Ottawa gets a segregated bike lane!… maybe. Public Meeting Nov 25 @ 6:30pm!

Photo by PJ Peterson

I am a huge proponent of active transportation, but I realize that issues of safety can be a real concern, which often comes up in the comments sections of my cycling-related posts.  When I ask people the one thing that would make them more likely to commute by bicycle, by far the most common response is segregated bike lanes.  Of which Ottawa has exactly zero.

But that may be changing, as a new pilot project is considering putting a segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue. I repeat, the City of Ottawa is considering placing a segregated bike lane on one of the major East-West streets running through downtown.  This is terrific news!  But it’s not a done deal, and there is a public meeting tonight (Nov 25) at 6:30pm at City Hall (110 Laurier Avenue West) to discuss the bike lane.

I was first alerted to this new project by my friend and labmate Zach Ferraro, who noticed signs downtown advertising the meeting, as well as written comments from people opposed to the new bike lane.  Why?  The new bike lane will displace some parking spots.  It sounds like the city is trying to rectify this by opening up spots that were previously off limits during much of the day, but this is still a concern for some who need to park downtown on a regular basis.  This is a reasonable concern, but I personally feel it pales in comparison to the concern I have for the health and safety of cyclists, especially in a city which suffers numerous fatal and non-fatal collisions every year, including several (e.g. here, here and here) involving cyclists riding in non-segregated bike lanes.

I urge everyone with an interest in cycling or active transportation in the Ottawa-Gatineau area to attend the meeting, and to spread the word as much as possible.  I have embedded a pdf of the poster advertising the meeting below (email subscribers can view the pdf on the blog itself), so feel free to download it and pass it around.  Once again, the meeting is at 6:30 pm in the City Hall Rotunda on Nov 25 (tonight!). Hopefully people can make it on short notice!

Also, Happy American Thanksgiving!


Bike Lane Poster # 1

Bike Lane Poster # 2

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in News, Physical Activity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Ottawa gets a segregated bike lane!… maybe. Public Meeting Nov 25 @ 6:30pm!

  1. Barry Rueger says:

    It’s worth noting that although Ottawa may not a specific segregated bike lane, it does have an extensive paved trail network that allows cyclists to travel pretty much anywhere without sharing the road with traffic.

    When I lived there I cycled everywhere without a problem. I wish Vancouver was half as good.

    • Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

      That’s true, it does have a phenomenal path system. But unfortunately if you are traveling to any location downtown you have to leave the path system, at which point there are very few bike lanes of any kind, and the ones that exist are not segregated. It could certainly be much worse, and personally I am fortunate to be able to do most of my commuting on the trail system. But the 1-2 km’s of road cycling on busy downtown streets that are required to get to the trail system are enough to deter many individuals from commuting by bike on a regular basis.

  2. Jason Ong says:

    You might want to correct the spelling in your title.

  3. Heather Chappelle says:

    I wish they had stayed with the Somerset plan, but I’ll take this for sure. Great news.

  4. Marc says:

    Google map finally coming up with the bike paths in Ottawa and a plan for segregated bike lane downtown? Excellent week for cyclists in Ottawa!

  5. Charles A-M says:

    Be careful when you jump from saying that segregated bike lanes make cyclists feel safer to saying that they actually make them safer. There is a difference between the two and differing levels of evidence for each. You still have to deal with motorists at intersections, and you’re probably going to have to share the road with motorists at some point in your journey, even in a city with a large network of SBLs. If “motorists = danger” is the underlying problem, that problem doesn’t go away with a SBL.

    There are literally hundreds of non-fatal cycling collisions in Ottawa every year, and this trend has been constant over the last few years as police collision reports demonstrate. What has increased is the reporting of these incidents in the major news media, which has led to a public perception that cycling has become more dangerous than in the past. (Though this has been coupled with a welcome increase in attention paid to cycling as a mode of transportation and investment in cycling infrastructure)

    The Kanata 5 were hit by a reckless motorist who went off course, yet it was seen as a ‘cycling collision’ (actually people tend to use the term ‘accident’ which is even less accurate). However, when motorists go off course and hit people waiting at bus stops (as happened this year at the Bank street Transitway station and as happened a couple years ago at Lincoln Fields), it isn’t considered a “transit safety” issue. It is rightly seen as a problem with reckless motorists hitting innocent road users.

    I have no problem with the promotion of segregated bike lanes to encourage more people to cycle, but when they are used as a panacea (pardon the term) to cycling safety, it is akin to blaming the victim. When used widely enough, bike lanes reinforce the idea that cyclists’ only place on the road is out of the way of motorists.

    We cannot allow our governments to absolve themselves of their responsibility to provide much stronger enforcement of regulations protecting pedestrians and cyclists from reckless, ignorant, distracted and otherwise dangerous motorists.

    • Travis says:

      As usual, terrific points Charles. I don’t know of any evidence showing that segregated bike lanes improve safety (although that doesn’t mean it’s not out there as it would seem a tricky thing to tease out), but it does seem reasonable to assume that it would be harder to accidentally cut off a cyclist in a segregated bike lane as compared to the painted bike lanes we have at the moment.

      That being said, I think the perception of safety is the bigger issue here. As I’ve argued in the past, I don’t feel that cycling in a city is particularly dangerous for most people, and yet safety concerns remain a major obstacle to getting people cycling on a regular basis. If a segregated bike lane is enough to get people using their bikes more often, then I think it’s a successful move, regardless of whether or not we can prove that it enhances safety by an appreciable amount.

      I think we’re in agreement that segregated bike lanes are not a cure-all, but I am willing to get excited about any step in the right direction :)

      On a somewhat related note, last year at a conference in Toronto Nick Cavill from the UK was arguing that we should be doing the exact opposite of segregated bike lanes – basically get rid of as many formal rules and restrictions as possible, to allow cyclists and pedestrians to pretty much take over the roads. As a result drivers are forced to pay attention to and accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, rather than the other way around. It was an interesting talk, but I’m not sure that it would pan out in North American cities. Any thoughts?

      • divadab says:

        @travis – unsegregated space for pedestrians, bikes, and cars? It works in some European cities, where cars are a late addition to towns that were built hundreds and thousands of years before cars existed.

        However, in a North American city which was designed for “efficient” automobile movement, where pedestrians are a secondary design afterthought and bicycles not considered in design at all, it is more difficult.

        Further, cultural and psychological issues work against this idea – as a cyclist, I regularly experience car drivers’ impatience and disrespect as I navigate city streets. A person in a hurry is a lot bigger and more imposing when they weigh 2000 kg and can go 120 km/hr. Maximum bully.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Great post Travis! As usual, due to my research interest in the built environment and health, I’m always on board anytime the City wants to take some initiative at increasing non-motorized forms of transportation. I agree however, that this one bike lane although a start, is far from a “panacea” and there has been research in the Ottawa area (that I had posted the link for to a previous post on your site) that shows that the relative rates for falls and injuries suggest it is safest to cycle on-road followed by off-road paths and trails, and finally least safe on sidewalks.
    Aultman-Hall L, Hall FL. Ottawa-Carleton commuter cyclist on- and off-road incident rates. Accid Anal Prev. 1998 Jan;30(1):29-43.

    Thanks for getting the word out for this meeting…did any of your readers or you attend???