By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
The trail-and-rail intersection where a cyclist died almost five years ago may finally be redesigned in 2013. Despite long delays, Kitchener city staff are starting to see some action on a fix for the spot, on the Iron Horse trail near Victoria Park.
The crossing was one of five priorities identified by the city’s cycling advisory committee.
While Mark Perris, a landscape architect for the city, was not entirely clear on the reasons for the delay, it involved CN, the owner of the tracks, and RailAmerica, the operator that uses them.
“As far as I know, CN has submitted their comment to RailAmerica,” said Perris.
“I’m told that it’s enough to move forward with us and RailAmerica. So that roadblock is now cleared, so we’re now negotiating the engineering requirements.”
Changes to the crossing were recommended for safety reasons by the cycling advisory committee last year.
The changes, which would have adjusted the trail so that it crosses the tracks at 90 degrees, instead of on an angle, were initially expected to be completed in the spring of 2012.
“Right now it crosses on a diagonal and you get your wheels caught and you’re done,” said Ward 4 Coun. Yvonne Fernandes, who is an avid cyclist. “I’ve been with a couple of people that that’s happened to and it’s really frightening. Once your wheel gets lodged in those rails, you can’t get out.
“We’ve had a couple of people seriously injured at that point.”
The city had previously installed barricades, hoping to force cyclists to slow or dismount when crossing the tracks.
However, in 2008, Paul Brenner ran into the barricade and was thrown from his bike. The collision caused serious head injuries, and he was later discovered dead on the trail. Several other cyclists have been injured at this trail crossing.
Perris believes the project can be finished in 2013.
There were four other cyclist priorities identified in 2012: adding signage to the cycling trail that runs from downtown Kitchener to the 401 pedestrian/cycling bridge near Conestoga College; improvements to the Wilson Avenue trail head; installing contra-flow bike lanes on Nyberg Street; and installing bike lanes on Margaret Avenue.
“We had a sign pilot project that we want to do from City Hall to Fairview Park Mall to the pedestrian bridge at the 401,” said Josh Joseph, transportation demand management co-ordinator for the city.
“We hope to have that completed by spring 2013, to kind of tie into some other cycling events and initiatives we’re doing.”
The Wilson Avenue trail head is part of one of the main cycling connections between Doon and the rest of the city, but a tight squeeze caused some safety issues.
It runs from the end of Wilson Avenue, behind the Waterloo Region Museum and connects with the Mill Park area.
The trail head had a hill with boulders and a guardrail at the bottom which, according to Fernandes, posed a danger to cyclists.
“They’ve removed all of that and opened up the trail completely, which is wonderful,” she said. “We’re very happy about that, because there was a big delay in getting that done and no one could figure out why.”
The bike lanes on Margaret Avenue have been installed, though there are still some concerns surrounding that project.
“There are a couple of spots where they abruptly end, and there has been some concern about that expressed by the cycling advisory committee,” said Fernandes.
The installation of contra-flow bike lanes — lanes that allow bicycles to travel against traffic on a one-way street — on Nyberg has been delayed by questions about whether they are legal under the Highway Traffic Act.
Toronto has been facing similar issues, and has requested clarification from the Ministry of Transportation. Joseph is waiting for the results, which he then plans to apply in Kitchener.
Next week: Other cycling projects, and goals for 2013.