A lane of their own

Queen’s and the City of Kingston make plans with bicyclists in mind as new Princess St. bike lanes are approved

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As cycling becomes a hot button issue, the City of Kingston says it’s on the right track to becoming a bike-friendly municipality.

According to Dan Franco, professional engineer for the City of Kingston, right now, bike lanes have been planned and approved for Princess St. through Williamsville and scheduled to be put in next year.

The City committed $450,000 a year for the past three years for this expansion.

“You can see how serious [the City] is about biking if they’re spending a lot of dollars and committing a lot of funds to expand the cycling network,” he said.

“The City is serious about active transportation.”

Active transportation refers to human-powered travel, including walking or biking.

Riding your bike instead of using a car promotes an active lifestyle, is easier on the wallet and better for the environment.

Kingston has a 2.4 per cent bicycle mode share, which is the percentage of travelers using bicycles as a form of transportation to work. This is high compared to other Canadian cities, according to Franco. Toronto’s mode share sits below Kingston’s at 1.7 per cent, as calculated in 2006.

“The priority should go to walking first, then biking, buses and then the car is last,” he said. “That’s the hierarchy of transportation.”

Promoting cycling, however, isn’t new to the City.

City policy states that the City “should actively promote pedestrian and cycling travel as progressive, socially responsible and enjoyable” and that they “should lead by example. Adopt programs to encourage walking and cycling by City employees.”

In 2004, the Kingston Transportation Master Plan (KPMP) further solidified these objectives.

These ideas did come with some setbacks, doubts and challenges, however.

The Williamsville Main Street Study, approved by City Council in February 2012, initially determined that Princess St. couldn’t accommodate cycling lanes.

This triggered “The Williamsville Main Street Study: Review of Cycling Lanes”, a new, more in-depth study on how to make bike lanes happen after the community voiced concerns about the prior study.

It was completed and concluded that bike lanes could, in fact, be put in at the expense of removing some on-street parking — a decision City Council opted to make.

While there’s still some resistance to this decision, Franco said that for now, the project is moving forward.

These lanes in particular are buffered lanes, which means they’re painted in with no barrier between them and the motorist lanes.

New bike lanes were put in on University Ave. up to Princess St. a few weeks ago. According to Franco, they won’t stop there.

“There was an identified need ... for pedestrians and cyclists,” he said. “You’ve got a wider sidewalk, some cycling lanes … on-street parking was removed.”

Other locations of interest are Brock and Johnson Streets between Sir John A. Macdonald Blvd. and Division St.

“We do have [more] cycling lanes planned for that sometime next year,” he confirmed, adding that they’ve already been approved by City Council.

All this work hasn’t gone unrecognized.

While there’s always improvements to be made, the City of Kingston applied for and won the Bike-Friendly Community (BFC) Bronze recognition from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition in 2012 for investing in its cycling infrastructure.

The City also promotes active transportation through its Bike Summit, held in March in association with the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. It also hosted Cycling Sunday, a seven kilometre bicycle ride along Front Rd. and King St. to promote active transportation.

By putting bike lanes in, Franco said, the City is helping to build the infrastructure to make Kingston more bike-friendly, and the awards and education initiatives show that Kingston is on the right track.

But, he said, there’s always room for improvement.

Kingston can be found on a similar level when compared to other cities’ cycling initiatives.

Municipalities such as Guelph, Mississauga, Burlington, Markham and a few others also received the Bronze Award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition in 2012, while cities like Ottawa, Waterloo and Toronto have won the silver award.

“It’s not a contest,” he said. “But, we know Kingston has some unique features other places don’t and we know we have a lot of features that are similar to other cities.”

Franco said that keeping Kingston a bike-friendly community will be a top priority in future planning.

The City’s current multi-year capital plan ends at the end of 2014. They’ll fulfill the cycling initiatives outlined in this plan and will look to create a new one for 2015-18. Franco said they‘ll still plan to keep cyclists in mind when developing the new plan. The University also has its sights set on making campus a more bike-friendly environment.

A new Campus Master Plan (CMP) is in development and is set to be approved for March 2014. It will detail how campus will develop over the next 10 to 15 years.

“Cycling figures prominently in the new Campus Master Plan,” said Yvonne Holland, the planning manager for Campus Planning.

Holland also said that they’ve been in consultation with the cycling community to further develop plans directly related to the CMP.

Campus has space on racks for about 2,000 to 2,500 bikes on main campus and they’re looking to increase these numbers, she said.

With bike lane solutions still in progress, many students have become frustrated with the current situation in Kingston and on campus.

Natasha Bowman, ArtSci ’15, said she rides her bike everywhere she can, every day of the week.

However, Bowman said she isn’t completely pleased with the resources for cyclists in the area.

“I think that we’re heading in the right direction, but at the present moment, I’d have to say that no, [Kingston] isn’t [a bike-friendly place],” she said.

A lack of bike lanes is one of the causes of Bowman’s problems.

“When bike lanes do exist, there are usually substantial obstructions in them, which makes safe and law-abiding biking difficult,” she said. “If I have to quickly swerve to avoid an obstruction, I’m either swerving onto the road or onto the sidewalk.”

One of her other frustrations is traveling by bike right after class, when many students crowd the streets and step into the lanes, causing a safety issue.

“Bikers have to stay close to the sidewalk, so if you even step into our lane without giving us any indication that you are going to do so, you are seriously endangering your life and ours,” she said.

With so many cyclists in Kingston, regulating traffic is important for the Kingston Police Force (KPF).

For KPF, the month of September was dedicated to enforcing rules of the road for cycling as part of Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) initiative, which focuses on a different law under the Highway Traffic Act each month.

Education was a large part of the recent crackdown on bicyclists, according to Steve Koopman, media relations officer for the KPF.

The mass ticketing caused some outrage among students. Some said they felt uneducated, undeserving of a fine or unprepared for the ticket they received.

Koopman said that two weeks into September, the program was started to educate and warn students about the rules of the road for a cyclist.

“Pretty much the rules of the road that apply to a vehicle, apply to a bicycle,” he said, adding that bike lanes may also be a good idea to help promote proper traffic flow and obedience of traffic laws.

“Bicycles lanes, I think, do offer that buffer,” Koopman said. “From the studies that are done, they appear to make a difference in regards to creating that space between the [motor] vehicle and the bicycle.”

When you’re not riding your bike, keeping it locked up and safe is also a major concern. Bike thefts are definitely on the rise, said Koopman.

KPF does recover many stolen bikes whose owners haven’t been identified.

“Sometimes we have as much as 200 bicycles going up for auction,” he said. “The reason they’re going up for auction is that people haven’t reported them to police, or ... people actually have reported it to police but don’t have any details on their bicycle.”

Koopman recommends taking a photo of your bike, noting identifiable or unique features of it as well as keeping track of your bike’s serial number found, normally, at the bottom of the bike.

If your bike is stolen, you can report this number to be recorded in the Canadian Police Information Centre database, where the bike will be listed as stolen, boosting chances of recovery.

Koopman says that KPF is also looking into the feasibility and logistics of creating a bicycle registry for people to register their bikes with KPF in advance, giving them the details and the serial number. In the case of a theft, your bike will already be on file, making it easier to report.

“It’s usually opportunistic thefts. These guys are not high-end thieves, they’re not master safe crackers, it’s normally opportunistic where a bike will be left unlocked or it will be locked in a poor fashion,” he said.

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