WATS is a multidisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students at Western University who are passionate about researching and promoting safe cycling and walking as a means of transportation. Much of our current infrastructure both on campus and off is focussed on cars, and while we understand that cycling and walking is not for everybody (and not for every day), we believe that better support for active transportation will yield important and significant benefits. Cycling and walking is fun, and research clearly shows that it is good for body, brain, society, and environment.
Last year's closure of the University Bridge encouraged many people to walk or cycle to campus, made commuting safer and more pleasant, and for the duration of the closure, changed the whole experience of entering campus from the east. Many people noticed this positive change; and we aim to look into the impact of a potential bridge closure through further research. We believe that it makes sense both from an economic and transportation planning standpoint to keep the bridge permanently closed to cars - provided the closure is embedded in a larger plan that prevents negative impact on bus traffic and congestions in other areas.
We are lobbying for covered and secure bike parking (here seen at Maastricht University) in immediate proximity to every University building. Current bike racks leave the bikes exposed to theft, as well as rain and snow. This forces people to either store their bikes within university buildings (against regulations, and not a practical option for students), or not to bike at all. We are currently working with the University to realize enclosed and sheltered bike parking structures on campus that are only accessible with Western ID cards, which should dramatically decrease the risk of bike thefts.
Current parking permits are designed for people who drive to campus every day - the discount of a parking permit over daily rates exceeds 80%. Thus, an individual, who for practical reasons has to drive one day a week, but chooses other forms of transportation for the other four, currently pays as much as somebody who commutes by car every day. This is an active disincentive for those wanting to explore alternative forms of transportation. We therefore advocate the introduction of a pay-per-use permit, which should be the cheaper option when parking fewer than half the working days on campus. Introducing a pay-per-use system will encourage people to choose alternative transportation options more often, and will ultimately free up precious campus area.
We welcome the new Open Space Strategy of our University. The focus on pedestrians and introduction of bike lanes on the remaining campus roads are steps in the right direction. Because the devil is in the details, however, we would like to serve as a consulting partner for Facilities Management to help get things right, and to advocate for clear standards and guidelines for access throughout the year. If you have concerns regarding Pedestrian or Bicycle infrastructure, or experience lack of winter maintenance for active transportation (see photo!), please cc us on your email to Facilities Management, so we can help address shortcomings.
We are working with other cycling and pedestrian advocacy groups in London (i.e., the London Cycle Link) to improve infrastructure throughout the city, to make commuting to campus more safe and pleasant. One focal point of attention is the Western and Sarnia intersection, which is in desperate need of improvement. More broadly, we believe Western University should be a catalyst helping to make LondON a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly city.
If you are interested and want to support active transportation at Western, please become a member of WATS! We need you! Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and email.