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Sharrows and bike-to-work challenges may increase two-wheeled commuting

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

While the City of Kitchener has lagged behind in implementing five recommendations made by the cycling advisory committee in 2012, that doesn’t mean nothing has been done, according to Josh Joseph, transportation demand management co-ordinator for the city.

“A lot of the media coverage has been on the five, but we’ve done a lot of other really cool things,” he said.

The city hosted a mayor and councillors ride, during which several members of council took a 10-km bike ride around downtown Kitchener.

“It allowed politicians to experience firsthand cycling in this community, but it also allowed the committee to engage with those politicians face-to- face,” he said.
Along a similar vein, Joseph engaged Desire2Learn, Google and Communitech in a bike-to-work challenge.

“We actually encouraged 12 people to start biking to work. I think 10 of the 12 had never tried it before, but the reason to try was because we were giving them a free bike,” he said.

During the challenge, participants cycled a combined total of about 2,000 km and attracted 5,000 web hits to a blog, according to Joseph.

“It wasn’t necessarily bike lanes on the ground, but it was education, promotion and reaching out to people who have never tried biking, and that’s honestly equally as important.”

The ambassador between Canada and the Netherlands also came to Kitchener as a guest speaker in June, and spoke to about 130 people who attended the event held at the school of pharmacy.

“I think that worked well with the community to bring in someone outside of the community to talk about cycling in another country. Because it kind of opens people’s eyes a little bit. It gets them thinking about how things could be entirely different,” said Joseph.

There are five new priorities that the cycling advisory committee has set out for 2013: working with the region to improve dangerous trail crossings; several bicycle-friendly initiatives in downtown Kitchener, such as bike corrals; improvements to the Manitou-Wilson trail; and, again, changes to the Iron Horse rail crossing.

Crossings at Courtland and Stirling as well as Victoria and West will be the focus of improvements if the committee has its way.

“With Courtland and Stirling you actually have to probably cross at the light, but it’s a bit of an inconvenience for cyclists, and if we want to encourage cycling and get people on their bikes. We need to make it convenient, safe, comfortable,” he said.

The committee also aims to add elephant feet markings where trails cross roads. The white squares help to draw the attention of drivers.

“It kind of delineates to motorists that there is something going on here, be a little bit alert,” said Joseph.

In the downtown, bike corrals and sharrows are strategies that could be used to increase the profile of cycling in the community, according to Joseph.

A sharrow — a picture of a bike with two arrows painted on the road — indicates that the lane is to be shared by cyclists and motorists.

Though cyclists can legally “take the lane” — ride in the centre — of city streets in certain situations, the sharrows will help indicate to motorists that this is an area where it is likely to occur.

Upgrades to the downtown core have resulted in a narrowed King Street and wider sidewalks — changes that were made to improve walkability.

Joseph hopes that sharrows will help combat some of the resulting consequences for cycling in the core.

“I think that sends a really strong message because we have wide sidewalks for pedestrians, we have the roadway for motorists, but if you look on King Street there isn’t much (for cyclists),” he said.

“Cyclists are kind of riding on the sidewalks and riding the wrong way on the road, and in a way we don’t want to see that, but in another way we really have to provide them with something.”

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