Dan Rankin, for the Gazette
Over 40 Stratford residents interested in influencing the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan got a chance to grab hold of the handlebars and steer the future of the 20-year-plan at a workshop Feb. 20.
Representatives from Stratford’s Community Services department and MMM Group, who has been contracted to consult on the plan, hosted the event, which included a presentation on the study’s progress to date as well as a number of workshop stations designed to inspire comments and suggestions from the crowd.
City of Stratford project manager Brad Hernden introduced the session before letting MMM Group staff take over, presenting a summary of the online questionnaires they’ve received about the master plan and describing some of their concepts for the path network.
“We developed a candidate route network which was basically a bunch of lines on a map, and then we went into the field for two days and refined it based on our observations and route selection criteria,” said MMM Group project planner Claire Basinski.
“Looking at schools, municipal offices and theatres as key places really helped us to refine the network, to locate where those routes should be and what those links should be throughout the city.”
Members of the public were able to make comments and suggestions as they rotated through three workshop stations organized to help develop three areas of the master plan: policies and recommendations associated with walking and biking, routes and facility types that will make up the route network and marketing active transportation activities.
“Marketing and programming is another huge thing for a master plan like this,” said Basinski. “It’s not just the hard infrastructure, it’s the soft infrastructure as well, looking at how we can promote it, market it, and use maps and outreach programs to complement the actual physical network we’re putting together.”
The final product will encompass a network of various types of facilities such as signed bike lanes and multi-use trails that connects the whole city for cyclists, joggers and other active transportation enthusiasts, Basinski said.
She described MMM Group’s vision of a “primary route network” that would serve as a spine linking up key destinations in the city as well as “local neighbourhood secondary routes” that would connect neighbourhoods with schools and other destinations.
The secondary pathways would be “parallel or alternate routes to the primary route network and serve as a more comfortable route to the spine network,” she said.
John Lewis, 48, of Stratford, said he attended the workshop because he doesn’t always feel safe on his bike with the facilities the city currently has in place for cycling.
“I don’t drive, I don’t have a car; most of my transportation is by bike,” he said. “There are a couple places in town where, when I go to work, like along Lorne Ave, they aren’t too bike-friendly.”
Councilor Bonnie Henderson, also in attendance, said that thanks to the meeting she heard about a number of solutions for the issues faced by cyclists such as Lewis.
“One simple thing I heard tonight was that we need more lighting, especially around factories, because it’s so dark when you’re leaving to get home,” she said. “People want to feel safe when they walk and when they’re on their bikes.”
Hernden was pleased with the turnout at the event, and that the public has shown such an interest in being engaged with the study.
“This is really the night we’ve been waiting for, to meet with the stakeholders and to really hear from them as to what they want to see as part of this plan,” he said. “This isn’t our plan, this should be the community’s plan and the citizens of Stratford, making sure that it’s something they would endorse and therefore ask their council to endorse as well.”
The study, as well as the online questionnaire that can be found online at www.research.net/s/StratfordBPMP, is expected to continue for a few more months, and another open house is being planned for the late spring.