Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Bike Ottawa welcomes some aspects of a City of Ottawa plan to improve bike and pedestrian routes as part of a project to upgrade sewer infrastructure along Pretoria Avenue just south of Queensway across the Rideau Canal.

But the group says the changes need to go further to really improve cycling safety.

In a blog post about the project, which the city has said will be completed between the Bank and Metcalfe streets next year, Bike Ottawa said: “We are excited about the possibilities with these improvements.”

If the design is done correctly, the bike advocate group said, the changes would make the popular trails along the canal easier to access.

Area map showing where the city of Ottawa is planning improvements to the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure along Pretoria Avenue at the north end of the Glebe district, just south of Queensway. [Image courtesy of Bike Ottawa]

There is currently no dedicated east-west bike route in the busy area, so for pedestrians and cyclists “this can make a huge difference,” Bike Ottawa said.

But the group also says the city may miss an opportunity to establish a safe cycle corridor to Pretoria Bridge, one of the few intersections between Queen Elizabeth Driveway on the west side and Colonel By Drive to the east.

The cycle facility (should) be extended further east beyond Metcalfe to Queen Elizabeth Drive. This is the only section missing from a link connecting Bank Street with the Rideau Canal and completing this link will allow many people by bicycle to gain secure access to the canal. “

Cycling Ottawa

“If they stretch a block further east, and a safe crossing of Queen Elizabeth was added, people could cycle safely and comfortably from Bank Street all the way to the canal network,” Bike Ottawa said, urging the city to fill in this missing piece.

“Completing this link will allow many people on bikes to securely access the channel.”

A bi-directional bike route, like the one in Ann Arbor, Michigan, would provide a safer corridor for cyclists and represent an investment that would “pay dividends” for the city in the long run, Bike Ottawa claims. [Photo courtesy Bike Ottawa via mlive]

This is not the only question that has been raised regarding the planned project.

“Right now, the city has pretty much suggested bike lanes on the street,” said William van Geest of Bike Ottawa’s advocacy working group. “For them, it means a little paint on the road, and when it comes down to it, paint will not protect people.”

With regard to the proposed cycle path itself, “The city has only discussed the possibility of a one-way cycle facility in the direction of car traffic,” the group noted.

Crossings can be dangerous for cyclists and those who walk, so Bike Ottawa said it is grateful for the proposed protection at the crossings at Pretoria.

“But people who ride bicycles also need protection between intersections,” the group said. “In addition, road construction usually collects snow in the winter, forcing people on bicycles into car traffic.”

The group has proposed two possible solutions, both of which involve two-way cycle routes.

The first would see a bi-directional cycle route along the length of the corridor.

According to Bike Canada, “this solution narrows the roadway, which research has shown helps reduce motorists’ speeds and makes the area safer for everyone, including motorists.”

The second proposed solution is a “counterflow” cycle route.

William van Geest from Bike Ottawa. [Photo courtesy of]

A countercurrent facility is, according to the Ontario Traffic Manual, “a bike path that runs in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic.” This will enable two-way cycling on a road that has one-way operation for cars.

Contraflow bike lanes can be separated from vehicle lanes by a painted line, a buffer, or by some form of physical separation.

Ottawa has a couple of opposite bike lanes on Bay Street that run six blocks from Wellington Street to Laurier Avenue.

Bicycle Ottawa’s preferred solution is the bi-directional cycle path.

“This is the safest option for everyone. But if proper traffic calming measures are added to a point where people of all ages can cycle safely and comfortably on the street, this would also be acceptable,” the group said.

Although a fully bi-directional cycle route would create more work for transport planners, van Geest said, “proper cycle infrastructure is a major investment for the city. And we must also recognize that this is a timely matter – how many times will you tear up an entire street? ”

He added: “If you’re going to make a new bike facility, it has to be safe, so it’s almost not worth it just to paint a line and say a prayer.”

Van Geest expects to hear the city’s response to Bike Ottawa’s proposal within the next month.

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