Preparations for tonight’s Uptown Streetscape Vote

To be honest, I’m so excited. I never thought in my wildest dreams we’d have any chance of protected bicycle lanes on King Street in Waterloo. It’s been an amazing journey (that started with this post and also this petition)!

In addition to the amazing 1000 folks who took the time to sign the petition for protected bike lanes: three people come to mind who helped spark the change to get protected bike lanes in the recommended design, because when this was first tabled, protected bike lanes weren’t part of the conversation.

The first is Marie Snyder who blogs over at a ‘Puff of Absurdity‘, who after reading a post where we were complaining about the lack of protected bike lanes commented ‘if you made a petition, I’d sign it’. 1000 signatures later and City Planners had a new option. That’s a lot of passion for a little slice of <protected> pavement.

KingErb_4NEThe second is Narayan Donaldson, now a 4th year planning student at UW. Narayan has blogged quite a bit at WaterlooBikes.ca and also writes on his traffic blog on issues broader than Waterloo Region. Narayan designed protected bike lanes for King Street at a time when city designers were saying there wasn’t enough room. He helped frame our critique in a language understood by professional planners.

I really can’t end without acknowledging the tireless work of Mike Boos from TriTAG who has written award winning protected bike lane content (at least I’d give him an award). Mike’s also contacted city councilors and mayors with crazy professionalism, organized events and scoured the interwebs for bike lane data. He’s really the professional advocate!

So for tonight’s council meeting, I’ve registered as a delegate and this is what I’m planning to say:

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Mayor Jaworsky, and members of Council,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. I am Graham Roe, presenting on behalf of WaterlooBikes.ca and the 1000 strong citizen led petition requesting protected bike lanes be included in the streetscape design.

I’ve lived in Waterloo since 1993, moving here to attend the University of Waterloo, since that time an important mode of transportation has been the bicycle. It’s not my only way of getting around, I walk lots, run some and have shared a car for a number of those years. I haven’t always been an engaged cyclist, nor an engaged citizen, however the last five years with WaterlooBikes have been fun and full of learning.

Waterloo quickly became home, I love it here. The quality of life is incredible, I’ve been fortunate enough that the furthest I’ve ever lived from school or work has been 10km and the vast majority under 3 km. I’ve experienced Waterloo’s growth over the last twenty years. I remember Waterloo Town Square during my University days, the change of swapping out parking spots for people space is amazing. The core, wasn’t as vibrant, wasn’t teeming with people, the change of designing for people has made an astounding impact.

The changes reflected in the recommended King Street Streetscape Improvement Project continue to enhance the human experience of Uptown Waterloo. The design includes wider sidewalks with more space for seating, trees, and other amenities, improvements to the road design to make driving better, and protected bike lanes separated from traffic by raised curbs and parked cars.

Before moving to Waterloo I lived in Holland for a couple of years and experienced this type of infrastructure first hand, every day. I was surprised to learn that those protected bike lanes didn’t always exist. After the destruction of the second world war, the nation was rebuilt around the car, the piazzas, pleins, city centres were all rebuilt around the car. It culminated in the 1970, a year in which over 400 children were killed by cars. That year citizens demanded change and city officials and planners listened and began their journey building out separated infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists and now experience a modal share that most think is possible only through gene splicing.

Here in Waterloo it’s not the story of Holland’s 1970s we’ve been embarking on making our city more friendly for a while, it’s been baby steps, a bike lane here, wider sidewalks there, a regional first complete street, a master plan that embraces active transportation. The redesign of King Street is another baby step along a path we started long ago but it’s also symbolic of who we want to be and what we want to become. These few hundred meters of streetscape improvements generated over a 1000 signatures from citizens wanting a friendlier city.

I live a stone’s throw from here, my children aged 7 and 5 go walk or bike to school every day at Elizabeth Ziegler. In a few years when my daughter starts grade 7, she’ll need to navigate across Uptown to MacGregor on Central Street, I hope after today’s vote she’ll be able to take her bicycle. I’m asking for council to vote in favour of the recommended streetscape design.

The improvements proposed for King Street in Uptown are better for every road user, the business owner, the landlord, the pedestrian, the motorist, the public transit user, and yes also the cyclist. Better for people regardless of mode.

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If you’ve read this far, any comments?

See you tonight for the 5.45pm pre-vote ride up King Street.

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