CAMBRIDGE — A new cycling master plan approved by Cambridge council this week hopes to expand bike lanes in the city to create a well-connected bike network over the next 20 years.

It proposes more separated bike lanes, more connections between city streets and trails, and safer crossings over major roadways, highways and waterways.

Stephanie Bangarth, chair of the cycling and trails advisory committee, said she really wants to see the city stick to the detailed plan.

“It brings together all the needs we have been talking about for a long time,” she said.

Connections between the city’s three core areas and into Kitchener, as well as long-term commitments to make bike routes accessible to everyone will help foster cycling culture in the city, Bangarth explained.

Through simple projects such as way-finding signage for cyclists to more costly and long-term ones like separated bike lanes, the plan hopes to add another 124 kilometres of new or upgraded on-street infrastructure and 59 kilometres of new trails in the city over the next two decades.

“It’s a good framework and it develops a really good overall cycling network for Cambridge,” said Tom Strickland, a Cambridge resident and cyclist.

Cambridge is a city made up of three villages interspersed with rivers and railway lines. It’s a place with beautiful scenery for cyclists, Strickland pointed out, but also one that can be intimidating on a bike.

The Cambridge resident considers himself an “interested but concerned” cyclist, a category that one-third of city residents said they also belonged to in a city survey completed last year. Like many other cyclists in the city, Strickland doesn’t feel comfortable riding his bike alongside vehicles on busy streets.

“We much prefer cycling on separated routes,” Strickland said.

A large chunk of the city’s proposed bike network will include separated bike lanes on city streets and also on regional roads in projects that will be spearheaded by the region. Kitchener and Waterloo are already experimenting with separated bike lanes.

In the past year, the city has hosted workshops and gathered feedback through surveys about what residents want to see improved in the city’s existing cycling infrastructure.

Most people told the city they wanted safer connections across major roadways and to fill in gaps in the city’s cycling network.

Nearly half of residents who responded to an online survey said the majority of their cycling trips were for recreation purposes, the other 55 per cent was split between people who commute to work or school, go shopping, and to spend time with family and friends.

Painted bike lanes, signed routes and paved shoulders only work for a small segment of the population, the city cycling plan says. It uses Calgary as a case study where cycling increased by 142 per cent after the city installed separated bike lanes in its downtown. More women used the separated bike lanes and there were fewer reported collisions in the city’s core.

Strickland said if Cambridge can provide safer cycling routes for people like him, he thinks more residents will choose to hop on bikes to get around town.

The city’s cycling plan will cost $83 million with $11 million earmarked for on-street facilities, $28 million for off-street trails, and $44 million for new crossings over the next 20 years. The report says $1.9 million will be needed annually to complete projects proposed in the plan.

City staff said the city will review the feasibility of each project and will also consult with the public as new projects are considered over the next two decades.

Clifford Vanclief owns The Hub Bicycle Shop in Hespeler Village. While he is comfortable cycling around the city, he hears from many customers who say they don’t feel safe cycling on city streets.

“Protected bike lanes do work,” Vanclief said. “If cyclists are safe they will go out again.”

Vanclief thinks better infrastructure will definitely draw more city residents and cycling tourists to ride on city streets, but he thinks a culture shift is also necessary. He thinks motorists need to treat cyclists as equals on the road in order for cyclists to feel safe there too.

“There has to be common ground between motorists and cyclists,” Vanclief said.

“Cyclists are motorists and motorists are cyclists. there needs to be education out there as well as infrastructure for cyclists to get out there and do it.”

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As an avid cyclist, Vanclief has been riding a bike around Cambridge since he was a child.

“It’s been awesome to see the cycling infrastructure grow over 35 years,” he said.

But the growth has been slow, Vanclief said. He is eager to see the city roll out new routes to encourage more people to choose to cycle to work or school.

Getting more people out of cars and onto bikes and public transit is also one of the goals in the city’s official plan and strategic plan as it strives to make Cambridge sustainable and accessible.

Since 2008, the city has painted 56 kilometres of bike lanes and built 80 kilometres of multi-use trails. The city has also created 400 bicycle parking spaces with more planned over the next two decades.

“I’m hopeful that the plan will get the attention and implementation it deserves,” Bangarth said.

“Cambridge is a hidden gem in terms of its trails and bike network.”

Cycling master plan highlights

  • The plan will add 124 kilometres of on-street cycling infrastructure and 59 kilometres of trails to the existing network of150 kilometres of on-street cycling and 110 kilometres of off-street trails.
  • Short-term projects between 2019 and 2023 will cost $4-million and will include the installation of 13 kilometres of new on-street cycling infrastructure as well as two kilometres of news trails.
  • River crossings are proposed at Myers Road, Augusta Street, Dover Street, King Street, and Winston Boulevard. Rail crossings proposed at Wauchope Avenue and Elgin Street.
  • The plan asks for a full-time active transportation engineer to be hired in the next two years to help implement short tern projects.
  • The city wants to explore safe crossing options in areas throughout Cambridge where multi-use trails intersect roadways.
  • The city will monitor bicycle usage, patterns, and trends to allow for evaluation to take place.

Residents can view the plan at cambridge.ca/en/learn-about/cycling-master-plan.aspx

Anam Latif

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