Aaron Fillion

posted Jan 23, 2011, 6:36 AM by Aaron Fillion   [ updated Jan 23, 2011, 2:50 PM by Eric Wright ]

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.



Aaron Fillion