Iron Horse Questions

I’ve been down the Laurel/Iron Horse exactly twice. Both times I was going to Recycle Cycles. When I got an email about the state of the trail at various times of the year, I had no idea.

Graham might know better, but he only uses the trail south to Waterloo Town Square.

Can anyone answer these questions about the Iron Horse?

  1. Is the whole Iron Horse trail maintained during Winter?
  2. Once students are there, how much extra time should I budget for getting to and from work due by pedestrians and runners?
  3. the Iron Horse trail crosses many streets.  Is the traffic heavy on these streets between 7:30 am and 8:00 am?  How much more time do I need to budget to get to and from work?

I’m sure the answers are in the Waterloobikes Community somewhere.

7 thoughts on “Iron Horse Questions

  1. Answers for the Iron Horse / Laurel trail from Erb to Bearinger:
    1 – Yes kind of. Around the university it’s better, but if we get alot of snow it begins to take lower priority. I find that the stretch between University and Seagram’s is the worst maintained stretch (a close second is the UW stretch between university and columbia as the focus on snow removal is the ring road walk ways, however it’s pretty easy to jump onto ring road).

    2. – I don’t budget any less time. I’ve gotten use to the fact that I can’t lance armstrong along the iron horse trail. A good bell usually clears a path and I have yet to hit a pedestrian. (Although my pet peeve is ear buds and smart phone users who have their face buried in a tiny screen.)

    3. – I only occasionally travel south on the iron horse trail (couple of times a month) and the majority of the roads are not that busy. The exception is Victoria which at times seems like using the recommended lights at the intersection would work best. However most cut through the back of city cafe bakery. If you’re traveling before 8am there won’t be heavy traffic anywhere in this town save the Toyota plant and Hwy 8 south to the 401 ;)

  2. I used to ride the Iron Horse for almost the entire length during my commute. I’ve moved to a mix of Iron Horse and road now, mostly due to increased confidence in traffic. I also found the street crossings annoying. I still ride the Iron Horse from Courtland & Stirling to the Ottawa St end regularly to avoid more intense Courtland and Charles. More recently I’ve been getting on earlier (around Mill St) due to the construction on Courtland. I usually hit it somewhere between 7:15 and 7:45 in the morning.

    The major road crossings are annoying, but probably don’t actually add that much time. I find that 20 minutes in the morning can make a big difference. If I start the Iron Horse section closer to 7:15, crossing Ottawa is a lot easier. I notice less difference at Victoria. Both at Mill & Victoria and Courtland and Stirling, I find the easiest is to use the crosswalks, or join traffic and turn at the lights, then jump back on the trail via the closest curb cut. Other steets with significant cross traffic are Gage, Union, Glasgow and Queen (which is possibly the worst).

    In short, I’d say 5-10 minutes would be a safe estimate for street-crossing buffer time.

    I also find that during the earlier part of the morning, pedestrian traffic is not a problem, at least on the Iron Horse. The Laurel Trail is probably a different story now that school’s in. I think the frequent mid-block crossings and blind junctions on the trail curtail my average speed vs. the road far more than working around other trail users, unless it is a particularly nice day at peak times (which I’d estimate are more like 8:30-? and 16:00-17:30). That said, my usual road average speed isn’t that fast – maybe something like 25 km/h.

  3. I used to take the Iron Horse for part of my bike commute (sadly, I haven’t even ridden to work ONCE yet in 2011), but found the crossing at Victoria to be so annoying that I avoid it, and go over to Park Street.

  4. Winter maintainance on the iron horse is pretty good in Kitchener, sometimes it’s even done before the side streets are but it’s a crapshoot once you cross Union and enter Waterloo. The small stretch of pavement that is in Waterloo is also in far worse shape than the Kitchener stretch, so I guess it’s not really on Waterloo’s radar at all, they seem much more invested in bike lanes than the trail system. In the winter the gates are all open too, so it’s usually nicer riding in the winter, and it’s also much lower traffic too. Lots of salt is applied to the trail so be prepared for that.

    I don’t know that there is a big difference in traffic on the trail with the students returning, but it’s eventually offset as the joggers and runners start to hibernate. I always budget more time if it’s rush hour regardless, if the trail traffic doesn’t slow ya down the traffic at the crossings will, Queen Street is usually pretty solid so you can just squeeze across one lane at a time.

    I find the traffic on Victoria can start getting heavy around 8am, but it’s been a while since I’ve commuted at that time. I usually use the lights to cross Victoria, esp. going north during rush hour it seems to safer though it’s a toss-up if it’s any faster.

  5. Thanks for all those tips. I will be moving to the corner of Stirling and Courtland in November and commuting daily to U Waterloo.

    I was wondering what should be done about the Waterloo part of the trail not being “on the radar of the city of Waterloo” during Winter? The first question is obviously “who cares”? If I am the only one, I might not be able to do anything. Can I see a show of hands?

    The second question is “any ideas on how to address the issue?”

    Note: This blog post might be off the radar of most now (being one week old), so this might be the wrong venue to ask. If that is the case, can Rob or Graham put out a poll?

    1. I would like to see Waterloo maintain the Iron Horse (and their other trails) in winter.

      If you need an alternate route, most of the streets in the Old Westmount neighborhood are very quiet at the time of day you’d be riding. For example, you could turn left from the Iron Horse at Union, right on Avondale, right on Dawson, then take Father David Bauer Drive and/or zip through Waterloo Park. The park paths might be better maintained, I’m not really sure about that.

    2. If snow clearing of city-owned paths and sidewalks in front of city property is a problem – email, phone, or write your City Councillor. Go speak in front of City Council. Write letters to the editor. You’re not the only one that cares.

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