There have been many useful and interesting letters of late about cycling in our town. I am encouraged that the level of discourse has been high from both sides of the coin.
Having said that, there is an ever-increasing problem in town with the interaction of cyclists, pedestrians and, oh, motorized vehicles. Sidewalks used as bikeways, pedestrians with nowhere to walk, and drivers frustrated by bikes seemly everywhere, and “in the way” all the time.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that any one of these three groups are always fully law-abiding and respectful of each other, but neither can one group be painted any worse than the other.
It is true that tensions are rising and education on road use by and for all is a good start. The letters here have helped at least to move forward the discussion. One letter last week struck a particular chord for me (“Town, region need to implement more safety measures for cyclists”). It mentioned a section of Mississauga at Anderson Lane. I thought, actually, the entirety of Mississauga/ Stone Road / 55, and particularly the sections in Old Town from Virgil to Queen Street, are very unfriendly to both cyclists and pedestrians and, indeed, motorists alike.
In the past few years this corridor has become home to three cycling companies, a new public school and soon a major new medical centre. As well as what is, for Niagara-on-the-Lake, explosive growth in the Virgil business district.
What has not happened is the town and the region have not kept up with appropriate infrastructure for all street users.
I focus on the Mary Street to Queen Street sections as an example of the neglect all users have experienced. There are almost no sidewalks except for the short section from Mary to Centre Street on the east side (and a little stub down by Queen). It ends unceremoniously in a ditch and a poorly maintained drain, with cracked and heaved pavement and frequent mud puddles, as the crossing on Mississauga.
I called the town to have this cleaned up in our muddy wet spring. They cleared the drain and ignored the sidewalk. I cleaned and edged the sidewalk myself, as I was told by a town functionary that since the school closed they were actively discouraging people from using this as a crossing. That’s true – they attempted to erase the crossing marks on the road and took down the crossing signs.
I asked him how I was supposed to walk from my house on Centre Street, west side of Mississauga to the Avondale plaza. I asked him this three times. He could not answer – except to say, “We plan on more sidewalks.” Oh really! In whose lifetime, as no date was provided?
I am reminded that near this intersection a few weeks back a pedestrian was mowed down and seriously injured. Poor street lighting and trees obstructing the few streetlights probably did not help the already bad situation here.
The road, of course, has no bike lanes and the very narrow shoulders are neither pedestrian- nor bike-friendly (those ditches again).
The short stretch of sidewalk that does exist has become a bike expressway and connects to the Mary Street sidewalk, also now a bike expressway itself.
Mary Street has bike lanes but they just fade out before the King and Mississauga intersections. Who thought that was a good idea? It’s astonishing that at the busy Avondale plaza cyclists lose their lanes and are forced to fend for themselves, by merging into traffic unprotected by any cycling infrastructure whatsoever. It’s no wonder so many choose the one sidewalk instead, then cross mid-block to get back to the bike rental shop.
The town and the region have failed all of us. They are not providing the modern amenities of Complete Streets, (yes, that’s a thing), which provide safe areas for all users.
They need to urgently build bike lanes on Mississauga/ Stone Road / 55. They need to complete existing bike lanes on Mary. They need to install sidewalks on both sides of Mary and on all of Mississauga/ Stone Road / 55, from Queen to at least Anderson Lane. They need to improve and maintain the street lighting.
They need to install bike boxes (yes, that’s a thing, too), or bike through/ turning lanes and cycling priority lights, at the Mary and Mississauga and King and Mary intersections. They need to build more vehicle turning lanes on 55 along with slower and consistent speeds and synchronize the traffic lights in Virgil. They need to build more on-road bike lanes on all of 55. As a minimum, signage and “sharrows” (shared-lane arrows on the pavement), to improve cycling safety and awareness for the short term.
There is much to be done and some of this is new and all is expensive to implement. But until the town and region can adopt a Complete Streets plan. The safety and sanity of all road users will be compromised in these very busy corridors. No amount of good discourse will keep us safe and content on our streets, until those streets provide the modern amenities we need today.
It’s your turn now, lord mayor. Many of your citizens have spoken out but you have been a bit too Stone Road quiet.