KITCHENER — A $5.9-million cycling plan that will see separated bike lanes in downtown Kitchener could get approval by Kitchener councillors on Monday.

If approved by the city’s community and infrastructure committee, and later by council, construction on the cycling grid would begin next year, with the plan completed by 2023.

Coun. Sarah Marsh supports the downtown cycling grid and says bold investments in cycling infrastructure will inevitably increase ridership.

“Protected lanes and connectivity into our downtown core have the potential to be transformational in turning our city into a cycle-friendly community,” she said.

“We have the opportunity to be cycle-friendly for everyone,” said Marsh, who sits on the city’s cycling advisory committee.

The proposed grid will create three kilometres of separated bike lanes with a concrete median separating cyclists from traffic. It will also connect the downtown to major trails such as the Iron Horse Trail and the Spurline Trail and nearby neighbourhoods with another seven kilometres of bikeways, some with traffic calming measures that make those streets uninviting for cut-through traffic.

The plan will turn stretches of Joseph, Duke, and Cedar streets into one-way streets, and remove 24 parking spots. It will also add almost 180 bike parking spots.

After consultation with local businesses and communities directly affected by the plan, the city made changes to meet concerns voiced at public sessions.

They included changing part of Ontario Street into a one-way street. That plan has been shelved.

“We have done everything we can to work with businesses to meet their needs,” said Barry Cronkite, a senior transportation manager with the city.

Jordan Dolson, owner of Legacy Greens, an independent grocer in the core, said she was thrilled that the city listened to her concerns and scrapped changing part of Ontario Street to a one-way street.

Dolson’s business is on Ontario Street and she relies on deliveries being dropped off in front of her business. She does not have a back entrance.

“Losing loading opportunity was huge for me,” she said.

Plus, the 30-minute nearby parking is imperative for shoppers who are coming to her store, many of whom are driving now because they are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Losing parking would have been a hardship,” she said.

“I feel like it was democracy in action and we were listened to,” Dolson said.

Cronkite said a continuous cycling network is “one of the most exciting changes in terms of transportation that we’ll have seen outside of the launch of the Ion.”

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The pandemic has shown that more people are cycling here and globally. Trail counters on area trails show that the number of cyclists have doubled since last year, city officials said in a report.

Funding for the project will come from the capital budget, development charges, city reserves and federal funding. Annual costs for the cycling plan are pegged at $240,000, Cronkite said. The initial grid presented to councillors was unanimously approved, he said.

Liz Monteiro

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