KITCHENER — City councillors approved a package of initiatives Monday to encourage cycling, including a downtown bike festival, more bicycle racks, a cycling map, a survey of riders and a Bike2Work Challenge.
Kitchener will become the first city in Ontario, and one of a handful in North America, to use so-called “super sharrows” along King Street through the downtown, which indicates to drivers and riders that it is a shared roadway.
The super sharrows include a bicycle symbol topped with a couple of chevrons. The symbols are made of a special plastic that is melted into the surface of the roadway. The sharrows will be placed around intersections and at the mid-point of each block along King Street.
“By accommodating all modes of transportation and emphasizing the importance of sharing the road, the City of Kitchener will improve safety for all road users, including pedestrians, motorists, transit users and cyclists,” says a staff report prepared by Josh Joseph, the city staffer overseeing implementation of the cycling master plan.
Sharrows work best on low-speed roads that are too narrow to accommodate a car and bicycle side-by-side. A cyclist needs at least 1.2 metres and a vehicle at least three metres. King Street, at 3.5 metres across, is considered too narrow for both to move side-by-side.
“The Highway Traffic Act states that if a lane is too narrow for cyclists and motorists to travel side-by-side, the cyclist may ‘take the lane’ to discourage the motorist from passing too closely,” says the city staff report.
With the adoption of the initiatives yesterday, city councillors have officially backed the program called BikeKitchener. It includes an e-newsletter of current and future cycling programs, more cycling information on the city webpage at www.kitchener.ca, printed information such as maps and brochures, BikeKitchener display booths and a downtown BikeFest scheduled for May 26.
BikeFest will be held on Sunday, May 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and include free bicycle tune-ups, a downtown scavenger hunt, a bicycle polo tournament, food, live music and training workshops.
The city’s first bicycle map should soon be ready for distribution, at no cost, by BikeFest.
A cyclist survey should also be ready to go this summer. The survey will be designed to tell the city what encourages people to ride bicycles and what discourages them from doing so. The city also wants data on the demographics of cyclists, where they start and end their trips, their comfort level of roadways, and what they want for cycling infrastructure.
Joseph talked about the cycling initiatives and said cycling will play a critical role in supporting light-rail trains that are scheduled to start running in 2017. The region does not want people driving to stations and parking vehicles, but riding to stations and getting on the train will be encouraged.
“So cycling will play a key role in the success of the LRT system because we need a sustainable way to get people to that system,” Joseph said.
By supporting cyclists, the city helps to achieve many of its strategic goals — better air quality, healthy and active lifestyles, reduced traffic congestion, more affordable transportation options and an improved quality of life.
City councillors were unanimous in their support.
“These are great, innovative ways of encouraging cycling,” Coun. Paul Singh said.
Added Coun. Berry Vrbanovic; “All of these initiatives are outstanding.”
The city has set aside $200,000 a year to implement its cycling master plan. Initiatives approved yesterday will cost $47,000.
“I think we are getting a lot of bang for our buck, that’s for sure,” Coun. Yvonne Fernandes said. “This is a good use of that money.”