from behind the City Café Bakery and the Golden Dynasty building.

"During the day when it's busy busy, of course I go down and use the light, but otherwise I just look both ways and cross here," said Church.

Paul Schumacher also uses the shortcut.

"I don't want to wait at the light, I want to keep going as much as I can," he said. "I do this for exercise. Don't want to stop if I don't have to."

According to a study completed by the City of Kitchener, 70 per cent of the 900 trail users surveyed said they were cutting directly across the road and only 20 per cent were using the lights. The other 10 per cent used miscellaneous methods of crossing.

Now the City of Kitchener plans to improve the troublesome intersection with a pedestrian island.

Striking a balance

Mark Parris, the project manager for the Iron Horse Trail, said an island similar to the one on Queen Street is part of a $2.65 million project to give the trail a total facelift. 

Some cyclists wanted to see a bridge or a crosswalk.

"I know its short distance to the light but a crosswalk would slow things down and would allow people to flow quicker through the area," said Schumacher.

However, Parris said adding a second controlled crossing would interrupt the flow of traffic on Victoria.

A pedestrian island, on the other hand, will strike an effective balance between a controlled intersection and the bakery shortcuts, said Parris.

"I think it will help facilitate the connection between the two sides, especially since you don't have to cross by measurement of both directions of traffic … you can cut it in half."

Improved safety

Parris said the project will reduce the visible difference between the Kitchener and Waterloo portions of the trail, which will mean adding lighting, re-paving and widening the path and installing better signage.

This is proposed new signage for along parts of the Iron Horse Trail. (City of Kitchener)

The project will also make the trail feel safer.

"Whether [fear of the trail] is real or perceived, I think it's still there, especially in dark corridors too," said Parris. "There are definitely areas that do need improvements from a crime prevention point of view."

He said lighting will be a big factor in making people feel safer, but also noted that widening the trail to 3.6 m will help too.

He said having more pedestrians will be a natural crime deterrent, as people feel safer around other people.

​​Work will begin in the spring of 2018 on the central section of the trail, which runs between Victoria and Queen streets.

Complete trail by 2019

The work was initially slated to begin in the fall, but the city failed to get a suitable contractor.

Parris said the goal is to complete that stretch of the trail's improvements by mid-July.

The rest of the 5.5-kilometre trail will be done by the end of next year.

"At the end of 2019 from the City of Waterloo boundary to Ottawa Street will be a complete trail corridor to the vision of the improvement strategy," he said.

With files from Jackie Sharkey