Does Waterloo Actually Have Bike Lanes?

Waterloo Bike Lane Image
Waterloo bike lanes. Five days after the last serious snow

Here’s a picture of one of the bike snow-lanes that I nominally use on my commute to work every day.

We at Waterloo Bikes have a few blogosphere friends in other cities that we keep close tabs on. From our communication with The City Cyclist in St. Catherines, The Urban Country in Toronto, Average Joe Cyclist in Vancouver (which has seriously big-timed Waterloo in snowfall this year) the plows have all made special passes to clear the snow out of the bike lanes in these municipalities.

I chided the Urban Country on the subject of citizen cycling as it appeared impossible for me to navigate Waterloo roads while wearing my work attire (unless I wanted to show up dripping with sweat and slush). He responded with a pretty succinct description of how bike lane snow removal is handled in his city.

The City Cyclist tweeted his city lanes were cleared after just two days by the snow plows of St. Catherines.

The ┬ásituation in Waterloo appears much worse despite the geographic proximity. It’s been 5 days and I haven’t seen a plow in 3. The bike lanes are filled with slush and ice except where the bus makes a notch in it to access the bus stop. I think it’s a safe assumption that the plows are awaiting the next snow fall to re-emerge and that the bike lanes will once again not be on their priority list once they do.

I turned to the Regional Cycling Master Plan to find out the reason for the disparity. Here’s what the plan says about snow removal from bike lanes.

On-road cycling facilities should be cleared as part ofthe regular removal and de-icing of roadways. A priority-shift to include roads that are cycling routes that serve major origins/designations (e.g.universities / employment centers) should be investigated. Liability is limited when ice is eliminated due to good drainage design and efficient snow removal schedules. Snow plowing crews could be instructed to payparticular attention to the right edge of the road, especially along designated cycling routes.

The bike lane pictured is on Colombia St. in Waterloo and is directly opposite Wilfrid Laurier University. Prime location for bicyclists in this city. Yet the lane remains uncleared.

So, my question is, did they subsequently investigate snow removal from bike lanes and determine that snow would not be removed? Or is the dedication of local government to biking as a mode of transportation just lip service? It seems like other municipalities have investigated it and came to a different conclusion.

Give us your status report if you’re biking in Waterloo this week!

11 thoughts on “Does Waterloo Actually Have Bike Lanes?

  1. I am biking daily on Hagey Boulevard, between Bearinger Rd and Columbia St. This is a section of road in the Technology Park just North of the University of Waterloo. I can report that yesterday’s situation was very similar by the one shown in your picture. Not as bad, but still full of snow. The sidewalk was actually cleaner…

    1. Thanks Benoit. I can’t speculate on the rest of the city, but the zone by the Universities is a disaster. If that’s not cleared, then I suspect not too many are.

      Thanks for confirming.

  2. I’m quite surprised at how bad that is. Our bike lanes weren’t even that bad during the snow fall. Unrideable but still much clearer than that.

    What makes things worse is the slush near the line of the bike lane and road. When soft bikes can go through it without any issue, however once it freezes it’s like riding over a rock covered with ice.

    I believe a couple of months ago Bill Bean talked about people dumping leaves in the bike lanes in K-W…I wonder how many residents dump snow from their driveways or sidewalks there as well?

    1. You know that you really need to ride on the left side of the slush line in order to avoid being soaked.
      Lanes like this make riding mid lane necessary to avoid cars passing too close and passing two at a time on a 4 lane road.
      I hate VC, I shouldn’t be required to on roads with dedicated bike infrastructure. That just sucks.

  3. I’m over here in London where we have received near-record snowfall during the past two weeks. I biked in today for the first time since we were hit, and found conditions much the same as you describe: the snowbanks have completely encroached upon the bike lanes to the point that there really are no bike lanes at the moment.

    In better conditions, I have maybe one car per week pass too close for my comfort. With the conditions today, there were about five cars that passed close enough to make me very nervous.

    It would be nice if the city were to make an effort to keep the bike lanes clear, but I realize that the recent snowfall has been a huge problem and that bike lanes are not at the top of the list of priorities. As well, considering how few winter riders there are, I’m also not too upset that bike lanes are such a low priority.

    At any rate, I’m not going to ride again until the snowbanks melt or are pushed back properly. In the meantime, I’m kind of enjoying riding the trainer in the basement at home. I splurged on a Tacx trainer, and the “Real Life Videos” with resistance feedback are a lot of fun (not counting the ridiculous 5km sections of 8% grade).

    1. I’d be more understanding of slow removal if we had as much snow as you, but we haven’t had nearly as much. Last serious snow was on Sunday. That picture was taken today (Friday).

  4. I can confirm that the bike lanes that are supposed to exist along Park St. are completely slogged in. As well, the shared trailway near the Perimeter Institute is a mushy mess and hasn’t seen a mini-plow since the first snow. I have essentially no bike lanes on my general commute, and considering the state of some of these roads still, I can easily see why Bicycle lanes are ignored. They are ignoring the roads too. Plows should have been out yesterday but I saw none and nothing was cleaned up since yesterday. Waterloo triumphantly declared all roads were cleared well before other cities, but they must consider one quick pass “cleared”.

    I’m wondering if the data from the GPS’s is being used or just being used to “plow the roads” but ignoring that there are bike lanes and where there aren’t, they just don’t plow to the curb anyway.

  5. Bike lanes? I’m lucky if I can find the road at all. I biked this morning for the first time this week and it was atrocious. I ended up on the sidewalk because residents had mostly cleared their walkways. Even largeish side streets near schools were very very snowy.

    1. Not to turn this into a taxation rant, but it does seem there’s an overall decline in service wrt snow clearing. Which is funny because my property tax bill does not follow this trend.

  6. The Iron Horse Trail even SUCKS! (at least from Union to Stirling) It feels like I’m riding cobbles in France.

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