Between reductions in public transit service, the hazards posed by taking transit right now, and the closure of recreational and exercise facilities, people are relying more than ever on walking and cycling outside for both essential transportation and exercise (which is also essential, for both mental and physical health). As a result, physical distancing is becoming difficult on increasingly crowded sidewalks and urban trail networks.
To ease this crowding, municipalities across the country and around the world are taking measures to free up space for active transportation. They’re closing streets to cars (or making them one-way) and removing lanes to create temporary “health corridors” and bike lanes. In Canada, we’ve seen examples from Montreal, London, Calgary, Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Kamloops, and Toronto, to name a few.
“Closures are…a necessary response to an unprecedented pandemic emergency that requires physical distance between road users engaged in essential activity.”Drs. Anne Harris and Linda Rothman, Ryerson University
The only place we’re aware that this is happening in Waterloo Region is that parking on King Street in Downtown Kitchener has been reduced to make wider sidewalks so pedestrians can pass each other more safely (note that cyclists should still be on the road here). We applaud this move, but we know there are other hotspots in the Region (the Iron Horse and Spur Line trails have been particularly crowded). And as more businesses re-open, we are going to need even more space for active, essential transportation.
Federal funding for outdoor infrastructure
The federal government recently announced $3 billion of funding for infrastructure projects in response to COVID-19, including new or improved bike lanes and trails. This is (obviously) a great opportunity and we hope to see our municipalities take full advantage of it.
“With people self-isolating in their homes, they need opportunities, for their own physical and mental health, to use the outdoors. Currently, parks are easily being overused, so opening the streets will ease this demand and make physical distancing more possible… To be sure, people should not be congregating as groups, but they should be able to get outside, be active, and socially connected.”Dr. Troy Glover, University of Waterloo (from CTV News)
Where do we need more space in Waterloo Region?
Where are you finding busy sections and pinch points on sidewalks and trails, whether cycling or walking? What solutions would you like to see? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll pass your feedback on to our municipal representatives and hopefully they’ll step up to make being outside safer this spring!
In the meantime, fellow cyclists, please consider biking on the road where you can do so safely, to leave more space on multi-use trails for pedestrians—or make use of the new bike lanes on Belmont, University, Erb, and elsewhere. And when you do pass a pedestrian on a trail, give an extra-early ring of your bell so they have plenty of time to move well out of the way—getting buzzed by cyclists is always stressful, but even more so right now.