The agenda for the May 11th #RegionalCouncil Committee of the Whole meeting lists the temporary COVID bike lanes an an agenda item. The report starts on page 100 of the 122 page package. I assume that not everyone has the time or interest to review that report in its entirety, so here are a few things that stood out to me from the report.
As a quick reminder, the temporary bike lanes were installed during summer 2020 on the following Regional roads:
•King Street/Coronation Boulevard/Dundas Street: Bishop Street to Beverly Street, Cambridge (this was removed early due to opposition);
•Westmount Road: Block Line Road to University Avenue, Kitchener and City of Waterloo;
• Frederick Street: Weber Street to Lancaster Street, Kitchener;
• Erb Street: Westmount Road to Caroline Street, City of Waterloo;
•Erb Street: Peppler Street to Margaret Avenue (one direction only), City of Waterloo; and
•Bridgeport Road, King Street to Margaret Avenue (one direction only), City of Waterloo.
In the report, staff note: "previous surveys reflected a majority opinion representative of drivers for the most part, who were against temporary bike lanes and the minority opinion representative of cyclists who supported these temporary installations."
So, in this "wrap up survey, more specific questions were asked to determine which particular locations respondents used, what mode of transportation was used, how often that mode was used, and for what purpose. The survey also asked specific demographic questions to determine what sort of participants were responding and gave respondents the ability to complete the survey as a user of more than one type of transportation."
Staff broke down the data based on 'user' type, and the report summarizes the main takeaways for each of those groups. Note that a single survey respondent could be classified as more than one user (for example, someone may be both a driver and a pedestrian). Here are the details taken directly from the staff report:
Cyclist Responses: 209 of the respondents identified as cyclists and the overall satisfaction rating cyclists gave the bike lanes was 7.4/10. The top positive responses indicated that cyclists liked being able to stay off the sidewalk, they understood how to use the bike lanes, the lanes made it easy to travel quickly and they also made it easier to share the road with drivers. Most of the respondents indicated that they used the temporary lanes primarily for errands, exercise or leisure, and most did so a few times weekly or a few times a month.
Driver Responses: 622 of the respondents identified as drivers and the overall satisfaction rating drivers gave the bike lanes was 3.5/10. The top negative response was that the bike lanes did not meet their needs as a driver. Most drivers also noted that they had to drive more slowly while beside the temporary bike lanes. Most of the respondents indicated that they travelled on roads with bike lanes daily, or a few times a week. Westmount Road was the most used location. Of note, 61% of drivers perceived that the bike lanes added delay to travel time, and 56% indicated that they are not willing to increase travel time to include bike lanes for cyclists on the existing roadway.
Pedestrian Responses: 191 of the respondents identified as pedestrians and the overall satisfaction rating pedestrians gave the bike lanes was 5.5/10. The top positive response from pedestrians was that they felt safe or comfortable walking beside the bike lanes and they also understood the purpose of the bike lanes. The top locations for pedestrian activity were Westmount Road, Erb Street and Bridgeport Road. Of note, the pedestrian usage pattern was well dispersed with users indicating daily, weekly and monthly usage.
Public Transit Responses: 36 of the respondents identified as Public Transit users and the overall satisfaction rating this group gave was 4.3/10. The highest scores in this audience relate to the fact that there was good understanding as to the purpose of the bike lanes. This category of respondents reflect the highest daily use of the road ways where bike lanes were located with Westmount Road being reflected as used most often.
As part of this survey, staff also wanted to hear from residents living in homes fronting onto roads where the temporary bike lanes were installed. In this regard, there were 47 respondents with the largest number indicating residence on Westmount Road or Coronation Boulevard. The overall satisfaction rating from this group was 4.4/10. This audience understood the purpose of the bike lanes and the most positive response in this group was that they felt that the bike lanes caused traffic to drive more slowly in front of their homes. (end of report summary)
The issue of 'drive times' is fascinating to me. It seems to me that there is simply too much emphasis on not negatively impacting drive times. However, as someone who watches an awful lot of council meetings, I hear councillors often say the issue they most often hear from residents on is traffic concerns, mostly speed. This CBC article says that the temporary bike lanes led to an average decrease of 13% in driver speeds. The Region's report suggests that cyclists, pedestrians, and residents saw reduced speeds as a positive, but drivers view it as a negative. In addition to feeling less safe with speeding vehicles on our roads, we know that collisions that happen at higher rates cause more harm and deaths.
I am most concerned about this statement found in the report (noted above): Of drivers that responded to the survey, 56% indicated that they are not willing to increase travel time to include bike lanes for cyclists on the existing roadway. I feel like residents advocating for safe active transportation options are asking for such a small slice of the pie, but this statement doesn't give me much hope that we'll even receive that.
What does give me hope though, are the many residents who are calling for safe transportation for all road users. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to stay informed on these issues and make your voices heard!