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Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - Printable Version

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Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - Spokes - 10-02-2018

This is the first post, in a series of shared guest posts by Robin Mazumder

Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward


First posted on May 17, 2018 by Robin Mazumder at robinmazumder.com

This past January, I finished my first year on the City of Kitchener’s Cycling and Trails Advisory Committee. 

And I was considering quitting. 

Like many volunteers on city committees everywhere, I had a full plate of other responsibilities and commitments. Time was a precious commodity, and I was unsure as to whether my presence on the committee was amounting to anything. From where I sat, I didn’t see much progress. 

When I originally applied to sit on the committee, I was excited by the prospects. I had been living in Kitchener for less than a year and already had my fair share of negative experiences as a cyclist. The committee would be the perfect opportunity to positively channel my frustrations as a cyclist in a city without adequate cycling infrastructure. I also felt that it would be a way to give back to a city full of wonderful people who had openly welcomed me into their communities. The life of a doctoral student can be transient, given that we’ve got one foot out the door at all times. But, numerous Kitchenerites had opened their hearts and their homes to me. I felt that they deserved better. Like many places, Kitchener is a good city that could be exponentially greater if it was safer to navigate as a non-driver. Suffice to say, I was keen to join the committee and explore ways that good urban design could be used to unlock that potential. This isn’t to say that there weren’t locals who had been fighting tooth and nail for progress far before I arrived. I just wanted to do my part to help. 

Like many places, Kitchener is a good city that could be exponentially greater if it was safer to navigate as a non-driver.



In considering to quit the committee, I realized that I’d not only be letting down whoever decided to appoint me to it. I’d also be letting down my friends and neighbours. So, at the committee meeting in February I decided to give it one more shot, and added an agenda item on the need for a minimum bikelane network. I felt that Kitchener’s piecemeal method, putting painted bikelanes here and there, wasn’t working. I shared some examples of best practices and provided my rationale for why I felt we needed a cycletrack network. I did my best to make an official request, and now it’s up to the City of Kitchener to do something with that. 

If cities want to see a transformation in the way residents move…well…they need a transformational approach. As the saying goes, with great risk comes great reward. And, by all accounts, my city is awfully risk averse when it comes to building bikelanes. 

If cities want to see a transformation in the way residents move they need a transformational approach.


When cities are risk averse in building good quality cycling infrastructure, what they’re really doing is offloading the risk onto their residents. Cyclists literally absorb the impact of that risk when they are hit by drivers. It’s an unfortunate truth. 

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Cycletrack networks not only increase safety, they also increase comfort with cycling. As a pretty confident cyclist, I’m still often uncomfortable cycling in my city. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who is just starting out. Giving a cyclist a few hundred meters of a painted bikelane and then forcing them back onto the road to contend with speeding drivers isn’t any way to encourage new people to try cycling. No wonder mode share is so low! We need to give people a safe, protected and connected route through the city if we want to see any meaningful change. 

Cycletrack networks not only increase safety, they also increase comfort with cycling.


Kitchener, like many other cities, needs to listen to its residents and invest in good quality infrastructure. There’s only so many ways we can ask for change. Cities that encourage civic engagement but do nothing to engage the ideas and suggestions citizens make are missing the mark, and are doing residents a disservice. It sets us up for burnout. I can attest to that. I’m in London (UK) for the summer and I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to be living in a city that, for the most part, seems to get the importance of good cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. London isn’t perfect, but it’s trying. It’s nice not being frustrated by my daily walking or cycling commute. It’s also pretty wonderful to feel regarded by the city I live in. 

Cities that don’t have cycletrack networks have the gift of learning from those that do. There are countless examples of success stories. At this point, the issue isn’t a lack of evidence. It’s a matter of willingness to try something new (and, perhaps temporarily, upsetting drivers). Ultimately, when it comes to urban progress, where there’s (political) will, there’s a way. 

Cities that don’t have cycletrack networks have the gift of learning from those that do.


I’m excited to see what happens in Kitchener. As it stands, the ball is in the City’s court and its their turn to take a shot. 

(If you’re interested in helping advocate for better cycling infrastructure in the Waterloo Region, get in touch with the great folks at Cycle WR)


Robin Mazumder (@RobinMazumder) is currently completing his doctorate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, where he is studying the psychological impacts of urban design. Always striving for a healthier, happier, and more inclusive city, Robin is also a passionate change maker. His interest is inspired by his love for cities as well as his front line experience working as a mental health occupational therapist. You can find out more about Robin at robinmazumder.com.



RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - chutten - 10-03-2018

This is a lovely narrative piece introducing Mr. Mazumder, exploring advocacy burnout, and highlighting a local engagement group. I'm not sure the piece answers the premise "Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward". I expected more facts and figures about why other infrastructure isn't enough.

Happy to see how this series continues.


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - Xiaoming - 10-03-2018

Thank you, Robin, for your proposal of a minimum bike lane network. I like the cycletracks that minimize the crossing over and sharing with the driving traffic, such as the tunnel of the Filsinger Park trail go under the Westmount Rd. W. and the trail of Hanry Strum Greenway going under the bridge of Fischer-Hallman Rd. into Monarch Woods Park. It is safe and frustration free.

The minimum bike lane network should be our goal as a functional infrastructure for our healthy and low carbon living style. There are many issues to be solved to reach this goal. I have an MBA degree from Queen's University, and I taught master degree course in Urban Development. I would like to make my contribution as you have done should I get involved.

Xiaoming Guo, Candidate of WRDSB Trustee.


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - jamincan - 10-03-2018

This is completely spot on. All of the nicest cycling infrastructure doesn't accomplish anything if you can't reach it, or if it doesn't go anywhere.


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - YKF - 10-06-2018

I've often heard "minimum grid network" mentioned here but can anyone explain what "minimum" means?


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - jamincan - 10-07-2018

Minimum is going to mean different things to different people, but the idea of a minimum network is that it allows you to travel by bike to the key points you might want to reach in a safe and comfortable manner. The present situation is adhoc. They add lanes where they can fit them and build trails when they feel like it/think of it. Our most important cycling routes still give precedence to the most minor lightly used streets. They dump people off into no-mans land. They don't actually reach key nodes and leave you to fend for yourself when you get off them.

The IHT and Spur Line are probably our marquee bike routes and both suffer from dumping you in no man's land and lacking any priority even over minor streets. E-W options really suffer, particularly when going east as there are few good crossings of the Expressways, the Grand River and Courtland/the rail yards. Signage is terrible.


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - Canard - 10-07-2018

But they have to end somewhere, no? Where should they dump you?


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - Xiaoming - 10-07-2018

A minimum network can be measurable projects one by one, such as 10 minutes of biking from residential areas to schools, or half an hour of biking from residential areas to shopping malls, connectivity across Highway 7/8, Highway 85 and the Grand River, etc. Biking infrastructure plays a role to low our living cost and to increase the competitiveness of our municipal economy. It is an investment that generates a return in the utility of residents' well-being. The economic gain is vested not in profit but in the benefit to the public.

Xiaoming Guo, Candidate of WRDSB Trustee.


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - clasher - 10-07-2018

(10-07-2018, 08:26 AM)Canard Wrote: But they have to end somewhere, no? Where should they dump you?

On to another bike route. The best place is where the spur line meets the laurel trail. Wayfinding signs to closer trails would be good too, I don’t recall any signs where the IHT ends at Park. The IHT ends I
At a golf course but at least there are some signs in the are pointing the way to Fairview mall... and plans to connect it to the new trail seem decent enough.

The saddest bit of orphaned bike lane that comes to my mind is on the Franklin bridge over the expressway. I understand why it was painted when the bridge was rebuilt but the lanes could at least been put on the rest of Franklin going toward Wilson, if not the entire street.


RE: Aiming for Bare Minimum: Why Cycletrack Networks Are the Only Way Forward - Canard - 10-07-2018

(10-07-2018, 09:50 AM)clasher Wrote:
(10-07-2018, 08:26 AM)Canard Wrote: But they have to end somewhere, no? Where should they dump you?

On to another bike route.

...and where does that bike route end?

I guess all I'm getting at is everything has to end, somewhere, unless it is a loop.