“A few smaller changes” could make a big world of difference for pedestrians and cyclists in Waterloo Region, according to one advocate.

Brian Doucet is the University of Waterloo’s Canada Research Chair in urban change and social inclusion. He and his family moved to the region last year.

Doucet has lived in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe, where he says “making streets places for all modes of transport” has been a priority for decades. He says he doesn’t see the same effort being made in Waterloo Region.

“The roads and the road spaces are really designed for cars. They’re designed to move as many cars through as quickly as possible,” he says.

“There’s … very little consideration for the safety, and also the comfort and enjoyment, of people who are walking.”

One adjustment Doucet says he would like to see locally is a lowering of speed limits, particularly in areas near schools and busy corridors for walking and cycling. Others include creating installing new crosswalks to avoid “neighbourhoods that are divided by roads” and creating more separated bicycle lanes.

“These types of things – some of them can be very, very small. Those small things make a big difference,” he says.

The region currently has more than 100 kilometres of dedicated bicycle lanes. The vast majority of them are next to lanes meant for passenger vehicles.

Bob Henderson, the region’s manager of transportation engineering, says every regional road reconstruction project puts a priority on protecting pedestrians and cyclists.

Additionally, he says, the region has lobbied the provincial government in support of ideas like a new type of pedestrian crossover which was recently legalized – and the focus on items like these is showing improvements from a safety perspective.

“As more people are walking and cycling, our pedestrian collisions are remaining somewhat stable and our cycling collisions are going down,” he says.

“We’re doing everything that we can to enhance the mobility and safety of our regional roads for pedestrians and cyclists.”