Bike lane report shows COVID recovery lanes increased ridership, slowed drive times

Statistics from the report show the raw number of cyclists across all the routes was up 41 per cent in July when compared to pre-pandemic weekday volumes.

Average car travel speeds have decreased by 13% in areas with temporary lanes

Temporary bike lanes on Coronation Boulevard, Westmount Road, Frederick Street, Bridgeport Road and Erb Street were part of the assessment. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Temporary bike lanes installed by the Region of Waterloo have led to an increase in ridership and longer drive times for motorists, a new report shows.

"I think we saw some general increases in active transportation over the whole region as a result of COVID," said Steve van De Keere, the region's director of transportation. 

"But we saw an even greater increase in biking on the roads, for the most part, where we put in the temporary bike lanes."

The 30 kilometers of bike lanes were approved by regional council in June and were put in place to encourage active transportation while traffic volumes were down as people worked from home during the pandemic. 

Statistics from the report show the raw number of cyclists across all the routes was up 41 per cent in July when compared to pre-pandemic weekday volumes.

A camera was placed at locations where the bike lanes were added to take the measurements. A software program analyzed the footage and provided statistics on car volume, van De Keere said.

Temporary bike lanes on Westmount Road, in Kitchener, slowed down drivers by an average of 6.5 per cent according to a Region of Waterloo report. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

The largest increase in bike rider volumes occurred on Coronation Boulevard between Brown Street and Brower Street in Cambridge, which saw an increase to 102 in July from the usual 5 pre-pandemic. 

The temporary lanes on Coronation Boulevard were removed prematurely in August while the pilot in the rest of the region continues until Oct. 31. 

On the other hand, Westmount Road between University Avenue and Father David Bauer Drive in Waterloo lost nearly a hundred riders. 

Westmount also saw drivers slowing down, with speeds decreasing by an average of 6.5 per cent.

"Wherever we've reduced the number of lanes for drivers, which is on every road where we've put the barrels up, we've noticed some lower operating speeds," he said. 

The most marked impact on drivers has occurred on Bridgeport Road, according to the report. Average speeds decreased by 33 per cent, from 40 km/h to 27 km/h. Travel from Regina Street to Margaret Avenue N. along Bridgeport took the average driver more than 5 minutes, a 43 per cent increase. 

Comparing rider and car volumes has been difficult this year, van De Keere admitted, as traffic patterns have completely changed. "At the onset of COVID in March traffic volumes reduced by 70 per cent right off the bat," he said. 

While traffic volumes have been steadily increasing since then, numbers in the report show that where temporary bike lanes were introduced, 27 per cent fewer cars are using the routes. 



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