“In some cases, like Victoria, we did prioritize that because of the extra funding we had. We had received a lot of feedback from the community saying there was a need there.”
With Victoria, Juste says that given its nature as an arterial road and the heavy car traffic it brings, it was important to get a bike lane on that road to ensure cyclist safety — no matter the amount of cyclists currently using it.
“Even if it’s only maybe 10 cyclists between 8 and 9 a.m., it’s enough for us to say those 10 cyclists are in a kind of risky situation right now as it stands,” she says.
“In that situation, that’s already enough to say, ‘OK, we don’t want to put those 10 people in one hour at undue risk. We should do something here.’”
Juste adds that adding this sort of infrastructure will encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto their bicycles. And recent surveys show that something must be working in Guelph.
A report prepared for the city in 2009 by Environics Research Group found that there were 2,500 daily trips by bicycle the previous year.
Juste says that a survey done in 2016 found that number had more than doubled, reaching about 6,300.
Yvette Tendick, president of the Guelph Active Transportation Coalition, says the city can do more, making that number grow even higher.
The answer? Putting something between cyclists and cars on the road.
“We’re pretty good, I think, but we have a problem with painted lines,” Tendick says.
“Other communities have moved to protected infrastructure, and we have yet to move there.”
Citing cities like Peterborough, Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo, Tendick says other municipalities have moved to this model. With protected bike lanes, cyclists aren’t on the road right beside the much faster cars. Instead, there are barriers — such as posts, bollards or planters — in between.
“That’s how you get people out to ride,” Tendick adds.
The cycling advocate says another thing that would get more Guelphites to leave their cars at home is a better connection between the city’s trails.
“You need to be able to not have to cross a four-lane arterial lane to get to the other side of a trail,” she says.
“We currently have that on Speedvale, Eramosa and on Gordon Street near the covered bridge.”
Part of that issue is being dealt with by a multi-year, multimillion-dollar plan approved by council last year. Under that plan, more than 20 km of new off-road trails are being proposed, along with just under eight km of on-road links. Under the plan, which would conclude by 2027, there would be 54 km of routes across all corners of the city.
Tendick says that is a step in the right direction, noting people would be more willing to cycle or walk around the city if it means they’re not travelling right next to quickly moving vehicle traffic.
“Right now, it’s a little bit disconnected, and people don’t know where they are and how to get from A to B,” she says, adding the city could do more to advertise the existing network.
Tendick also says the city needs to come up with a more stable timeline for building new bike infrastructure, as waiting for roads to close for prior reconstruction needs picks at little pieces at a time, rather than a larger piece.
In fact, the Guelph Active Transportation Network is asking for this to happen under a new term of council, with municipal elections set for Oct. 22.
“We’re asking for some stable funding that’s outside of that, so they can move the process along more quickly and make it less patchwork.”