Planners and engineers consider switching to Dutch on local roads

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Painted cycle lanes, raised sidewalks at intersections and flexible poles appearing in the middle of streets are just some of the ideas new to Windsor and being considered to make local streets safer and more comfortable for cyclists and pedestrians.

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A virtual workshop on Tuesday on how the Netherlands started sharing road space with non-motorized traffic, and the lessons learned, gave local planners, engineers and other city administrators inspiration to try to new ideas.

“It was good to hear new perspectives on the things we can do in Windsor,” said Jeff Hagan, the city’s senior transportation planning engineer. “It gave us food for thought on new approaches we can take. »

The city is about to embark on its first pilot project with physically separated bike lanes, along a stretch of University Avenue connecting downtown to the main campus of the University of Windsor. Additionally, community consultations are underway on how to address traffic patterns on Wyandotte Street in East Windsor; and council gave the go-ahead for active transportation infrastructure and traffic calming measures along Kildare Road between Ottawa Street and Tecumseh Road West.

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“I think there is definitely an appetite for more choice in transport,” said Hagan, one of around 30 participants in the workshop led by four consultants from three countries linked to the Dutch Cycling Embassy. . Organized by the Windsor Law Center for Cities and the Windsor Essex County Environment Committee, the four-hour session was closed to the general public to facilitate open discussion.

Mobility experts Melissa and Chris Bruntlett from consultancy firm Modacity are shown cycling along a path in the Dutch city of Delft in 2019.
Mobility experts Melissa and Chris Bruntlett from consultancy firm Modacity are shown cycling along a path in the Dutch city of Delft in 2019. Photo of Melissa and Chris Bruntlett /Windsor Star

With speeding and aggressive driving in residential neighborhoods being a major source of citizen complaints, City Council recently changed Windsor’s traffic calming policy, and each neighborhood can now invest up to $10,000 per year in temporary traffic calming measures.

Some of the traffic-calming tools suggested at this week’s workshop will be implemented locally, according to Hagan, including a proposed lower speed limit of 30km/h along residential sections of Kildare Road, separate cycle lanes and simple measures like painted pavement markings and flexible poles on the central axis aimed at further calming traffic.

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Reduced motor vehicle speeds and physical traffic calming measures are essential when it comes to sharing roads with other road users such as cyclists, workshop participants heard. Hagan said that something different in the Netherlands, where a lot of journeys and short journeys are made by bicycle, is to design and build sidewalks at ground level, with vehicles having to climb this level at intersections, which has a soothing effect on circulation.

Sumaiya Habiba, Essex County’s environmental coordinator, said what she found most interesting and surprising was how well other cities have managed to garner public support for this “approach. multimodal” to get around, with cyclists, pedestrians and motorists sharing the road. Designing “colorful paths” — green paint or red asphalt — for cyclists, for example, gives motorists a “very clear visual” that other types of users are on the road, she said.

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Essex’s county-wide active transportation system, which encourages people to use alternatives to motor vehicles to get around, has been a huge success, Habiba said. Ten years after its launch, CWATS is currently undergoing an overhaul, with the aim of further expanding the reach of the network to connect more communities.

Dave McLaughlin, transportation planner with global planning and engineering consultancy WSP Canada Inc., helps update the CWATS, an Essex County plan that he describes as “transformative – a very great achievement” and a model that other municipalities are looking to emulate.

Mobility experts Melissa and Chris Bruntlett from consultancy firm Modacity are shown cycling down a street in the Dutch city of Delft in 2019.
Mobility experts Melissa and Chris Bruntlett from consultancy firm Modacity are shown cycling down a street in the Dutch city of Delft in 2019. Photo by Mitchell Reardon /Windsor Star

The pandemic, climate crisis and now record fuel costs have paved the way for cities to try new things, McLaughlin said, like “road diets” (reduced lanes) to provide space for alternatives such as cycle paths and street boulevards. for adjacent businesses.

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“Cities tried them as temporary measures, as pilot projects…and the doomsday predictions of some didn’t come to fruition,” McLaughlin said. In fact, he added, they have proven so popular that cities from Toronto and Montreal to London and Kingston are turning what had been envisioned as short-term pilot projects into permanent changes.

Some business organizations, including neighborhood ZACs, are among those calling for more “destination streets,” he said, with wider sidewalks, boulevards and bike lanes to boost traffic to neighborhoods. commercial areas.

McLaughlin helped develop Windsor’s Cycling Master Plan in 2001, which called for a city-wide cycling network, which was never fully implemented. He said he sees the same interest and enthusiasm today that initially existed with BUMP 20 years ago.

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“The way we move is going to change,” he said.

Tuesday’s workshop, which followed an initial public seminar with authors and mobility experts Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, helps “contribute to cultural change and buy-in,” said Anneke Smit, director of the Center for Cities. from the University of Windsor Law School. The virtual session, which included representatives from the Windsor Police Service and Transit Windsor, as well as the city’s operations and engineering, planning, parks and environment departments, was a gathering of types of expertise needed to achieve this, she said.

Hagan said something he’d like to see in the initial phase of the University Avenue West redesign is putting in different types of temporary or “pop-up” bike lanes and other designs, then collecting feedback on what works best before final implementation.

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