Last week, Bike Ottawa sent a letter to the City with some recommendations concerning plans to resurface Donald Street.
Increasingly, the City seems to attempt to incorporate bicycle infrastructure when resurfacing roadways. (A couple other examples: Richmond Road and Kirkwood Avenue.) This is a good development. We’ve come to expect cycle tracks only with renewals—that is, where a road is being dug up for other work, like sewers. Given how infrequently renewals occur, this means that important corridors can remain without infrastructure for years, even decades. (See Hazeldean/Robertson/Baseline.) Moreover, the result is a piecemeal approach that breaks a fundamental law for bicycle infrastructure: connectivity.
Unfortunately, the City isn’t going far enough yet. With resurfacing (“pave and shave”) projects, the City installs on-road painted bike lanes. There are numerous reasons why this is inadequate. Paint won’t protect you from an out-of-control car. Paint won’t prevent people from parking their car in the lane, forcing people biking into traffic. Snow gets plowed into on-road lanes, making painted lanes seasonal. The list goes on. This is why Bike Ottawa recommends cycle tracks—facilities that are separated from car traffic and physically protected.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: pinned curbs, or Qwick Curbs. These can be added without changing the permanent curb line—which is normally left untouched in a resurfacing—and still allow maintenance staff through. The physical barrier these offer make all the difference in terms of protection, comfort, and keeping the facility clear.
Another issue that arises with the City’s plans for resurfacing is that they eliminate cycling facilities at intersections in order to add car lanes. (See an example below at Vanier Parkway.) If it looks like the City is prioritizing the convenience of people driving over the safety of vulnerable road users, you’re right. It’s a bit baffling to us how, in 2022, the City of Ottawa is still working out its priorities. (You can help, though! Submit feedback on the Transportation Master Plan Update before March 31.)
We should also note that there are no plans to improve the intersection in the image above, Donald and Vanier Parkway. This is disappointing: this intersection was one of 34 that the City designated in a 2020 report “as having the highest risk of potential vehicle/cyclist conflict.” In fact, this intersection even made it to the cover of that report!
As for the rest of our recommendations, we leave them to you to read about below:
To: Amir Zahabi, P.Eng. City of Ottawa
Cc: Councillor Rawlson King (Ward 13)
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Date: 28 February 2022
Subject: Donald Street Resurfacing and Cycling Lanes Functional Design
Dear Amir Zahab,
Bike Ottawa is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that advocates for safe cycling infrastructure in Ottawa. We write to provide feedback concerning the Donald Street Resurfacing and Cycling Lanes Functional Design.
We thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on this project. We were disappointed, however, that the meeting for this project was not announced publicly, and that the project website was not posted until the feedback window was already opened. We believe it imperative that community members be permitted to contribute feedback to infrastructure projects. We are glad that the City acknowledges the importance of this route in Ottawa’s cycling network: this route is an important connection between communities like Vanier and Overbrook with Sandy Hill and Lowertown over the Adàwe Crossing, and on to Centretown via the Corktown footbridge. At the same time, we find the City’s proposed modifications to this corridor inadequate in several respects. The following are our recommendations for this project.
- We urge the incorporation of pinned curbs in the buffered zones along this route, such as those on the Laurier Avenue West Bikeway; unlike paint, physical barriers like pinned curbs afford people biking actual protection—and they are also inexpensive.
- Where current plans show no buffer for cycling facilities, we recommend that space for buffers be taken from the car facility; we note that while OC Transpo prefers lanes of a minimum 3.5 m width, 3.3 m is its minimum standard; this solution will not only permit implementing physical protection for people biking, but it will slow drivers, which increases safety for all road users.
- It is wholly unacceptable that cycling facilities disappear at intersections, as at Vanier Parkway, Quill Street, Lola Street, and Alesther Street. Intersections are particularly dangerous for vulnerable road users, and so removing facilities is the opposite of what should be done. Even the City’s own documents (e.g., Transportation Master Plan 2013, Section 7.4) highlight the need to prioritize protecting vulnerable road users. The proposed design therefore contradicts not only Vision Zero principles, but the City’s own policies.
- We recommend the implementation of raised, continuous crossings along all residential streets on this corridor. This treatment encourages drivers to observe the right of way of people walking.
- We also recommend the tightening of turn radii at the numerous residential streets along this corridor by means of flex posts or some other physical means. This measure will encourage drivers to take these turns more slowly, which in turn increases safety for all road users.
- One of our greatest concerns is the intersection of Vanier Parkway with Donald Street. We note that this intersection is one of 34 intersections that the City identified in 2020 “as having the highest risk of potential vehicle/cyclist conflict” (Cycling Safety Review of High-Volume Intersections). Indeed, this intersection has the ignominious distinction of being pictured on the front page of this report. We are disappointed that not only are there no improvements for this intersection in current plans, but also bicycle facilities disappear at this intersection. We urge that this portion of the plans be revisited.
- Because there are no cycling facilities in this intersection, people biking eastbound through the intersection are particularly vulnerable to cars turning east on Donald from Vanier Parkway. We would urge removal of this slip lane. Slip lanes prioritize the speed and convenience of car drivers to the peril of all other road users.
- We note that turn radii at almost all of the many intersections with local streets along this corridor are relatively large. We recommend that flex posts or some other physical barrier be installed to tighten these turn radii. Tighter turn radii will decrease the distance to cross the intersection for people walking and biking and will encourage drivers to take turns at lower speeds.
- We recommend that the cycle tracks at Paul-Émile-March Avenue and Telford Avenue continue raised through both intersections. (Ideally, all crossings of local streets would be raised and continuous.) This will encourage motorists to yield right-of-way to people walking and biking.
- We strongly recommend the installation of mid-block raised crossings in this corridor. These will improve connectivity in the area, and if raised, such a crossing will also help reduce motorist speeds, increasing safety in the corridor. We particularly recommend a crossing at Eve Street and Edith Avenue, given the bus stops at these corners and the importance of this route for connecting neighbourhoods north and south of Donald here.
- We are pleased to note the removal of left-turn car lanes at the intersection with Lola. This will narrow the intersection, reducing the crossing distance for people walking and biking. It will also reduce driving speeds, making the intersection safer for everyone.
We thank you in advance for your careful consideration of our recommendations and ask for a reply to them. We would be glad to answer any questions you may have to work with you on any aspect of this project relating to active transportation.
William van Geest
Advocacy Working Group, Bike Ottawa