A boom in bikes
Waterloo is gaining a bike-friendly reputation.
Andy Cox, co-owner of King Street Cycles in Uptown Waterloo has been a firsthand witness to the growth of the cycling community in Waterloo.
He describes it as fairly large and growing,
“To give you an example, there’s a local cycling club and it has I believe five hundred members this year,” he said.
“And that’s just people that have paid to be in a club.”
King Street Cycles has been opened in Waterloo for a decade and in the last three-to-four years they have seen exponential growth.
Cox also believes that cycling is a practical substitute for traditional methods of transportation.
“It’s safe to say we’ve seen a real growth in the commuter and the cyclist that is riding not so much as an enthusiast but an everyday practical solution to getting around,” he said.
Cox continued to say that Waterloo is “seeing older folks get into bikes, were seeing more young folks get into commuter bikes more so than say mountain bikes or road bikes.”
With the increase in cycling enthusiasts, the city has also had to consider how to make streets safe for shared use by bikers and drivers.
“When we design our roads or reconstruct old roads we try to make them bike friendly by making them what we call ‘complete streets’, said Waterloo city councillor Mark Whaley.
This means the city builds and reconstructs streets to have bike lanes, sidewalks and roads.
“Our car culture really needs to be more balanced with other modes of transportation,” Whaley continued.
Despite the success of such projects there has been opposition. According to Whaley, there are some who believe streets are for cars only and shouldn’t accommodate cyclists.
“This is the group that we really want to target in terms of education,” Whaley said.
This past May, Waterloo was awarded a silver ranking in an evaluation of bike-friendly cities in Canada.
The Bicycle Friendly Community Award was given to Waterloo in light of its infrastructure and education that facilitates and promotes a cycling community.
The award was handed down from the Canadian group Share the Road Cycling Coalition in partnership with the League of American Bicyclists.
The biking community will also get a boost once the Grand River Bike Share Program launches in the Region this upcoming spring.
“I think there are some real logistical challenges, but hopefully those can be overcome,” Cox added.
“I look at programs like the Bixi bikes in Montreal and in Toronto to some degree,” he continued. “But in Montreal especially, where you can go get a bike, ride it to another place, leave it there; it works great in Montreal. I’ve used it personally myself a lot and I love it.”
Cox encourages those still unconvinced to ride in the sub-zero temperatures to not “be afraid to ride in the winter.”
He believes that outdoor exposure in winter better prepares Canadians for the harsh winter weather.
“I think the main thing I’ve found with riding in the winter is that it gives you a whole new outlook on the weather,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to take the winter if you’re out there experiencing it.”