Do you like your bike trails scrambled or over easy?

Since moving here ten years ago, I have been a regular cyclist on the Iron Horse Trail. This is a critical piece of infrastructure for our local sustainable transportation system, and so is a frequent target of complaints from trail users. It needs to be wider. It needs to be marked for pedestrians on half, and cyclists on the other, to better serve both users. The connections at either end (Ottawa Street in Kitchener and Caroline Street in Waterloo) need to flow more easily and safely onto other cycling routes. Perhaps most perplexing, though, is that for a trip along the whole length of the trail during a weekday, a cyclist can expect to spend half their time waiting for motorised cross-traffic at major roads. Here are two suggestions for relief that could make us all feel a little more sunny side up, and a little less burned.

Scrambled

The intersection of Courtland and Stirling is a perfect place for a Pedestrian Scramble. StreetsWiki has a good description (with images) of this signal innovation from traffic engineer Henry Barnes. The traffic would flow in one direction (along Courtland), followed by a signal to allow pedestrian and cyclist crossings in all directions (including diagonally), then the other motorised traffic flow (on Stirling), and another scramble crossing.

The reason this works so well is that most pedestrian and cyclist activity at the intersection is diagonal. The trail terminates at two opposite corners, and the other two corners are home to the GRT bus stops.

For a great time lapse photo of the scramble signal in action at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto, check out the Spacing site.

Over Easy

I think the argument could be made for pedestrian signals at trail crossings, as well as more use of pedestrian islands so that trail users only have to cross one direction of traffic at a time. Signals could even be timed for a comfortable cycling speed, so that a non-stop trip could be made along the length of the trail.

What is called for at first is a pilot project using crossing guards in the summer. For a few months between one school year and the next, we could employ a handful of crossing guards, with all of their existing training and experience, to shepherd cyclists and pedestrians across the major trail intersections with no more than a twenty second delay. If it works, increasing the use of the trail, then we can make the investment in signals and crossing islands.

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