Drivers will have to get used to protected bike lanes for now, region says
Published Wednesday, October 30, 2019 5:10PM EDT
WATERLOO – Driving down Albert Street, you may notice a number of plant boxes along the road.
They're designed to separate the bike lanes from the road, but some appear to have been hit and pushed to the side.
The Region of Waterloo is installing the barriers to keep drivers separate from cyclists, part of an 18-month project to make roads safer for non-motorized commuters.
One viewer tells CTV that the boxes have also caused congestion for traffic, when delivery and service vehicles have had to stop in the single lane.
"It is a nuisance. It was never a problem before," says Johannes Veldhoen. "Probably for the bicycles but they were never a problem before, so I don't know."
Ian Young is the region's senior project manager for design and construction.
He says that drivers will adjust, but admits that may not happen overnight: at least two of the planters on Albert have been hit by cars so far.
"The new installations will require a change to driver behaviour," he says.
"These roads are travelled by many thousands of people each day, and getting that many people to adapt to new installations in the road can sometimes take a little bit of time."
He also points out that, if the planter is being hit, in a way, it's doing its job.
"If those planters weren't there and the driver was swerving into the cycling lane, they could potentially hit a cyclist," Young says.
"It's important to remember that it's better to have a separator hit than to have a cyclist hit in that lane."
The 18-month pilot is designed to see what method of separation, if any, works best. The region is testing out a number of different iterations, from rubber curbs to concrete, from bollards to planters.
Cyclist safety, driver reaction, cost of maintenance and traffic congestion will all be considered when the region decides whether or not to implement more.
One commuter says he's noticed some congestion already in other pilot areas.
"Holding up traffic, especially University Ave. is always pretty packed," says driver Jeremy Cane.
Winter maintenance is expected to be a "major challenge" that the region will have to overcome.
The region has awarded a contract for snow clearing and removal. Tabbed at $600,000 for the five kilometres of road, that number could be higher or lower depending on how much it snows.
That cost will also play a part in whether or not the pilot moves forward.
The program will last through two winters for evaluation, wrapping up in the spring of 2021.
At that time, regional council will make a decision where protected bike lanes fit into the region's future.