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Carleton Avenue is signed as a street that forms part of the Bicycle Route Network. This street is used by many cyclists because of the safe access it provides to the NCC's Ottawa River recreational trail via the underpass under the Ottawa River Parkway. Although curb
extensions have a desirable traffic calming effect and benefit pedestrians crossing the street by reducing street width, these bulb-outs create a hazard for cyclists, putting them in competition with motor vehicles for the reduced roadway space. As a cycle commuter that uses this route daily over the spring, summer and fall, I am now intimidated by vehicles approaching from behind as I approach these curb extensions. It's particularly scary when there is also a vehicle coming in the opposite direction limiting the ability of the car behind behind me to pull out and pass me.
My concern is echoed by Transport Canada
: "While pedestrians take a generally favourable view of traffic calming, cyclists have a more mixed perspective. Vertical measures like speed humps are well accepted, but horizontal measures can cause problems for cyclists unless they are carefully designed. Cyclists can be put at risk by road narrowings or lateral diversions that require them to change their travel path relative to the path of adjacent motor vehicles. For example, lanes shared by bikes and cars should have a constant width as they pass through narrowings or chicanes."
SFBetterStreets, a San Francisco initiative
which "attends to the needs of people first, considering pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, street trees, stormwater management, utilities, and livability as well as vehicular circulation and parking", states that "Curb extensions should not encroach on cyclists' space".
The Delta, BC solution
The City of Delta, B.C. has recognized this conflict between cycling and curb extensions
and has taken this enlightened approach, "Although the construction of curb extensions has been a benefit to pedestrians and helpful in reducing vehicle speeds, they have created a problem for some cyclists who may feel uncomfortable when riding through a curb extension abreast of a vehicle. To help alleviate these concerns the Engineering Department is introducing curb ramps on either side of curb extensions to permit cyclists to bypass the extensions by riding up and over the structures."
There may be other solutions such as reducing the extent to which the curb extension projects out into the street and placing a sharrow on the roadway next to the edge of the extension. Or building a stand-alone bulb-out on the roadway that is separated from the sidewalk by a narrow paved lane designed for cyclists which may also benefit drainage.
This could be an adaptation of the Long Beach, California curb extension in the photo that shows a drain through the curb extension designed to allow water to travel along the line of the existing gutter.
The vision of the City of Ottawa to grow cycling as a viable and beneficial transportation mode needs to be understood and embraced by every engineer and planner in the City of Ottawa. Solving vehicle and pedestrian issues in a manner that creates hazardous conditions for cyclists is not the answer. I sincerely hope in future that, as a matter of course, the City of Ottawa will actively seek opportunities and solutions to promote and encourage safe cycling when designing and improving all aspects, big and small, of Ottawa's transportation infrastructure.
The Long Beach, California solution
I wrote an email to the coroners office, after reading the recently released report. The reply was "I once again sorry to hear of your disappointment. Unfortunately, one of our review rules was that all recommendations had to come directly from that data and that was how our recommendations were formed… Anything else, we were unable to consider."
My concerns to them were as follows:
I have read the report, and notwithstanding the limited media highlights, they are not far off:
1. MTO - STreet's Approach - Recommendation for community bike lanes; is very vague as to what is recommended, too much will be left in the hands of the uneducated. Should have read "ALL roads shall be made safe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, with priority being given to pedestrians and cyclists. All city speed limits will be 40 KMH as a default, instead of the 50 KMH designated now.
2. Ontario Cycling Plan, well, as with all cycling plans, they tend to get forgotten and under-funded. Cycling plans have not worked, the guidelines are just that, and most municipalities, choose the fiscal route, or the one that moves the most cars when it comes down to tough decisions.
The City of Ottawa's cycling plan, for the last 30 years, has called for parallel ped/bike pathways beside all the transit ways. I think one was actually built, and the rest dropped. The additional cost would have been infinitesimal compared to the funded project costs, and would have provided solid cycling commuting routes to everywhere in the city; now, we have sporadic cycling facilities and no where near a complete infrastructure.
This recommendation, as most by you, are too vague.
3. Paved shoulders, aka bike lanes, have their own inherent issues. The most important safety one being is that it often moves cyclists out of the view of motorists. The problem has not been that motorists have been killing cyclists they see, they have killed cyclists when the cyclists are not seen! No cyclists are getting killed riding down the middle of the road, they are being killed on sidewalks, shoulders, pathways and bike lanes.
The second issue is that the shoulders soon become so strewn with debris, they become unsafe to use; and they fill with snowbanks in the winter.
I do think paved shoulders is a good idea and needed, BUT, cyclists will have to be trained how to use them to be safe.
4. Cycling Education, this seems to be more directed at PSA's about helmets, headphones and possibly some motorist targeted messages. Again, too vague as to what you are education and who your targeting. It is easy to target cyclists wearing headphones, or not wearing helmets, but these things aren't killing cyclists on our roadways, its the motorists. What education is begin done to tell motorists cyclists belong on the road?
5. Education pamphlets on new bikes…more land waste. As I said earlier, make them sell bikes with helmets and lights and bells. (well, for little use bells provide anyway)
6. Education in schools…excellent idea…but why are car centric organizations (CCA) and Helmet organizations (Health) going to do the training. Why is it not done under Can-Bike? Obviously the committee has no idea on what Can-Bike does or trains.
7. Updated handbooks…does anyone read these after they get their licence? or Until their 80?
8. yes, an HTA overhaul is much needed, but needs to be written from a cycling perspective. Lets face it, the requirement of a bell on a bike on roadways in Ontraio is pretty useless. What car, truck or bus can hear a typical bicycle bell? Yet it's a requirement by law? Bells are great for pathways, but pathways are not roadways and thus the law doesn't apply there.
There are plenty for examples where there is not enough direction given to cycling specific regulations.
Again, this is too vague.
9. review of municipality acts…wow, couldn't be more vague
What are you trying to convey here? Are you asking municipalities to ensure their visions are for more cycling friendly environments? Or are you leaving it to them to ban cyclists from certain roads, time of day, riding single file as close to the curb as possible?
DO NOT leave decisions about cycling to those who have no concepts of it - that is why we are in the cycling unfriendly situation we are in now.
10 & 11. Helmet use…if you need a helmet, then you have failed. Safety is about preventing the situations that would require a helmet in the first place.
Most people understand the needs for a helmet, its not rocket science. But at the same time, people still smoke, so go figure why some people don't get it. The point is, police have better things to do than chase after stupid people.
12. Excellent recommendation..probably the best thing your committee has done, if implemented. I am not sure how its going to be enforced, but it's a start.
13. Trucks and cyclists are a bad mix. While moving on a highway, there are few issues except the sharing the road one. However, at intersections, cyclists need to be EDUCATED better on how to ride with trucks. And the most important one is never to be stopped with a truck beside you!
This recommendation misses the point, 'cow catchers' are, again, a fail, if needed. Cyclist should never be in a position they need hardware on the truck to keep them from going under the wheels.
14. Enforcement…is of limited value, the real targets need to be aggressive drivers, who number very very small, but who are hard to target. There is some value in targeting cyclists each year; they are easy to catch and bell/helmet infractions are easy targets. Do these enforcement efforts safe lives, of course not - but are good for stats.
As I said earlier, I am very disappointed - and I do NOT see any support for cycling education, especially Can-Bike in this report.
Regional Supervising Coroner – Toronto West Region
Office of the Chief Coroner
26 Grenville Street
Toronto ON M7A 2G7Occo.firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Dan Cass
Re: Ontario Coroners Review of Cycling Deaths
I am writing in response to the announcement that the Ontario Coroner is examining cycling deaths in Ontario. I have been a participant in much informal discussion as to this matter and also have participated in a focus group session with RCAC in Ottawa (November 26, 2011).
I consider myself to be an experienced cyclist having spent roughly 40 000 km on the roads around Ottawa in the last five years. This mileage has been accumulated while engaged in recreational cycling, commuting and racing / race training activities. I feel that, in general, cycling is a very safe activity.
In the focus group session with RCAC, I was struck by the discovery that a Coroners report (Toronto) was conducted in 1998 and came to four principle conclusions. Of those conclusions, only the implementation of cycling infrastructure appears to have been acted upon. More relevantly, however, is that recommendation for more cycling education has been largely ignored.
On my daily commute to work and in my frequent rides in Ottawa, I am constantly astonished at the general failure of cyclists to conduct themselves in a manner that is safe and predictable. Cyclists riding the wrong direction on streets, weaving in and out of parked cars, riding too tight to the curbs, running red lights, failing to indicate intentions, failing to use lights at night, riding on sidewalks, and not shoulder check before merging / changing lanes are all commonly seen occurrences. With such a laundry list of problems, it is no surprise that cyclists occasionally come in contact with stationary objects, other cyclists, pedestrians and cars.
Informally, I have asked around my peers and have discovered that cycling education has entirely disappeared from the public education system. While many people in their thirties or older, recall cycling education at least once during school, this appears no longer the case. Cycling education is now limited to those who search it out and frequently pay their own way. In Ottawa, it is offered to very limited extent by CAN-BIKE and by the Ottawa Bicycle Club (whose program I have taken). Given this reality, it should come as no surprise that cyclists are conducting themselves poorly and in a manner that increases danger to themselves and others.
It would seem that with the limited amount of funds that seem to be available for cycling initiatives (compared to the seemingly infinite funds for automobile infrastructure), that cycling education has been cut in favour of building a smattering of cycling infrastructure, some of which utilizes and encourages patterns of movement that are directly in contravention to what is outlined in the HTA. Examples of such would be bike lanes that force cyclist to pass right turning vehicles on the right and infrastructure that creates unusual patterns, sequences, or complications of movement in intersections.
The current focus on infrastructure with a disregard for education has had other negative impacts to cycling. The first negative impact is evident in media coverage. A survey of public forum postings in response to cycling media coverage reveals a back lash against cyclists would opt to the use the roadways over segregated infrastructure. It would seem to a certain portion of the population, the existence of dedicated infrastructure, regardless of how limited or practical, provides justification for the ghettoization or harassment of cyclists. Comments demand to know why a cyclist wasn’t in a lane half a dozen blocks away or demand to know why, if a cycling lane was constructed, all cyclists aren’t required to use it. The poor practices (as identified above) exhibited by some cyclists serve only to compound the situation.
The second apparent negative is the manner in which cyclists use these dedicated infrastructures, and points directly to the need for further cycling education. In the areas of approach to and departure from a cycling infrastructure, there is a dearth of safe cycling practices. Sidewalk cycling is especially common. It would seem that cycling infrastructure serves as a substitute for skill and training. As such, when the infrastructure ends (a reality for the foreseeable future), poorly trained and unskilled cyclists are left with the inability to safely integrate onto the roadways.
In my opinion, there is a distinct need to make cyclist education the forefront measure in improving the safety of cyclists in the urban environment. Children and young adults need to be educated in the rules of the HTA as they pertain to cyclists, how to identify and avoid hazards, and how to select the safest roadways. Adults and those taking up cycling later in life need to be encouraged of the value of cycling education.
For the governments' part, this means bring cycling education back into the public education curriculum, and for funding cycling education to make sure that it is accessible and affordable to those who need it. Secondly, corrective education should be administered in place of fines for cycling infractions to ensure those who fail to conduct themselves in a safe manner receive instruction.
A concerned cyclist,
Doug van den Ham
I have been involved in cycling in Ottawa since I first got trained in
Can-Bike by Gavin MacPhail way back in 1994. I know a lot of you have been
involved a lot longer; I have also been actively involved in the various City
and Regional advisory groups, as well as CfSC, over the years. I learned a great
deal in that time, and my views and opinions are still open for change. I
actively teach Can-Bike and am a National Examiner in the program.
We, the cycling community, are our own worse enemy. We continue to in-fight
as to what should be done, and can never come up with a consensus as to what
could be done.
The 'experts', Avery et al, have a great deal of knowledge and experience
and I know what they say is technically correct.
The 'general' cycling community continues to be bullied by the motoring
public, and has the cycling inferiority complex ingrained into them by years of
the auto industry propaganda.
The 'government' which has to make decisions on issues around
transportation, education, engineering and spending, is caught in the middle. Do
they listen to a small minority of 'experts' on cycling, or the vast majority of
taxpayers? This is a no-win situation for us, the cyclists who want the best for
So, instead of this constant bickering and fighting, which I am so sick of,
its time to be positive and not negative about cycling. Lets make the most of
the situation, and try to make it work. At least something is being done, if the
'experts' in the cycling had won, and convinced Ottawa not to go ahead with the
Laurier bike facilities, what would have been done? I can tell you, nothing!
Because again, we can't make a decision, ourselves, to provide City hall with
direction to follow.
Will this facility work? IMHO, no - for all the reasons you have stated.
Will collisions and injuries for cyclists, go up along Laurier? yes, I fully
expect them to, particularly for new cyclists. As experienced cyclists, we will
know where the danger spots are, and know how to avoid them.
I expect, everyone will see the problems with the facility within 3-5
years, and move on with another strategy. But, it is possible it will succeed,
maybe motorists will be more aware of cyclists and cyclists will learn to be
more aware of cycling dangers at intersections.
And the biggest positive for me, in all these years of this cycling
governance issue, is the possibility that projects like this will draw more
cyclists to our community.
I see the only way we, the cycling community, are going to get some serious
headway for change in laws, budgets, facilities and attitudes is when cyclists
make up 10, 20 and 50% of the transportation public! That should be our goal
folks. So whatever draws more people from their cars and buses to a bicycle, I
am 100% for! I hope this project does that. I also hope the City has the insight
to take cycling surveys before and after to determine if there is an increase in
We are, right now, on the verge of a potential quantum change in the
cycling paradigm. Gas prices are skyrocketing, auto manufacturers are dragging
their feet on making affordable alternate fuel choices; so the motoring public
is getting gouged, plus with a hovering recession, is hurting them bad in their
wallets. Ottawa is an ideal sized city for alternate transportation, and since
the Transit system is a dismal failure to provide realistic commutes, cycling
could really have an impact now. I swear I see more cycling commuters on our
roads. Too bad our winters make year round a near impossibility. But still, we
could easily get to 10 to 20% cycling commuters on the roads, and once that
critical number is reached, it could increase substantially as Ottawa, in
general, gets its head around cycling, and sees it as being viable, safe and
So the bottom line is, the Laurier cycling facility is going ahead, despite
your objections; the general public wants to give it a try. Instead of burying
your heads in the sand and going off to pout about it, work with it and try to
make it a success; the goal being to draw out more people into cycling, while
now fighting to keep them safe.
I consider myself an experienced and competent cyclist. Over the past 10 years, I have averaged more than 10 000 km of cycling per year. I am a racing cyclist, a touring cyclist and a commuting cyclist. I am also a member of the board of directors of the Ottawa Bicycle Club, though the opinions that I express in this letter are mine alone.
From the beginning of April until the end of October, I commute to and from my workplace (a 40 km round trip) at least 3 times a week. This commute takes me from the Central Park neighbourhood to the north end of Kanata. The most efficient, and in my opinion, the safest route for this commute has me riding in traffic along Baseline Road and Carling Avenue.
I am neither for, nor against, the proposed segregated cycling facilities. I do not know if the proposed segregated cycling facilities will increase cyclings modal split in the downtown core. I do not know if segregation will change the perception that cycling is unsafe. However, I am for education as a minimum.
My fear is that even this small pilot project will modify drivers perceptions and behaviours. On a daily basis, I hear the get off the road rant from drivers. I do feel that, in the absence of a stronger driver education program, the attention on this small pilot program will reinforce the commonly held perception that cyclists do not belong on the road. In my opinion, drivers that believe that cyclists do not belong on the road become aggressive towards cyclists who do choose to use the road.
Cyclists are not blameless. For every get off the road that I hear, I see a cyclist breaking a rule of the road not stopping at a light, riding on the sidewalk. Education and enforcement are required here too. In 2010, I was hit by a car whilst riding in a marked bike lane. I escaped with only minor injuries; the driver was quite shaken up. Even though I was riding in an upright position and wearing highly visible clothing, the driver claimed that he did not see me. He claimed that he did not expect to see a bike on that particular stretch of road, even though it has a clearly marked bike lane.
I bring up this story only to illustrate that a bike lane is no guarantee of safety. Perhaps I would have been better to have been in the lane of travel; perhaps not. I dont think that more driver education would have helped. However, I do believe that my awareness and skills saved me from a worse fate.
Awareness and skills education for cyclists are, in my opinion, the number one way that we can lower the number of cyclists injured or killed on the citys roads. Remember, out of Ottawas thirty six traffic fatalities in 2010, six were cyclists. Segregated facilities may have a role to play in reducing this count in the future, but I fear their unintended consequences.
The Ottawa Area is a good place to live for cycling. The terrain varies, most of the roads are in ok shape, traffic in the city is light and it is relativity easy to get out of the city for a ride in the countryside. While the climate could be better, it is feasible to ride outside 9 months of the year without enduring too much hardship.
As for the current state of the cycling related infrastructure in Ottawa. I like having a paved shoulder in areas were the traffic is moving at 80km/h or greater and where there are few junctions (intersections and driveways) in the road. Such places like Hunt Club Rd and Carling Ave (between Moodie and Herzberg). When there are few junctions cycling lanes or paved shoulders can be safe, but as the number of junctions increases, it becomes more important for the cyclist to be a part of traffic.
For places like downtown Ottawa, I would prefer that all the cycling infrastructure was eliminated and replaced with wide curb lanes. The current cycling infrastructure implementation is not consistent. Cycling lanes on the road appear then disappear and take irregular paths, this is not safe.
Cyclists need to assert their position at every junction encountered otherwise run the risk of vehicles turning in to them. The only way a cyclist can assert their position is by occupying the same lanes that vehicular traffic occupies.
As for the city implementing segregated cycling lanes downtown, I do not think it is a good idea for the safety reasons outlined in the following article:
http://www.trafitec.dk/pub/Road safety and percieved risk of cycle tracks and lanes in Copenhagen.pdf
by: Søren Underlien Jensen
Oddly, his conclusion is still in favour of the cycling infrastructure even though he states it is less safe!!!, I find that the new safety issues that arise are much worse than the author describes and are unacceptable.
Last year I went to Jan Gehl's presentation about Urban Design. The thing that was made clear to me about his design ideas with regards to roadway and segregated cycling lanes was that they had nothing to do with cycling safety. It was all about improving the aesthetics in urban design.
I don't think these segregated cycling lanes would be unsafe with the design suggested by the City of Ottawa, as long as everyone that used them rode at 10km/h and was careful to watch out for cars at intersections.
But the reality is that you will have some people travelling at 10km/h and others at 30km/h or even higher. The speed differential in combination with the limited space to pass will result in collisions between cyclists. The faster cyclist will also hit pedestrians crossing through the cycling lane. I am not sure if these lanes will have a speed limit, however that will not make any difference, the Ottawa River Parkway Multi-Use Pathway has a speed limit of 20km/h and many people travel at speeds over 30km/h on that. In addition to the issues travelling within the lanes, there will also be safety issues at the intersections.
When it comes to segregated cycling lanes on city streets, unless you want to make the cycling lanes 10 feet wide, construct barriers so pedestrians cannot cross the lane and build tunnels or overpasses at every junction, there is simply no way to make segregated cycling lanes safe as far as I am concerned.
If I didn't know any better I would just say that even though these lanes are less safe, it will get more people cycling because it makes them feel safe and that's a good thing. I will just choose not to use these segregated lanes.
However, I do know better. What will happen is I will choose not to ride in the segregated lanes and I will face an increasing amount of hostility from motorists. I have faced more hostility from motorists in the Ottawa Area, more than anywhere else in the world, and it is mostly from choosing to ride on the road opposed to the Multi-Use Pathways. Motorists in the Ottawa Area are not tolerant to cyclists and they will yell out their window at you if you dare to ride on the road when there is a Multi-Use pathway near by. I don’t want to ride on Multi-Use pathways most of the time or in Segregated Cycling Lanes ever. I don't want to face any additional hostility from motorists.
If segregated cycling lanes were conclusively much safer for all types of cyclists then I would be in favour of them. But from reading Søren’s article and from my own personal experience riding over 250,000 kms in my life time, I believe that any safety benefits achieved will be outweighed be by the safety hazards they create.
Dear Councillor Chernushenko,
Congratulations on your election to City Council. I note
that you have been appointed to the Transportation Committee.
I am a former Vice-President of the Ottawa Bicycle Club
and an experienced practicing cyclist who believes that cyclists belong on the
road and are better off driving their bikes like the driver of any other
vehicle. I advocate skilled, lawful cycling with the same rules, same rights,
and same responsibilities as other drivers.
I am disappointed to learn that the City is proposing to
construct a segregated bike lane in the Laurier Avenue corridor.
I believe that apart from the added congestion that
removal of two traffic lanes during rush hour will bring, it is irresponsible to
encourage cyclists to ride their bikes in downtown traffic without the necessary
skills. City staff claims that members of the public would ride
their bikes more but don't feel safe in mixed traffic. If the non-cycling public
or inexperienced cyclists don't FEEL safe in traffic it's because they have
never been trained to FEEL comfortable in mixed traffic. This is not a safety
issue, its perception and skills issue. It is apparent that this bike lane
project is being promoted to respond exclusively to public perceptions
(feelings) rather than an analysis of the facts. The City's 2008 Bike Plan and
the Laurier Avenue Project proposals do not identify any safety issues. There's
no examination of accident statistics. Misperceptions should be addressed by
education and raising of awareness.
As a property taxpayer, I am offended that $1.3m could be
spent in such a way. Just a fraction of that amount would buy a lot of training
of cyclists to help them become safe and confident in traffic.
I respectfully ask you to oppose this project and instead
ask Transportation Committee to divert part of the funding to the establishment
of a cyclist training and motorist "share the road" education program.
This would be the most effective use of tax dollars and have the support
of law abiding, competent cyclists. The remainder of the savings could be
applied to limiting the tax increase planned for this year.
Colin is the Senior Project Manager, Transportation - Strategic Planning Unit, Infrastructure Services and Community Sustainability Dept., City of Ottawa
Letter sent to Colin Simpson, City of Ottawa Dec. 18/2010
As an Ottawa cyclist with 23 years of experience, I think the segregated bike lane project for Laurier Avenue is a mistake. Educating cyclists is far more important than any of the other so-called safety enhancement, such as the construction of bike lanes, paths, lines on the road, etc.
From those cyclists I have talked to or cyclists I have stopped riding on the sidewalk, it is apparent that fear is a prime motivator for their actions. Fear that comes from a lack of cycling knowledge and skills in traffic. Educational safety programs like CanBike have far more beneficial results than a mere bike lane that gives a false sense of safety. Cyclists need to learn how to cycle in traffic - period. They are part of the traffic as vehicles on the road and should be trained to use the roads.
The money planned for the Laurier Street bike lanes would yield more benefits if it was put into education and an awareness campaign across the city. School children, immigrants and the general population need access to cycling education. Putting promos on the side of buses explaining the basic rules would help; continuing education classes on cycling safety would help; supporting local cycling clubs to offer skills handling classes would help; enhancing drivers' education of the cyclists needs would help; and finally, enforcing the existing rules would help.
Don't waste money on a segregated lane its like putting a band-aid on an artery bleed. It looks like you're doing something but it does not help.
Holding areas for left turning bicycle traffic
I note that the designated parking spots between Kent and O'Connor, from which alighting passengers would block the segregated bike path. Presumably, there is an assumption that few cars using those spots would be carrying passengers. However, the same situation applies to delivery vehicles, which would block the pathway for more extended periods. Given that automotive traffic on Laurier would resent bicyclists attempting to use the other traffic lanes (and take offensive action to nudge bicyclists back onto the segregated path), that leaves path users the option of either dismounting onto the sidewalk or waiting for the delivery to be completed. This is hardly a satisfactory situation for those seeking a more efficient way to get about the city.
A further consideration regarding the holding areas for left turning bike riders is how much allowance there is for tandems, trailers and trail-a-bikes. Such machines, while not in common use for commuting, are popular with bicycle-tourists. Such combinations do not easily lend themselves to narrow confines, and could even find themselves dangerously exposed to cross traffic in less than adequate holding areas.
Impact of electrically powered bicycles and non-cycling users
Electrically powered bicycles will present an interesting challenge to users of segregated pathways. Capable of sustaining a pace comparable with the so called cycling elite, electric bikes in the hands of untrained novices will undoubtedly be a source of incidents.
As with the NCC recreational trails segregated paths are also very likely to attract a whole range of non cycling users, including joggers, roller bladers, wheelchairs and strollers, which, like the NCC trails along the Rideau Canal, will result in unacceptable congestion, especially at traffic lights, where the joggers and roller bladers take off faster than the bikers, only to block the pathway, once the bikes reach operating speed.
Single file assumption
Bicycle lane designs often appear to make the assumption that cyclists all pedal at the same uniform speed, in single file. Cycling is a physical activity and as such is subject to variation according to the strength and ability of each individual. Inevitably, there must be provision for the faster riders to pass those moving at a slower pace. This becomes particularly important on uphill grades, where those who are unable to make the grade end up weaving suddenly across the path in order to maintain balance.
Riders whose path gets blocked by sudden weaving manoevres will either be forced out into traffic or forced over a kerb. Those who stop to get off and walk end up blocking the path for those who are still moving. The solution of course is to make the path wide enough for bicycles to pass safely, but the width allowed in the city proposal seems a little narrow for this purpose. Unlike a bicycle lane,. which allows the ability to move into traffic if necessary to avoid an obstacle, the bike path option appears to negate this.
A cheaper alternative
A simple alternative to what many taxpayers would regard as an unnecessary expense would be to provide bike lanes and lower the traffic speed limit to 40kph along the proposed route. The lower speed limit would afford a calmer traffic flow, and give all users time and space to look out and make room for each other. This may upset drivers who are used to driving at 60kph in 50 kph zones, but it is an accepted fact of life in school safety zones, so why not here ? Lower speed limits would make it easier for people to park, which would perhaps make the preferred route along Somerset more acceptable to the business owners who objected to that preferred option in the first place. The money that would otherwise have been spent on the segregated facility could be spent instead on cycling education, for which the city of Ottawa was once a leader.
I stayed out of local cycling advocacy for 10 years. Earlier this year (2010) however I learned that the City was planning to incorporate bike infrastructure in one of Ottawa's downtown corridors. It was then that I decided to come out of "retirement" and to raise a voice in favour of competent and lawful cycling. Three long time cycling companions of mine, Bruce Lowe, Eric Wright, and Rick Moll, had shared similar concerns over City plans with me. Few others were speaking in favour of responsible cycling and looking out for the interests of skilled and lawful cyclists. We all want cycling to grow but not at any cost. We decided to act.
The City has taken upon itself to promote cycling among inexperienced, less-than-competent, and soon-to-be, but-not-yet cyclists. A job left in the past to bike clubs with little help from the City. Having ignored the advice of those with the most experience in such matters, the City instead responded to political populism by adopting the public's perceptions and prejudices related to the alleged dangers of cycling. Facts have been the first casualty of the process. The safety of cyclists and the convenience of cycling will be but two of its costs.
It is clear that the City pays lip service to safety. Safety is not a priority for this project or any other City cycling project. How else can it be explained that the number one accident reduction measure by a country mile - cyclist skills training to improve cyclist practices and habits - doesn't even appear on the City's radar? Cyclists have to ride on roads in mixed traffic to get downtown facilities even if the claims attributed to bike infrastructure could be delivered. Danish and Dutch children are not just turned loose on the streets at the whim of bureaucrats. Children in the countries of those children receive cycle skills training before going anywhere on bikes.
The price tag on the Laurier Avenue infrastructure project planned by the City is $1.2m. Half that amount would pay for the training of tens of thousands of cyclists to become confident and skilled cyclists. There would still be change for a campaign aimed at motorists to improve their driving habits while around cyclists. These are our tax dollars, let's not waste them on ill-conceived schemes.