—A guest post from the Sustainability Office.
Fall may be in full swing, but it feels like spring is in the air for cycling in Waterloo Region.
There is a growing push for cycling across the community, catalyzed by concerns for accessibility and safety, effective use of space, economic development, affordability, and climate change, just to name a few. New segregated bike lanes on King, Columbia, University, Queen, and Belmont are kicking off much-needed infrastructure transitions outlined in municipal policy and planning. Trail improvements through Waterloo Park and soon the Iron Horse are making for a more pleasant cycling experience. Bike racks and spaces on busses and the iON make multi-modal transportation more accessible.
Efforts have been building on campus as well. Waterloo has been expanding programs and services to make riding a bike a more convenient commuting option.
- All campus buildings have adjacent bike racks, some of which are covered (QNC, B1, ESC, and EIT, for example).
- Parking Services manages a secure bike locker program, and there is a new secure bike cage under construction between EV3 and ML!
- Police Services runs a program to register your bike, so they can better help return it to you if it is stolen.
- Cyclists can access an emergency ride home program, $75 per trip 4 times per year, to help with unexpected circumstances (unfortunately, weather doesn’t count!).
- If you only ride during the summer, you can suspend your parking permit and regain your spot when the winter weather returns.
- Better yet, employees can purchase transit passes for winter months at a 15% discount off the regular transit price (no minimum monthly commitment) so you can bike in fair weather and bus in the cold.
- Waterloo has piloted a bike sharing program in 2019 to make getting across campus more convenient.
- The Sustainability Office organizes events like Bike Month to recognize cyclists, provide free bike tune-ups from community partners, and offer prizes for logging bike trips.
Of course, these don’t address every barrier. Bike theft remains a challenge, which is why the new secure cage is a critical step forward. We hope the cage is a model that, through partnerships, can be replicated in additional areas of campus if there is demand.
And the University is certainly not an island. It is connected to the network of roads and trails leading to the campus, many of which lack robust cycling infrastructure. It is a familiar sight to come to the end of your bike lane or trail and have to merge into morning or afternoon traffic. Municipal improvements are accelerating, but there is still a lot to do.
Nevertheless, the efforts underway are already shifting the gears upward. Cycling is not just for veteran riders. Diverse members of the University community—from a wide range of ages and abilities—arrive on all types of bikes every day. We’ve put thank-you cards on thousands of bikes across campus, so we know! Efforts to improve infrastructure will continue to make it safer and more comfortable.
If you are curious, explore your options. Google and gotravelwise.ca can pull up routes and directions that optimize bike lanes and trails, including new infrastructure, and the Sustainability website has more information and links to the above services that can help.
Mat Thijssen is the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Manager. He coordinates the University’s sustainability activities and efforts, in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders on and off campus