GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

I’m hoping this sidewalk gains ‘sex’ appeal

Guelph Mercury

By Yvette Tendick
Will Woodlawn Road get a sexy sidewalk?
OK, so sidewalks aren’t sexy. But maybe I got your attention.
Over the past few years, Guelph has seen some wonderful investments. There is the beautiful ice rink-splash pad in front of city hall. The Hanlon Creek Business Park is open for business. We have two-way GO service to Toronto. Costco has set up shop.
Each one of these events opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A photo op. An opportunity for Guelph to shine. I get it. Who doesn’t like the media attention?
However, are there other things also important to Guelph residents? Mobility, for example? Mobility options are key to keeping a city moving.
The most basic of all mobility needs is the sidewalk. If you want to move around, in ways other than driving a car, be it for leisure or for work, you need to have sidewalks. This is particularly true for low-income earners and the elderly in particular. Nowhere in the city is this need more evident than along Woodlawn Road.
Woodlawn Road houses a large number of businesses, hundreds of employees, as it also services the large and growing manufacturing sector in Guelph.
Let’s face it. Most people employed in the manufacturing, retail and hospitality sectors down Woodlawn Road are earning low wages.
Many take transit or walk or bike to work. On Woodlawn Road, there is no multi-use path for them to walk or cycle on. So users made a goat path. There is a four-lane road for cars, including those going on to Kitchener, but no safe travel for those walking from the bus stop or cycling. It has been acknowledged for many years, even by Guelph’s former chief engineer, that Woodlawn Road is unsafe for pedestrians.
Guelph had a $200,000 sidewalk budget for many years. However, since sidewalks aren’t sexy, that budget was axed, starting about seven years ago. Other issues considered more pertinent took centre stage. Last year, the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation lobbied hard for an active transportation line to be put back in the budget.
The coalition got the ear of council. The $300,000 a year for active transportation line was put back in the budget, starting in 2014 to continue for 10 years. The Woodlawn Road multi-use path was back on the books.
However, when the 2015 proposed capital budget went public, the $300,000 active transportation line had been removed. At the city council budget meeting, people from various walks of life who had never appeared as a delegation in front of council before put their fears aside and spoke about the lack of safe pedestrian/cycling infrastructure on Woodlawn Road. And their voices were heard.
Let’s get this unsexy sidewalk/multi-use pathway/active transportation corridor built, finally. Its design phase is mostly complete. It already has $300,000 set aside from 2014. It needs $600,000 more to complete Phase 1, from Nicklin Road to Silvercreek Parkway. Many council members already have given verbal support to the $300,000 reinstatement. If we get a second $300,000, we can build this multi-use path in 2015.
The budget is being finalized at the March 25 council meeting on the active transportation budget and other issues. You may want to bend an ear of your ward councillor if you think this is important.
Will there be a sexy ribbon-cutting ceremony when the Woodlawn Road multi-use path is finally built? I hope so.

Yvette Tendick is a member of the Guelph Mercury’s community editorial board.

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