Cycling discussion rolls forward; speed limit discussion halted for further review

Puslinch councillors took another stab at dealing with the safety factor of cyclists and vehicles sharing local roads.

On May 4, Mayor Dennis Lever noted there was discussion at a previous meeting and he asked that correspondence with Wellington County development planning manager Aldo Salis be brought forward to the current meeting.

He noted Salis was in the council chamber when the first letter arrived from Diane Greene requesting a cycling ban on a portion of Watson Road.

Greene contended the ban would be for the safety of both cyclists and motorists.

Salis attended a workshop at the recent OGRA/ROMA conference on creating bicycle-friendly communities, led by Jamie Stuckless, executive director of Share the Road.

Stuckless was there with officials from Waterloo and Blue Mountains – two of many municipalities in the province that are Bicycle Friendly Communities, as awarded by Share the Road.

Lever suggested the production of a map with Puslinch bike routes might be a good idea, though he noted that in the Wellington County Active Transportation Plan, Victoria Road was actually picked as the best north-south transportation route.

“I thought we might have some success approaching this from an information, education-based approach,” said Lever, who added that making  Puslinch a bicycle-friendly community might be an onerous task.

“I think that approach is more for an urban environment,” said Lever, who wondered whether a local cycling club might be the best venue to bring this information forward.

While the mayor was unaware of any cycling clubs in Puslinch, he knew a number of clubs existed in Guelph.

Knowing councillor Wayne Stokley’s interest in cycling, he asked if this was something the councillor would take on.

“As councillors, we don’t really want to put no cycling signs up. I don’t think we’ve gotten to that point,” said Lever. “But we might be able to approach this in a different way which is beneficial to both sides.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer agreed with the approach.

In looking at the county’s active transportation plan, Victoria Road makes sense if one is heading to a destination, “But if you are out for recreation, I can see the appeal of places like Watson Road.”

Roth was supportive in trying to educate people, but asked if this would mean even more signs on the sides of the road.

Lever was clear that he did not favour more signs – but rather a map approach.

Stokley noted while there are no clubs in Puslinch, cyclists from the surrounding communities do come through.

Stokley said educating people to use Victoria Road is an option which may be safer, “but cyclists will go where they will best reap the benefits of a good ride. And Watson is probably the most spectacular in terms of scenic beauty and different terrain.”

As far as the Share the Road initiative, “a lot of the emphasis in that program is signage to make people more aware it is a bicycle route and that … the road is open to all,” Stokley said.

He advocated signage on routes.

Lever said he thought either himself or another member of council would approach clubs directly and explain what council is trying to accomplish. However the mayor did not support more signs along the roads.

“We have some pollution issues quite frankly with the number of signs on some of our roads,” Lever said.

Bulmer believed Stokley would be the prime choice to speak to cycling groups.

Stokley said the discussion was not headed in the direction he wanted to see, regarding being more proactive with signage.

“I’m not really interested in going on that initiative and promoting something I am not really in favour of,” said Stokley.

Lever said he would approach the groups and once more information is ready, he would let council know what is going on.

Councillor Bulmer raised a question on the TAC (Transportation Association of Canada) study which recommended speed limits of 70km/h instead of the currently-posted 80km/h. He said there had been questions raised before whether the recommended speed was neither 60 nor 80km/h.

Lever said in the past, council had agreed that unless the report recommended reducing the speed to 60km/h it would be left as it was.

However Bulmer said if the study doesn’t recommend the current speed limit, he would prefer to pick the lower one. He said it would not change the overall number of speed limit changes – but the overall speed would be less.

Lever had concerns lowering the limits in that area.

“People are not going to drive 60km/h there. They will drive according to the conditions of the road.” He added he believes posting a lower limit would create false expectations.

Stokley agreed with Bulmer in lowering the limits.

Fielding agreed people don’t do what the speed limit recommends.

“If it says 80km/h, they go at 100km/h … if it says 60km/h they go at 80km/h,” she said, adding if the goal is to get the speed down, then perhaps posting it at 60km/h is a good idea.

Councillor Ken Roth wanted to hear the opinion of roads superintended Don Creed.

Creed cautioned council in setting a precedent.

“We’ve been down this road before,” said Creed.

“If council moves ahead reducing the speed limit on this section of road, I can guarantee you will have a request to reduce the speed on other sections of road at every council meeting.”

He added “the paved roads we … have posted at 80km/h currently – most likely will come in at 70km/h using TAC.”

Roth said, “I don’t believe for one minute that dropping the speed limit will drop the speed. We can put all the speed limits in the township down to 20km/h and it’s not going to make any difference.”

He expressed frustration that something that started as a request to ban bicycles on a section of Watson Road has now turned into the suggestion to lower speed limits on a different portion of Watson Road.

“I’m a little confused how we even got here,” said Roth.

Bulmer said he interpreted the resident’s letter as referring to the safety of everyone using the road, and, “I consider speed as one of the contributing factors.”

He also noted council had adopted a standard for road speeds and would be held accountable.

Lever said his understanding was that all township roads were 80km/h unless otherwise posted and, “If we wanted to change that, we would then have to post every road.”

Creed agreed, adding urban roads come under different guidelines for speed limits.

Fielding asked what happens if the township posts a speed limit higher than a TAC guideline.

Creed stressed TAC is “a guideline – not a regulation.” He said the township has the authority to set speed limits within the municipality.

He said as roads are rebuilt and redesigned there may be changes to the designed speed limit.

Stokley maintained the TAC guidelines is an acknowledgement that a road should be traversed at a certain speed.

“While you cannot make people slow down or speed up, if it is posted … you are drawing it to their attention,” said Stokley, adding “lowering the limit would make the road safer.”

Stokley said if council is using TAC as a tool – he believed the speed should be switched to 60km/h.

Bulmer said “if the guidelines consistently indicate lower speed limits, we need to start planning to implement them.”

This would allow it to be done on a planned, rather than an ad hoc basis, Bulmer said.

Councillors agreed to look at the speed limit issue from a broader perspective.