OPINION: Road Diets and Reducing Car(b)s

Council will soon deliberate on how to paint the lines on Speedvale Avenue East.  It is down to two options that are being bantered about, as follows:

1.  Traditional Configuration:  four lanes of car traffic, no centre turn lane, no bike lanes.

2.  Road Diet:  two lanes of car traffic, one centre turning lane, with bike lanes.

The debate on the benefits and drawbacks of both options is currently playing out in the media, email, water coolers and social media.   On both sides, there seems to be a lot of doomsday rhetoric about gridlock, cyclist safety, cars vs. bicycles, and even tragic deaths due to ambulances not being able to get through.

Good decisions are best made when citizens are engaged, informed and heard.   I would like to hear from you, but first, here are some important facts that you will need to know about the Speedvale project…

a)  the Speedvale reconstruction project is on the books due to underground infrastructure replacement, and Council’s role is solely to determine whether or not to suspend our existing policy mandating the integration of bicycle lanes on roads when they are resurfaced,

b) the new road width can accommodate option 1 or 2 above, and simply involves painting lines (which can be undone and repainted either way),

c)  the project is only for a portion of Speedvale (from Manhattan Court to Woolwich), not the entire length of the roadway system,

d) emergency vehicles have the right of way to use the centre lane when responding to emergency calls,

e)  road diets are not new, they are used on high-traffic arterial roads all over North America.  Here is a simple and clear FAQ on what a road diet is — http://www.cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov/publicfiles/files/road%20diet%20faq.pdf

f)  Guelph has arterial roadways with higher traffic volumes than Speedvale that have already been converted to the three-lane configuration — Gordon, Norfolk, Speedvale, Edinburgh, Scottsdale, Imperial, Elmira, for example.  They are working successfully.

g)  Option # 2 (three lanes) is the lower cost option,

h)  bicycles and motorized scooters are vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, which means they have the right to use a full traffic lane.

i)  Speedvale Avenue is not a truck route in the City of Guelph.

Let the debate continue.


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EVENT: Ward Five Town Hall Meeting

Please join Ward 5 Councillors Cathy Downer and Leanne Piper for a


Thursday, May 28, 2015 

7:00 pm

St. Michael’s School (9 McElderry)


1.  Ward 5: A Historical Timeline  (Leanne Piper)

2.  Synopsis and Update of Current Issues (Cathy Downer)

3.  Open Town Hall Question and Answer (You!)

Refreshments will be provided.

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Guelph Transit Challenge – Week One Reflections

The first week of the Guelph Transit (GT) Challenge is over!  Here is my progress report and observations:


  • Despite temptation, I have not used my car, asked for a ride or accepted a ride in a car.  I am 100% car-free!
  • Approximately 50% of my transportation needs have been met through Guelph Transit.  I have been a passenger on six different routes.
  • The remaining 50% of my transportation has been on foot or bicycle.

Observations (the good, the bad and the ugly):

  • drivers are friendly, helpful and professional.
  • buses have been on time, and I have made all my connections
  • planning ahead is essential!
  • comfy shoes and a good backpack are also essential
  • Guelph Central Station is desperately in need of landscaping, it is barren and crying out for greenery
  • smoking regulations are not being enforced at GCS or the University loop (including drivers setting a bad example) – it’s a turn off to non-smokers and I worry it will affect growing new ridership
  • gaps in service along Edinburgh, between Stone and College (east side) and Woolwich, between Tiffany and downtown (west side)
  • riders are very courteous to one another, offering seats to those in need, and helping with packages

Week Two is still ahead, and let’s face it, I haven’t been really challenged until I need to get somewhere in the rain.  I did manage a small load of groceries this week, but in the week ahead I need deliver a cake and buy a can of paint from Canadian Tire …. stay tuned.


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Guelph Transit Challenge

It was a sunny 20+ degree day outside when I said “I’ll do it!” to the Guelph Transit Challenge.  Although I am already an occasional transit user, the truth is that my car is my primary means of transportation.  The reasons vary by month:  work requirements, family commitments, weather, etc.

Can I shift my 90% (car) and 10% (other) lifestyle in the other direction?  Can I ready to go car-free, cold turkey, for 31 days?   Many residents in Guelph do not have a choice. Without a car, what are the challenges faced daily by those who ride transit, walk or bike around the city?

Fellow Councillor Phil Allt was the first to rise to the GT Challenge, inspired by local resident Sian Matwey to make a commitment to make alternate transportation (transit, walk, bike) the primary means of getting around for one full month.

Follow Councillor Allt @PhilAlltWard3 and @Ward5Guelph on our GT Challenge experience.  Or better yet, join us, and share your observations with us.


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OPINION: Grow “Up” and Grow “Out”

As a growing city, we have had several community dialogues over the years to address the question “how do we grow responsibly?”   Guelph was well ahead of its time when we initiated SmartGuelph before the Province had legislated Places to Grow or the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan regulations. In 2009, Council approved a made-in-Guelph growth plan — remember Envision Guelph? Residents told us they would rather grow “up” than “out” and our latest Official Plan incorporates that vision. New information about the capital, operating and environmental costs of sprawl illustrates why this was an excellent direction for Guelph. Urban vs Suburban Here is more detailed information explaining why higher density urban development is good for us. Demand for single family residential development in Guelph is a fact of life.   High density development cannot be the only form of residential growth in our city.  Striking the right balance is tricky, and is more complex that simply supply and demand.  Supply and demand variables change over time and differ between demographic groups.   Perhaps the solution is overhauling the municipal taxation system to accurately reflect the true cost of servicing urban and suburban development?  Or not.  Perhaps using property assessment value to calculate municipal taxes is no longer a workable system at all, and we should consider using an income-based system like most European cities? What do you think? LP

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OPINION: City Streets for People?

Public “rights of way” existed long before the automobile. It’s Heritage Week in Ontario and I have been looking at old photos of Guelph. Here’s one of many that intrigued me from days gone by.


This, and many other photos, depict pedestrians, carts, horses, cyclists and streetcars sharing the streets.  No right angles, fluid and unencumbered.  Yes, I know that times have changed.  Our roads are paved, we drive cars, traffic volume and speeds have increased.  We manage traffic through lights, signals and intersections.    After all, roads are just for cars.  Or are they?

Councillor Allt recently posted a link to an interesting article about the History of Jaywalking.   Current regulations are the legacy of a very deliberate lobby effort by the automobile industry to turn our public spaces into car alleys.  Citizens fought this effort and mass protests tried to reclaim streets for people first, cars second.   The offence of jaywalking was designed to punish conscious acts of defiance.    Yes, Guelph Police still enforce on occasion.

Today, our conversations about active transportation (cycling and walking) focus on getting people off the roads.   Safety is the primary reason.  Let’s face it, any interaction between a car and pedestrian/cyclist usually ends badly for the latter, regardless of who is at fault.   Perhaps we need to shift the conversation back to why we built roads in the first place – for people to get from point A to point B.   City Council recently lowered speed limits around school zones, and there is further conversation to be had about lowering all speed limits on residential streets.   These actions recognize that multiple users must be considered in how we govern our roadways, that they are public spaces, for everyone.

Is it time for the City of Guelph to repeal our jaywalking by-law?  It would be a first step in a cultural shift towards walkable city building.   Perhaps a starting point would be to allow public all-access on all non-arterial roadways, including downtown side streets (Cork, Douglas, etc.).

I welcome the discussion.

Photo Credit: Guelph Public Library Archives (C6-0-0-0-0-802) St. George’s Square

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NEWS RELEASE: Interim Solution Allows South End Rink to Continue

News Release from CAO Ann Pappert:

An update from the CAO on the skating rink in Pine Ridge

Guelph, ON, January 30, 2015 – We said yesterday that we’re interested in working with the residents of Pine Ridge on a mutually satisfactory solution with respect to what has become a well-used neighbourhood rink.

Our challenge is to work with residents to balance a number of competing interests. In this case we need to balance the desire for community recreation with the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property; liability issues and the safeguarding of the environment.

While the City works through these matters we will allow Pine Ridge residents to continue to use the rink they’ve built until a significant thaw. They can use the rink from sun-up to sun-down, without music, lights or electrical hook ups and at their own risk, thereby limiting the impact on some residents’ enjoyment of their adjoining property.

This interim solution doesn’t reflect a final decision, but it gives the City some short-term assurance while allowing residents of Pine Ridge to continue to enjoy their rink.

Next week, senior City staff will work with Pine Ridge residents to discuss this interim solution and longer-term options.

Outdoor rinks are wonderful neighbourhood assets. The City believes wholeheartedly in their benefits which is why we support neighbourhood groups working with the City, through a number of in-kind supports, in building their own rinks.

But rinks need to be safe. And they need to respect the rights of every resident in the neighbourhood. And, finally, they can’t compromise natural areas or the infrastructure built to protect those natural areas. That infrastructure, after all, is funded by every resident through their property taxes and the City is obliged to look after that investment.

The City looks forward to next week’s conversations. We’ll keep you apprised of how they go.

For more information

Ann Pappert
Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2221

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