Slow Streets in Midtown KW

The City of Kitchener is responding to how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the ways residents use roadways – decreased vehicle traffic and an increased need for physical distancing for pedestrians and cyclists.

An interactive map of all active transportation and traffic calming measures can be found at

Hopefully you have come across these road closure signs around the neighbourhood in Mount Hope, midtown KW east! They turned up around late June and early July.

They have three aims:

  • provide more space for physically – distanced active transportation (walking, cycling, rolling, etc)
  • reduce the amount of traffic by limiting to local traffic only
  • slow the speed of traffic with a barrier to give drivers a visual cue

From a Staff Report to City of Kitchener Council; June 22, 2020

Slow Streets

Slow streets is a temporary change to city streets to create slower and safer neighbourhood streets that are more comfortable for walking, rolling, and biking. Streets designated as Slow Streets will not be fully closed to vehicle traffic, but will be closed to through traffic meaning only emergency vehicles, maintenance vehicles, delivery vehicles and people who live on the street are intended to have access. All users of the street must still follow the rules of the road, but by reducing traffic volume, it is safer for cyclists and vehicles to share the street while pedestrians can safely use the sidewalk and pass on the roadway as necessary to maintain physical distancing. Staff is working with neighbourhood associations to identify streets, as well recommending streets based on proposed neighbourhood bikeways in the draft Cycling and Trails Master Plan. Neighbourhood bikeways are quiet, local streets that can be enjoyed in a low-stress environment. Focusing on neighbourhood bikeways is a reflection that staff anticipate seeing higher numbers of local cyclists using these streets, and therefore the reduction in through traffic will make the street feel more comfortable for pedestrians and people cycling.

You can find the full report here.

The City of Waterloo has enacted a similar initiative and just set up barriers and signs on Waterloo Street on Monday July 20.

I think I like Waterloo’s set up better… it looks less like a construction sign and more like an actual traffic calming situation. However, I do like that the City of Kitchener signs actually say ‘Road Closed – Local Traffic Only’.

Although, I think most people don’t really know what ‘local traffic only’ really means!

What do you think? Have you noticed a difference in traffic?

*Edited Wed July 22, 2020.

10 thoughts on “Slow Streets in Midtown KW

  1. I feel a little silly saying this, but as a cyclist I was unsure whether these meant I should avoid these streets when I would be through-traffic. I hesitantly assumed it would be fine for me to ride on them, and after reading this I’m a little more assured, but I’m still not 100% sure.
    In any case, I do like having them. It makes the community feel more like a place to be rather than a place to get through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand the confusion. It unfortunate the bicycle symbol indicating shared space is at the bottom of the sign!


  2. 1. This is a fantastic development. We live on Waterloo Street and have already noticed a significant decrease in traffic. It is definitively a huge improvement, an important and long overdue step into the right direction. A big thank you to all councillors, staff and mayors who helped to move this forward
    2. But many drivers still don’t understand what it means to drive slowly, even when kids are playing. This is particularly concerning in case of SUVs or pickup trucks with their limited outward visibility. Drivers may think 30km/h is slow, but in fact it is not. Stunt driving still happens too, almost every day. In particular, many drivers seem to love speeding down Duke Street.
    3. In a car-centric society, it takes time to change attitudes. I get that. But we also need more clarity about what the concept of slow streets means. As far as I understand, in the City of Waterloo there is no hierarchy between cars, cyclists and pedestrians. All share the road on an equal basis. In Kitchener, however, “cars (and bikes) still have the right away”. So, obviously, there is a difference. This can be confusing for drivers and pedestrians.
    4. The concept of living streets (woonerf, Zone résidentielle, verkehrsberuhigter Bereich) has been expanded significantly across Europe since the 1990s, and is hardly contested anymore, on the contrary. Pedestrians can use the entire street, the speed limit is usually around 7km/h. As an additional layer, many cities feature so called Zone 30 areas with a maximum speed of 30 km/h.
    5. Canada is a very a progressive country. But when it comes to active transportation, mobility equity, pedestrianization etc., we are where most comparable European countries were in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I really, really hope we can take advantage of this unprecedented window of opportunity in order to expand and consolidate these temporary measures. But it requires a long-term plan that needs to be rolled out over a 10-15 years period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jorg, and adding it to the discussion. I have heard from other neighbours that they also notice a difference. I have sent a note of thanks to city staff and our Councillor Sara Marsh – they deserve Thanks! If you like I can pass on their names and emails to you. – Juanita


      1. Thanks Juanita, also for everything else you are doing for our neighbourhood. I already sent a short “Thank You” message to Sara Marsh and Barry Cronkite a few days ago. Recent developments re: active transportation and traffic calming have already made a noticeable difference, and I hope this discussion will continue. Jorg

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Juanita,
    I’m on Waterloo St in waterloo, last night someone stole the slow street cones on our end of Waterloo St.
    Did they get removed on your end of the street?
    My neighbour has the video of the person removing them and was wondering if there is anything we could do with it.
    He has reported it to the city of waterloo but it hasn’t gone anywhere.




    1. so bizarre!!!
      I would suggest emailing your Waterloo Ward Councillor, who I think is Teneile?
      Also, copy any staff you can find from the traffic and engineering department on the City website.

      Let them know you have video of someone removing them and the might be interested in sharing it with police if the choose to report it.

      I think that’s a start ! If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know.


  4. Hi! Over the course of the last week these signs have been stolen. Thankfully it was captured on CCTV. The signs were then replaced by the City of Waterloo and once again were stolen by the same person. Is there an online community, social media group or a news contact in order to share the footage with so we can identify the offender? The City of Waterloo and Police are now dealing, but a little help from the community might go a long way 🙂


    1. That is so strange! Clearly someone is offended by having to drive more carefully! Maybe try uploading the CCTV clip to DropBox or Google Drive and then share the link here?


    2. It would indeed be great if you could share this video. Last Saturday afternoon someone took down several signs on Waterloo, Duke and Shanley St. Our son saw him, and our neighbour followed the person shortly after that. He said he is from the City of Kitchener, but obviously this was not true.


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