Kitchener Waterloo’s Byelection and Bicycling

Ever since Dalton McGuinty called the September 6th By Election in Waterloo I’m eager to hear if bicycling will enter the conversation. Especially since a cyclist’s death in our riding was one of the catalysts of the recent coroner’s report on cycling deaths in Ontario.

Based on your feedback here’s what I’m asking the  leading candidates:

  • How often  do you ride your bicycle? If you do, why do you ride?
  • What are the top improvements needed in this riding to make bicycling better?
  • Which of the recommendations in the coroners report caught your attention and why?
  • How will you advocate on behalf of this riding’s cyclists at Queen’s Park?

Some additional questions from the comment section of this post:

  • Where’s the Ontario version of la route verte? Closely related to where is our provincial master cycling plan?
  • Will you commit to re-introducing the Sales Tax exemption for bicycles costing under $1000, and for bicycle safety equipment, in the form of partial HST exemption?

I fully intend to send the list of questions to each candidate and ask for an interview or at least a response.  My goal is to post the results prior to our election September 6 2012.

Tracking Responses:

20 thoughts on “Kitchener Waterloo’s Byelection and Bicycling

  1. To start with, Ontario (ie staff) have had a Provincial Bike Plan that they prepared at least a decade a ago that was never brought forward. Dalton McGuinty has (at least once) said that he wanted to update it and bring it out. he should have brought it out about a year ago. So where is the Ontario Bike Plan?

    In the GTHA, Metrolinx has an “Active Transportation” plan as part of it’s “Big Move” plan. Such a plan requires support from a variety of provincial ministries. The Ministry of Education has not yet been a participant in helping to turn this plan into a reality – in spite of the fact of the many benefits that active transportation has to our kids and to the education environment. When is the MoEd going to sit at the multi-ministry taskforce that Metrolinx has setup?

    Further, the MoEd spends $900 million annually to bus our kids to schools, a significant chunk of our provincial budget. The MoEd has no active transportation policy, and spends NOTHING to support or encourage kids riding bikes (ie racks, helmet storage, cycling education, etc) nor does it spend anything on any other form of active transportation – again despite the many benefits to the kids and to their educational environment that active transportation brings. Does the Provincial Bike Plan address this, and will there be specific money available from MoEd to our schools to support and encourage active transportation, and cycling specifically?

    The Minister of Transportation has been asked repeatedly for a “letter of direction” about Contra-Flow bike lanes (bike lanes which travel the opposite way on a one-way street). This is because the laws regarding them are too vague. The lawyers in some municipalities (like Ottawa) have interpreted the law to allow them, while others (like the City of Toronto) have interpreted the same law as NOT allowing them. A “letter of direction” from the Minister would make it very clear as to whether contra-flow bike lanes are legal or not. Where is this letter?

    Bike lanes themselves are something that the Province delegated municipalities to create along with other Diamond lane (lanes for which the municipality only allows certain classes of vehicles or vehicle types to use; also car-pool lanes). “Driving” (ie moving in) the lane with an unauthorized vehicle type is covered under Provincial law, but parking/stopping/standing in a bike lane is only covered by Municipal law. This should also be a provincial offence.

    Further, motorists making right turns across a bike lane is not covered by driver education, nor by provincial law. The law should be clear how this manoeuvre ought to be done — both the benefit of the drivers as well as for the benefit of cyclists.

    1. Good ones! I’m particularly interested in the Provincial Bicycle Plan or even an Active Transportation Plan for the Province and engaging the Ministry of Education to promote active transportation methods.

  2. I would think this is more of a municipal matter rather than provincial.
    I remember cyclists making it an issue in the federal election as well. I don’t see how federal/provincial policy affects municipal policy. Maybe at the financial level, but even then, it’s still up to each municipality to apply for and use the funds.

    1. Provincial policy affects cycling big-time. The Ministry of Transportation dictates what kind of road infrastructure municipalities are permitted to implement. For instance, there are no guidelines yet on legal cycle crossings for multi-use trails, coloured bike lanes, or advanced bicycle crossing signals, to name a few. There’s also provincial limits on what kind of by-laws municipalities are permitted to pass, and what kind of penalties could be applied. Provincial law changes would be required for a one-meter passing law to have any teeth. Reverse onus is part of provincial law, but we would need some kind of push from the MTO to get police to actually start applying it. With the way the HTA is written, mandatory helmets for all ages could unfortunately be enacted with a simple order-in-council by Minister Chiarelli.

      Graham, I’d love to respond with some good questions, but I’ve got a rather large laundry list! Going to take some work to figure out how to make them something concise, yet not so general as to only hear platitudes in response or leave room for token gestures.

    2. Helmets are a provincial matter — few municipalities will have a helmet law, and if they do I’d say provincial law trumps them.
      A ‘one-metre passing law’ is also a provincial matter.

      Usually bike lanes and trails are municipal. Everything else is provincial.

  3. “How often do you ride your bicycle? If you do, what’s your ride?”
    —-
    To further this question, I’d ask it in such a way to find out if they use a bike to commute (whether to a store or business regularly or occasionally) or if it’s simply for recreation.
    Personally I’d be more in favour of someone who rides more often for commuting purposes.

    I actually like what Clasher said.
    We have this Lake Ontario waterfront trail that goes from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Brockville, but it is hardly away from busy roads.
    Plus I’d like it to be connected with other communities.

  4. I want to thank PeterStirling for inviting me to respond to these questions as I think this is an issue that can easily get lost in the fray of an election. My responses are below and I should also say, I’m more than happy to talk directly to anyone interested in this issue via facebook.

    ● How often do you ride your bicycle? If you do, what’s your ride?

    My husband and I ride our bikes as much as possible. Typically this would be riding to work and dropping our kids off at school/daycare. Our youngest doesn’t ride his own bike yet so my husband rides him with an attachment. Our eldest rides very well. We get our kids bikes from Recycle Cycles – a fabulous Working Centre initiative (http://www.theworkingcentre.org). They actually give kids bikes away for free but we typically donate a small amount as we think Recycle Cycles is fabulous. I bought my bike from King City cycles and my husband got his from kijiji. They’re both hybrids (I’m afraid I’m not an officianado – I love my bike but can’t tell you much about it).
    Our commute is typically short (only a few k’s) but I also run some errands on the bike (picking up my CSA, going to the chiro being the most common places I bike). I also bike to the Go Station when I have to get to Toronto for my former life as a researcher! We do also enjoy riding recreationally, most commonly to Victoria Park for the kids to run around.

    ● What are the top improvements needed in this riding to make bicycling better?

    I think dedicated biking lanes are probably the most important improvements needed in KW. Our ride to the kids’ school for instance takes us along Glasgow – not only is that street in dire need of repair but the stretch from Westmount to Belmont has no bike lane and is dangerously narrow. Hardly encouraging for parents wanting to send their kids to school on bikes (and not safe either). One of the earlier blogs on the site rightly pointed out that the municipality of Kitchener has a Master Cycling Plan in place and there are a lot of wonderful, dedicated people working on bringing that to fruition, I have personally worked with Councillor Fernandes and know this is something she is working hard on. Another reply also rightly pointed out that we (provincial politicians) can do a lot to encourage better biking infrastructure. The Green Party’s Health platform (download the full pdf at http://itstimeforgreen.ca/) actually focuses on health promotion and illness prevention. As a strong part of that platform we would employ zoning and planning powers to design communities that promote walking and cycling as part of the promotion of healthier living. To do this we would create a $200 million dollar fund to support active transportation initiatives that would promote these things.

    ● Which of the recommendations in the coroners report caught your attention and why?

    One thing that immediately caught my eye early in the report is that traffic injuries will represent the third biggest contributor to disease and injury by 2020. This is probably not publicised enough and although the largest contributor to that will be motor vehicle accidents the report rightly points out that cyclists and pedestrians are most vulnerable. The long-term costs of traffic injuries is close to my husband’s heart (and of course mine too) as his brother still struggles with depression more than 20 years after a serious MVA. I don’t think people truly appreciate that kind of long-term cost from traffic injuries, particularly those that lead to head injuries and chronic pain injuries. The notion too that perceived safety issues will act as a deterrent to cycling was an important one. If the people of KW see us making real inroads into cycling infrastructure (including things like the Working Centre’s latest bike share initiative), they’ll be more likely to see biking as a viable alternative to the car. An important suggestion is that of adding side-guards to trucks; this would not only increase bike safety, but would also increase the efficiency of the trucks! Really, there was a lot of new (to me) data in this report, so I could comment on almost all of it – for example, I was surprised that the most common age for injuries was 45 or older – I would have guessed that the young were more vulnerable simply because they were out cycling more. One of the things my job as a researcher has always taught me though is to look to the data carefully. This is something the Green Party values too – whatever influence we would attempt to have over cycling infrastructure would only come via consultation with the local stakeholders – people like the bloggers on this site. As for the recommendations, one really stuck out and struck a chord with me. The “complete streets” approach sounds like a sensible way to improve transportation for all users and falls in line with Green Party’s active transportation platform.

    ● How will you advocate on behalf of this riding’s cyclists at Queen’s Park?

    The notion of establishing an Ontario Cycling Plan falls right in line with the GPO’s aim of promoting active transportation initiatives. I would act as a strong advocate for such a plan. Importantly, I would consult with local parties to determine the priorities for such a plan. I don’t begin to claim that I know best in this area. I love biking but would need to rely on high users, urban planners and other experts, including any interested citizens, to inform the approach we would take to establishing a cycling plan for all of Ontario. I think it’s worth pointing out that if we win this seat we can really act as a tying vote on important legislation – and I see changes such as implementing an Ontario Cycling Plan as very important. If elected I could also push the issue forward by introducing a private member’s bill to establish the cycling plan. Again, this would need to be developed through local consultation with the people of KW.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to talk about cycling – right now I’m so busy I haven’t been on my bike nearly as much as I’d like – hope to change that after the 6th!

  5. Will you commit to reintroducing the Retail Sales Tax exemption for bicycles costing under $1000, and for bicycle safety equipment, in the form of a partial HST exemption?

      1. http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/786758–kitchener-waterloo-byelection-candidate-forum-planned-monday

        All candidate’s meeting is August 27 from 7-9pm in the Waterloo Inn.

        If we could get in at least two good questions from different people about cycling, it would certainly put the issue on their radar.

        Personally, I’d love to ask them to work together and try to recall as many of the coroner’s recommendations (aside from the helmet law) as they can. I imagine none of them would do very well, and demonstrate that they’re not even informing themselves about the issues. Then again, some of the questions above might actually be more constructive.

        I don’t know if you want to repost the date & time, Graham, but it would be awesome if we could get a good turnout of cyclists at the meeting.

      2. JC – Good Idea, I’ll post a reminder! Actually I’ve recieved some feedback from a couple of candidates and they seem quite literate on cycling issues, both with a focus on a provincial cycling master plan. I think we’d be surprised.

        I won’t be there in person but I’ll be watching the online feed and now with your suggestion I’ll be thinking about some questions to post (thinking they’ll take a few questions via twitter).

        Thanks,

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