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#QUICKWINS4KW - Printable Version

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#QUICKWINS4KW - Spokes - 11-07-2018

#QUICKWINS4KW

First posted on November 6, 2018 by Robin Mazumder at robinmazumder.com

It’s been a few weeks since the municipal election and I’m ready to start talking about how we can get to work. I’m excited to see what the new councils for the City of Waterloo, City of Kitchener and Region of Waterloo can do to make our community safer, healthier and happier. This January, I’ll have lived in Kitchener for three years. I go to the University of Waterloo, so I’m interested in what happens in both cities. To be honest, sometimes I don’t know whether I’m physically in Kitchener or in Waterloo. Accordingly, I think there is a lot of opportunity for collaboration between the cities (and especially the Region). I’ve said this many times before, but I think there is a lot of unactualized potential in the Waterloo Region. And, I don’t think that the actualization will require all that much work. The biggest factor in our transformation, as far as I see it, is political will. 

We can’t afford to keep going at the pace we are, when it comes to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Since moving here, I’ve seen some progress, but, frankly, it’s all a little underwhelming. We can’t afford to keep going at the pace we are, when it comes to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. We desperately need to pick up the speed if we want to even compete with what other cities in Canada are doing. I have this running challenge to see if we’ll get a meaningful cycletrack network in Kitchener-Waterloo before I defend my dissertation two years from now. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, though, I see some low hanging fruit that can really enhance the pedestrian and cyclist experience and, most importantly, make our community safer for everyone. 

1. Pedestrian Scrambles 

I was in Edmonton a few weeks ago and got to use their new pedestrian scramble pilot. It was wonderful. For those who may not know, a pedestrian scramble stops vehicular travel and allows all pedestrians waiting at an intersection to cross all at once. I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve almost been hit by a driver making a right turn while I’ve been given the right of way as a pedestrian. These sorts of experiences turn the joy of being a pedestrian into a stressful experience. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve almost been hit by a driver making a right turn while I’ve been given the right of way as a pedestrian.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Some paint and some reprogramming to traffic lights and we can get there. Pedestrian scrambles are nothing new, but I use Edmonton as an example because I think it is similar to Kitchener-Waterloo in that, when it courageously makes these decisions, it is doing so in a city that has traditionally been quite car-centric. We’ve got a nice case study with Edmonton, in how political will and risk taking can significantly improve things for people who don’t drive. Edmonton has also built out a cycletrack network quickly, but I won’t get into that ?. There are so many places in KW that could benefit from scrambles. And, if the Waterloo Region’s brand is about innovation, that means we need to try new things and take risks. Here’s our opportunity to actually do that when it comes to urban design. 



Political will and risk taking can significantly improve things for people who don’t drive.

2. Trail Crossings

We’ve got two great trails in Kitchener-Waterloo that can play an important part of the aforementioned cycletrack network we need. The Iron Horse Trail and the Spurline Trail are wonderful multi-use paths that connect our two cities. They are both a joy to ride and offer a reprieve from the stress of having to deal with drivers on our streets. The only problem is that when they meet roadways, it all falls apart. Trail users are directed to “look both ways” and then attempt to cross when there aren’t any vehicles in sight. Cars have the right of way at these “crossings”. I use the trail every day, and on many occasions have almost been hit. Even when I think the coast is clear, cars come speeding around the bend, much higher than the posted limit, and I’m left scrambling to get to the other side. Luckily I can get around quickly, but not everyone can. I’ve seen kids have challenges. I’ve also see people using mobility devices struggle. It’s terribly dangerous, and I’m at a loss as to why it’s taking so long for our decision makers to do something about it. Someone is going to get hurt. One particular trail crossing, Spurline at Union, is particularly dangerous. Both the City of Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo are aware of the problem, but they aren’t doing anything – or, at least, they aren’t communicating their plan. At this point, the inaction is negligence. I wrote about it more than two years ago. More importantly, some KIDS wrote about how they find the crossing dangerous. They even got a speedometer to document the outrageous speeds people drive. Let’s not keep these kids waiting and build the crossing infrastructure that should have been there in the first place. Responding with silence to such exemplary civic engagement from these children is disappointing, and I think we can do better. 

Let’s not keep these kids waiting and build the crossing infrastructure that should have been there in the first place.

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3. Bike Parking 

There’s nothing like battling it out on the streets on your bike only to find there’s no bike parking when you get to your destination. It’s frustrating, to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to lock my bike to a tree or some other object that shouldn’t have a bike attached to it. Luckily a thief with a good handsaw hasn’t been around to make the easy snatch. Jokes aside, it’s pretty common for me to find no bike parking at all. Meanwhile, our cities are full of giant empty parking lots. Of the ideas I’ve listed, this seems to be the easiest do something about. If we are going to lag on building the infrastructure to keep cyclists safe, can we at least have the infrastructure to keep our bikes secure? It’s not a big ask and something that would make the lives of cyclists in KW easier, and can play a role in getting more people out on their bikes. We need to look at the pain points that stop people from using their bikes to get around. Not having a safe space to lock up is a pretty good way to deter people, and it’s a pretty easy thing for our cities to address. It isn’t rocket science. Luckily, not to far away, we can use Hamilton as an example of an approach to take. They’ve got a bike parking request form. Ultimately, it’s about execution, but giving residents an opportunity to share locations they need parking is a pretty good place to start. Something for decision makers to keep in mind is how this can also impact local spending. I’ve often just left a business because there isn’t bike parking, and I’ve taken my money with me. More bike parking is something we can implement quickly and is in everyone’s best interest. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to lock my bike to a tree or some other object that shouldn’t have a bike attached to it.


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I could go on, but I wanted to keep it short and sweet. These are three issues that I think can be addressed fairly quickly, and, if done well, can really improve KW for cyclists, pedestrians, and mobility aid users alike. I’m (somewhat) willing to accept that larger scale projects like separated bikelanes can take time, but there are simple things we can do in the meantime to demonstrate that everyone’s needs matter, regardless of how they choose to travel. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on ideas we can implement easily. Tweet me using #QuickWins4KW with your ideas, or comment below. And, if you don’t live in Kitchener-Waterloo, but think that your city could use some quick wins, make your own #QuickWins hashtag and share your ideas!


Robin Mazumder (@RobinMazumder) is currently completing his doctorate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, where he is studying the psychological impacts of urban design. Always striving for a healthier, happier, and more inclusive city, Robin is also a passionate change maker. His interest is inspired by his love for cities as well as his front line experience working as a mental health occupational therapist. You can find out more about Robin at robinmazumder.com.



RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - jamincan - 11-07-2018

My quick win: wayfinding signs. Start with the major trailways (IHT, Spur Line, Laurel, etc) but carry on with other routes to places people want to go. If I want to get to the Boardwalk from the IHT, I shouldn't have to sit on a mapping website researching my route. There should be a clearly signed route that takes the safest/most direct route. This would also help make other improvements more focused as gaps in the network would then be readily apparent. There are a lot of trails that are relatively unused because people simply don't know where they go. How many people know you can get to Walmart on Ira Needles from downtown almost entirely off streets and with relatively few major road crossings? Instead, when considering cycling as an option, they're thinking about negotiating Victoria Street and Ira Needles Blvd., a far more intimidating prospect for your average person.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - Viewfromthe42 - 11-07-2018

Quick win: yield signs on all non-collector roads which intersect with trails, on road and roadside sign, indicating drivers must yield to pedestrians and people on bikes on the trail.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - Pheidippides - 11-07-2018

(11-07-2018, 12:15 PM)Viewfromthe42 Wrote: Quick win: yield signs on all non-collector roads which intersect with trails, on road and roadside sign, indicating drivers must yield to pedestrians and people on bikes on the trail.

I would take that one step further and create curb bump outs at all the minor crossings that narrow the road to a single shared lane. Shortens the crossing distance for trail users and slows vehicle traffic. I'm thinking particularly of Gage and John on the IHT and pretty much everything except Union, Moore, and Weber on the Spurline.

It could be done with parking chocks and flexible bollard flag thingy's.

This would be a more permanent solution:
[attachment=5749]


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - ijmorlan - 11-07-2018

(11-07-2018, 11:16 PM)Pheidippides Wrote: I would take that one step further and create curb bump outs at all the minor crossings that narrow the road to a single shared lane. Shortens the crossing distance for trail users and slows vehicle traffic. I'm thinking particularly of Gage and John on the IHT and pretty much everything except Union, Moore, and Weber on the Spurline.

Yes, I’ve been thinking along those lines and I think it’s a good idea. I think it needs to be more than just yield signs — it needs to be something unignorable. Otherwise, the trail just won’t be safe. I would put crash bollards (of the “stop a concrete truck” variety) at the four corners of the crossing zone to force all motor traffic into its single shared lane, and I would space them so that a large truck would have to slow to a crawl in order to line up precisely. I would answer all objections by pointing out that these roads are local access routes, not main transportation routes, and people driving on them can take a different route if they don’t like it.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - MidTowner - 11-08-2018

I don't think Barnes dances/scrambles are a very good example of a quick win. I can see a lot of opposition to such a plan at the intersections where it might make sense in the Region (the only one that really comes to my mind is King and University).

They're cool and I like them and it would be neat to see a few in the Region, but I also don't see them as a widespread solution to the stated problem- motorists turning right and running people down crossing with the right of way. A much better way of doing that would be disallowing right turns on red lights, either in small or larger areas of the Region. This would see a lot of opposition as well, but I think Kitchener or Waterloo could feasibly implement it in their downtown cores. The cost of the signage I think would still qualify the solution as a "quick win."


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - myfaceisonfire - 11-08-2018

(11-08-2018, 10:49 AM)MidTowner Wrote: I don't think Barnes dances/scrambles are a very good example of a quick win. I can see a lot of opposition to such a plan at the intersections where it might make sense in the Region (the only one that really comes to my mind is King and University).

They're cool and I like them and it would be neat to see a few in the Region, but I also don't see them as a widespread solution to the stated problem- motorists turning right and running people down crossing with the right of way. A much better way of doing that would be disallowing right turns on red lights, either in small or larger areas of the Region. This would see a lot of opposition as well, but I think Kitchener or Waterloo could feasibly implement it in their downtown cores. The cost of the signage I think would still qualify the solution as a "quick win."

Phillip and University could definitely use a scramble, possibly event moreso than King and University.  Part of the problem is that the pedestrians don't really care about the pedestrian signals and just cross until the last possible second, and then some.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - MidTowner - 11-08-2018

I don't think Phillip and University would be in the cards given that one side of the intersection sees very small volumes of motor traffic. My hunch would be that a real analysis of it would show few "interactions" between cars and people on the south side.

You're probably right that people push the signals at some of these intersections. That's likely a symptom of the long wait times, so maybe Barnes dances would ameliorate that.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - danbrotherston - 11-08-2018

(11-08-2018, 12:00 PM)myfaceisonfire Wrote:
(11-08-2018, 10:49 AM)MidTowner Wrote: I don't think Barnes dances/scrambles are a very good example of a quick win. I can see a lot of opposition to such a plan at the intersections where it might make sense in the Region (the only one that really comes to my mind is King and University).

They're cool and I like them and it would be neat to see a few in the Region, but I also don't see them as a widespread solution to the stated problem- motorists turning right and running people down crossing with the right of way. A much better way of doing that would be disallowing right turns on red lights, either in small or larger areas of the Region. This would see a lot of opposition as well, but I think Kitchener or Waterloo could feasibly implement it in their downtown cores. The cost of the signage I think would still qualify the solution as a "quick win."

Phillip and University could definitely use a scramble, possibly event moreso than King and University.  Part of the problem is that the pedestrians don't really care about the pedestrian signals and just cross until the last possible second, and then some.

You mean pedestrians follow the logical behaviour, and the behaviour codified into law in every single jurisdiction that has updated their pedestrian signal laws in the last 20 years since the countdown timer was widely introduced?  Crazy!

What we need in Ontario is to codify that behaviour into law.

What we need at these intersection is definitely a barndance/scramble.  In fact, it is actually a benefit to vehicle traffic, because right turning vehicles (which are prohibited on red) can proceed without obstruction on green.  It would make sense on every intersection on University.  It would be a very small start to correcting the dumpster fire that is University Ave.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - danbrotherston - 11-08-2018

(11-07-2018, 11:16 PM)Pheidippides Wrote:
(11-07-2018, 12:15 PM)Viewfromthe42 Wrote: Quick win: yield signs on all non-collector roads which intersect with trails, on road and roadside sign, indicating drivers must yield to pedestrians and people on bikes on the trail.

I would take that one step further and create curb bump outs at all the minor crossings that narrow the road to a single shared lane. Shortens the crossing distance for trail users and slows vehicle traffic. I'm thinking particularly of Gage and John on the IHT and pretty much everything except Union, Moore, and Weber on the Spurline.

It could be done with parking chocks and flexible bollard flag thingy's.

This would be a more permanent solution:

This design makes absolute perfect sense, and I have 100% faith that it won't happen in the near, or mid term timeframe...maybe, one day, but not for many decades.

I'm so cynical these days...


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - tomh009 - 11-08-2018

(11-08-2018, 12:55 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: What we need at these intersection is definitely a barndance/scramble.  In fact, it is actually a benefit to vehicle traffic, because right turning vehicles (which are prohibited on red) can proceed without obstruction on green.  It would make sense on every intersection on University.  It would be a very small start to correcting the dumpster fire that is University Ave.

However, with a scramble, the wait between green signals is typically longer as there are three phases rather than two. And students (the majority of pedestrians in this area) are not know for their patience ...


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - danbrotherston - 11-08-2018

(11-08-2018, 01:09 PM)tomh009 Wrote:
(11-08-2018, 12:55 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: What we need at these intersection is definitely a barndance/scramble.  In fact, it is actually a benefit to vehicle traffic, because right turning vehicles (which are prohibited on red) can proceed without obstruction on green.  It would make sense on every intersection on University.  It would be a very small start to correcting the dumpster fire that is University Ave.

However, with a scramble, the wait between green signals is typically longer as there are three phases rather than two. And students (the majority of pedestrians in this area) are not know for their patience ...

There's definitely a challenge there, although it doesn't have to be the case that there's a longer delay, for example, there could be a scramble phase between both directions...

The biggest challenge is King/University where the lanes are ridiculously wide (some of the individual lanes are 6 meters wide I mean, WTF) in all direction, so crossing times are very high, still, the walk sign can be very short (if people and traffic engineers alike stop thinking of pedestrians as cars), so the overall impact isn't huge, and wait times can still be reasonable.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - welltoldtales - 11-08-2018

From what I understand they wanted a scramble at King and Queen in Kitchener but the Region were not fans claiming it was unsafe and would cause too much traffic backup on Queen.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - Canard - 11-08-2018

(11-08-2018, 12:55 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: You mean pedestrians follow the logical behaviour, and the behaviour codified into law in every single jurisdiction that has updated their pedestrian signal laws in the last 20 years since the countdown timer was widely introduced?  Crazy!

No, they mean that pedestrians almost always basically completely ignore the signals - going before they turn to walk (especially annoying for those turning left on an advance) or starting to cross even when it's counted down past zero.

I love the idea of a scramble as a pedestrian. I also love the idea of a scramble as a driver.

Sidebar: What can be done to improve pedestrian behavior when queuing at crosswalks? Take University on the Laurel Trail, for example. Throngs of pedestrians pile up, just taking up the full width (instead of taking up 50% and keeping to the right). This makes an absolute mess for those trying to cross, when everyone crashes in the middle.


RE: #QUICKWINS4KW - Pheidippides - 11-08-2018

If the vehicle phase(s) are more efficient though the phase does not have to be as long to move the same volume of vehicles and would reduce wait times for pedestrians.