Burlington Election 2014: Cycling

Cycling for all ages in Burlington: from 8 to 80

Response to Bike Burlington 2014 Election Survey


1) What is the biggest priority for enabling active transportation in your ward?

Ward 2 is the smallest ward geographically, and includes our downtown, with more people living in less space, closer to shops, community centres, work, schools and home. As such, walking, transit, and cycling are higher in this ward than anywhere else in the city– because people are closer to daily needs.

That said, there are still improvements that can be made, in linking active transportation, reducing the preeminence of the car, bringing shops, jobs and homes closer together, and connecting downtown and nearby neighbourhoods to the rest of the city. For more about my commitments on cycling, see my cycling video above.

More ideas regarding cycling are below:

1. Pedestrian Priority: residents have asked for more crossing time at lights on major roads (Maple/Lakeshore/Brant); pedestrian islands at road intersections (eg. Pearl/John); and pedestrian priority measures throughout the downtown core, for example, instead of signs advising pedestrians to “wait for the gap” on Brant, what about signs that advise drivers “stop for pedestrian crossing.” The first sign gives priority to cars; the second to pedestrians. We need to work with the province, which governs content of road signs, to provide municipalities the flexibility we need to signal that some areas are pedestrian priority streets. Our Downtown Task Group came up with 33 recommendations to improve the downtown, and a pedestrian priority pilot program was one of them. I’m committed to moving this forward, and making investments necessary to see it through.

2. Linkages with the bike path: the Centennial Bikeway is an excellent, safe, east/west route for cyclists and walkers, bringing people through neighbourhoods in Wards 5, 4, and 2 into the downtown. However, the path stops at Martha, before reaching the core, and cyclists and pedestrians have to navigate parking lots. This transportation corridor has been identified for a potential cycling/pedestrian path as these parking lots come up for renewal or redevelopment. I’m committed to investing in improvements to make a continuous pathway link.

3. Linkages with the rest of the city: City staff have been working on a trails strategy, and have inventoried all the paths in the city, including many along hydro corridors. Many of these, including the north-south hydro corridor from Ontario to Stephenson, are not paved or maintained. There is an opportunity to use some of the money already earmarked for cycling (which is typically not fully spent each year) to invest in cycling corridors along these paths throughout the city, and improve cycling/walking

4. Transit: Ward 2 has two mobility hubs which are intended to foster a range of active transportation options: downtown Burlington, and the Burlington GO station. For residents going to key destinations across the city (GO, Malls) transit is easy; but for some trips, including getting to school, connections are a challenge. It’s easier to get to Toronto than across town. I support adding 13000 hours in transit service, and three community buses that would serve the seniors centre and other key destinations, proposed by staff for the 2015 budget. But we need to do more to make transit effective throughout the city. For more, see my responses to the Transit questionnaire here: http://bfastransit.ca/?p=343

5. Shop Local promotion: As the council representative on the board of the Burlington Downtown Business Association, we’ve worked hard to make the downtown a destination for shopping, recreation and work, especially for local residents who are close enough to walk or cycle. The BDBA won a $10,000 award for its Shop the ‘Hood campaign in 2013 encouraging residents to shop locally, closer to home, rather than drive to bigger stores further afield. The BDBA and the Burlington Economic Development Corporation are working on a retail recruitment strategy to ensure the right mix of stores downtown, so residents can meet most of their shopping needs within walking/cycling distance.

6. Office Attraction: One of the best ways to encourage active transportation is to bring activities closer together, especially bringing work closer to home. Currently 55% of our residents travel on average 45km one way outside the city to work. This is too far to walk, for many too far to cycle, and transit connections may not be feasible. One of my goals for the next term is attracting office uses to the downtown on one of our city parking lots – repurposing space meant for cars into jobs.

7. Improved Communications: Burlington and Halton is blessed with an extensive cycling/hiking/trails network, captured in maps available online. But do residents know about the maps, and the trails? If residents are made aware of existing active transportation options, more will use them. Maps are available here: http://cms.burlington.ca/Page418.aspx#.VEV72CLF_eQ

There are multi-use paths for cycling along several East-West roads, including Lakeshore, Harvester and Fairview, however some are in disrepair (Lakeshore in places) making them difficult and uncomfortable to ride. We can use existing funds to improve the cycling infrastructure we already have.

2) Do you think the city should spend more / less / same as it is currently to build out the city’s cycling network?

The city has unspent funds in its cycling budget, and the priorities can shift midstream, leading to stalled projects. For example: the cycling master plan identifies connections across the QEW as a priority, but that was set aside to consider widening New Street and adding “rollover” curbs for an additional unbudgeted cost of $1.2m. That expenditure would assist just a small group of riders, while cycling infrastructure that is suitable for all ages and abilities of cyclists is available on the Centennial Bike Path a half a block south. I support cycling infrastructure that is in keeping with the 8-80 priorities – namely cycling infrastructure that can be used by all of our residents ranging in age from 8 to 80. We also need to make sure we don’t sacrifice greenspace in the name of green transportation – widening New Street to accommodate rollover curbs would require cutting trees and removing some of the green boulevards.

Meanwhile, there is an opportunity to increase cycling infrastructure along hydro corridors throughout the city (including the hydro corridor path downtown at Ontario-Stephenson) using existing cycling funds.
The cycling network as outlined in the Cycling Master Plan calls for adding onroad bike lanes, where feasible and safe, and adding “sharrows” or lane markings asking drivers/cyclists to share the road. On Lakeshore Road, it was not feasible to add bike lanes without compromising driver safety by removing the centre turn lane, or removing trees to widen the road. Instead, enhanced sharrows were added, which has according to reports improved safety for cyclists, and encouraged sharing the road.

There are very few East-West routes across the city, which is an issue not just for cyclists
but also transit and drivers. However, Lakeshore, Fairview and Harvester all have sections of them with a “multi-use path” intended for cyclists, that is adjacent to the sidewalk and off- road. Recently, our family cycled from downtown to Paletta Park on this path. It was a terrific ride where it had been recently paved; not so much closer to Paletta where it hasn’t been maintained. I support investments to repave this strip of cycling insfrastructure. Elsewhere, Spruce St. provides a fast, residential on-road cycling route where there are fewer cars and more space to pass. I cycled this corridor recently from downtown to the boundary at Burloak – it was fast, safe, shaded and enjoyable. It’s a designated bike route, with painted sharrows advising everyone to enjoy the road. But how many people know about it?

We can also improve communication of the on-road and off road cycling paths that exist. Burlington has received the Bronze Bike Friendly Community Award sponsored by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition for our cycling infrastructure. If more people knew what
currently exists, we could increase use.

Various agencies have developed cycling and trail maps for Burlington/Halton, available here: http://cms.burlington.ca/Page418.aspx#.VEA7uWddXeQ promoting those maps would help people to take advantage of the cycling and walking infrastructure that already exists.

Burlington also permits cycling on sidewalks, especially on major roads where residents don’t feel comfortable mingling among cars. Cyclists must give way to all other sidewalk users, and sound their approach with a bell. There is one exception: Bikes are not allowed on the sidewalks on Brant Street from Caroline to the lake due to the increased pedestrian traffic downtown.

3) What else do you think the city should be doing to increase the number of trips taken by Burlington residents via walking or cycling?

Building complete communities that are walkable is the key, and it will take some time to
reshape our suburban areas into walkable neighbourhoods. That means bringing jobs closer
to home, so people don’t need to commute outside the city for work. That means ensuring a range of shops and services are within walking distance – and pleasant to ride to, and through. That means not approving more big box retail, or segregated office parks, with nothing around them but parking lots and roadways. That means moving away from traditional “suburban” planning into community “hubs” of traditional town planning – essentially recreating the downtown experience in neighbourhoods throughout the city, so the car becomes optional not essential.
In addition, the 8 steps outlined in #1 above will assist in increasing walking/cycling/transit use, not just in Ward 2 but throughout the city.

4) As a Council member, how will you help to bridge the divide between cyclists/ non-cyclists that is evident from newspaper and online commentary?

The difference in perspective is not between cyclists and non-cyclists, it is occuring between cyclists who favour one type of cycling infrastructure, and cyclists who favour another type
of infrastructure.

We have to move toward having a respectful dialogue about the various types of cycling infrastructure and their priority – what do we do first, second, third – without people being labelled “anti-cycling” if they support one type of cycling infrastructure over another (example off-road versus on-road).

We need to bring the cycling community together to discuss, in respectful ways, the various options for cycling infrastructure, and the short- mid- and long-term opportunities and priorities. The cycling Master Plan provided some of that priority setting, but the plan has been set aside during various votes on specific cycling initiatives.
We’re got to return to the plan, and either follow it, or refresh it. If the community wants to refresh it, I’m supportive of that conversation.

We also need to bring together all members of the community who support active transportation, of which cycling is one option, so that advice and advocacy is not done in a siloed way, but rather in a coordinated way. I support the establishment of one “active transportation advisory committee” to council that would include subcommittees on transit, cycling, and pedestrian priorities.

Finally, we need to encourage all roads users to be respectful of each other and follow the rules of the road. This is an issue not just for Burlington, but province-wide. Polling data collected by StratComm for the Share the Road Coalition in Spring 2014 found:
• 59% of Ontarians have a negative impression of how motorists behave toward cyclists and pedestrians
• 57% of Ontarians have a negative impression of how cyclists behave toward motorists and pedestrians

According to the study (available here:

“Opinion toward the behaviour of both groups is generally negative, and it has tended to become more negative in recent years. The good news? Cyclists and drivers see a problem in the behaviour of both groups.”

I can attest to many calls received in my office about behaviour of both cyclists and motorists, many from pedestrians but also some from fellow cyclists and motorists. Everyone needs to be more respectful of each other, and follow the rules of the road and common courtesy. When we can respect each other in the streets, we can begin to respect each other when we discuss how to advance active transportation in our community.