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CAMBRIDGE RESIDENTS SPEAK ON PROPOSED BIKE LANES

Some Cambridge residents are concerned over the new bike road construction on Ainslie St., fearing the city is using their budget for something they do not need.  

The Region of Waterloo’s Planning and Works Committee decided to revitalize the streets after the truck ban in downtown Galt. The ban was put in place on Oct. 16, 2023, to make the city more eco-friendly.   

To take advantage of the trucks’ absence, the city proposed new bike lanes to eliminate the parking and left turn lanes and further reduce the number of trucks travelling through the area.  

“Banning heavy trucks in certain streets of downtown Cambridge creates opportunities to reimagine and redesign Ainslie, Water and Concession Street to better support residents, businesses, walking, and cycling,” a Region of Waterloo staff member said.   

Although some business owners believe the bike route will benefit the city and reduce its carbon use, downtown business owners think the city is not ready for road work until the region solves the parking issue in the downtown area, resulting from the construction.  

For example, Ted Drew-Smith, a chocolate shop owner, said on Cambridge Today that people will ignore the downtown businesses if they cannot find a close available parking spot. They also believe eliminating the parking spaces will cause problems for less able-bodied customers.   

Cambridge councillor Adam Cooper told CityNews 570 that three other council members opposed the decision too.  

During COVID-19, when Coronation Blvd. had a lane taken away to build a cycling road, it caused congestion and a massive backlash. Using this incident as an example, he says that Cambridge is not a “cycling city” and should not use the new bike roads to support the truck ban bylaw.  

However, there are organizations such as Cycle WR that support the project.  

Janice Jim, a board member for Cycle WR and the Vice President of Cycle Waterloo Region, says that the reason 30 per cent of the city population is protesting the bike lane is because they are afraid of change.  

“Right now, we have some stats that people don’t cycle, if people don’t feel safe biking on a street, they won’t do it. So, if you build the cycle tracks that give people the option to safely bike, then they will use them. So, it is more of a kind of chicken and egg problem,” she said.    

She said the main concerns revolving around the Ainslie St. bike route construction are mostly due to people not being able to adapt to the new change. She says the bike route will bring more benefits to the city, as it will decrease carbon use in the city’s downtown area and give people a healthier mode of travel. Jim believes that local businesses will not have to worry about losing clients and customers.  

David DiPietro, a senior engineer with the Region of Waterloo in the design and construction department, also said that there will not be any problems involving the new bike route construction.  

He said the bike road project will not cause any financial setbacks to the region, and they are using the appropriate budget for road reconstruction. He also confirms that the Region of Waterloo is currently undergoing a field study to address the parking and left-turn lane issue that the downtown business owners seem concerned about.   

“There is really no change in price because you are using the same amount of asphalt, curb, and concrete,” DiPietro said.  

“The Region of Waterloo has reviewed the requirement for those left turn lanes and will continue looking to see how removing them will affect the traffic through downtown. They have also conducted parking studies on the spots on Ainslie Street,” he said.   

The Region of Waterloo and the city of Cambridge are still undergoing preparations for the construction project.