Last night, Monday September 12, members of Bike to Work Regina came together to hold a citizen circle, part of the Design Regina process, devoted to cycling. The group had a good discussion about promoting cycling in Regina by developing infrastructure, educating drivers/cyclists about sharing the road and how cycling meets the City’s vision statement (“Regina as Canada;s most Vibrant, Inclusive, Attractive, Sustainable community…where people live in Harmony and Thrive in opportunity). In fact, the circle found cycling met all six key terms in the city’s vision statement.
Join me after the break for some of the major topics of discussion.
The street pattern, is very important in enabling cyclists to feel safe and to separate uncomplimentary users. Roads, regardless of their pattern, must effectively connect people. While this seems obvious, Regina cyclists will recognize there are often problems safely sharing the roadway, especially along many prominent corridors.
Understandably last night’s conversation started with streets and connections. The idea of three layer streets (streets with motor vehicles, bikes and pedestrians all spatially separated) was introduced as the best possible street arrangement for cyclists. The group even introduced a compromise, with the cycle lane doubling as a snow pile spot during the winter. The winter compromise was controversial to some, because it was not certain filling cyclist’s dedicated space sent the message that cyclist’s space was properly valued.
Multi-use pathways, currently the most developed bike-ways in the city, were criticised for mixing different users and reinforcing the view of bicycles as purely recreational vehicles. The group recognized the recreational value of multi-use pathways but felt for commuting they were not always effective.
The important corridor, the one participants felt should receive infrastructure development, was Downtown to the University of Regina (along the bike paths on Smith/Lorne to Wascana Drive to Broad Street and on to Wascana Parkway). Broad Street bridge was cited as a significant obstical for cyclists who are forced off the road or merge with the much quicker traffic over the bridge.
After the bridge, another problem section occurs where, Broad Street divides East to Wascana Parkway and South to Hillsdale. Cyclists coming from the North going towards the university must again merge into quick traffic in order to head down the Wascana parkway.
Possible solutions to the above issues included a bike lane replacing Broad Street Bridge’s West sidewalk, better signage to denote bike friendly routes and traffic lights that would give cyclists a start ahead of other vehicles.
Cycle infrastructure is important because of how poor the relationship is between motor vehicles and bicycles on Regina’s streets. There is little margin for error on many roads where any fall or loss of control in traffic could be deadly for cyclists.
There were many comments about how unsafe, unfriendly and stressful cycling could be in this city. Participants told stories of road rage from impatient drivers and using sidewalks in order to avoid streets with heavy traffic or without shoulders. Beyond changes to the physical infrastructure the group hoped for a change in Regina’s “car culture” attitude that often disregards bicycles.
At times both cyclists and drivers are guilty of bad road behaviour. One solution is better education in driver training and more advertising, perhaps with a partnership between the City and SGI, on how to share the road.
I would like to end on an interesting point from the meeting, that the city does not know how many cyclists are in Regina. City administration may make estimates, certainly, but there are no strong statistics to map and plan with. When you think about it, this is a very troubling problem for promoting cycling in the community. How can you influence city builders (politicians, developers, administrative staff and the general public) without knowing how many people cycle or where they are biking to? One can make a decision to promote a corridor for cycling infrastructure, but without strong statistical information how much confidence will officials have in that choice?
I wonder about the solutions available: the release topics page for the 2006 Canadian Census does not include a transportation section. A count of licensed bicycles would not capture all riders, nor how active riders are. Organizations like the Saskatchewan Cycling Association and bike clubs only can track members and, I would imagine, lack the resources or mandate to fund studies.
Do any of you have suggestions, know statistical sources or have a solution? Let us know in the comments.
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