Ottawa bike politics.
Monthly Archives: November 2011
November 28, 2011Posted by on
It is this map that got me really concerned:
Sometime since the summer of 2010 they’ve dropped all the linkages to the path that runs on the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth Drive!
This is a considerable step back. Cyclists who would want to leave from the park to go home along the NCC Rideau Canal path would want to exit straight to the west, and then cross Queen Elizabeth Drive and get on the pathway. This was on older diagrams, too, like from June 2010:
Cyclists leaving the park would want to exit directly to the west, cross QED, then head home (north or south) on the path next to the canal.
Now, they’d only be able to exit to the western path. The east and west sides are quite different, as the west one ends at Fifth Ave. on the north, and just under the Bank St. Bridge near Queen Elizabeth Place.
Let me explain why one wouldn’t want to use either crossing.
The problem at Fifth
It is possible to cross at Fifth Ave, but the trajectory requires crossing both QED and Fifth Ave. on a diagonal. The depressions in the curb on the east side of QED are not placed properly, which makes this intersection difficult. This is also expected to be the landing spot of the Fifth/Clegg bridge.
The problem at Queen Elizabeth Park
Southbound, the path also ends at an awkward angle, and requires the cyclists cross either directly diagonally across Bank St., or do a jog to get in line with queued traffic. Either way, it is an awkward manoeuvre.
Is it a bike route or not?
Some people didn’t think Sylvia Holden Park was a park, so nothing can be taken for granted.
There’s two organizations that think that the western path is an NCC cycle route:
- Google Maps (which is wrong about lots of other stuff… more about that in another article)
- the 2011 references of the Lansdowne plan says it is part of the Ottawa Cycling Plan
The following organizations I consider more authoritative do not think this is a bicycle route:
- the Ottawa Cycling Plan (looking at both current and future implementation)
- the NCC bicycle map (either of them)
- the Ottawa bicycle map (any of them)
- the NCC’s Rideau Canal Corridor Pedestrian Crossing Study (June 2011)
I have a bit of exposure to NCC and the City of Ottawa working together. It is definitely better (as evidenced by the Bay St/Wellington construction), but working out multi-jurisdictional problems is still hard. The whole project would be a lot easier to just not have to deal with the NCC. So I think they just chose not to.
Synchronization with the NCC’s plan to rebuild intersections
Back in 2008, the NCC started a study to review how pedestrians crossed both Queen Elizabeth Drive and Colonel By Drive. They got some flack for being slow in delivering it, but the June 11, 2011 final release is well done. The problem was that with increased traffic, these driveways were becoming increasingly difficult and seemingly dangerous to cross.
Certainly the schedules of the authoring of this document and development of the Lansdowne plans overlaps, but the Lansdowne plans never say anything about this. And here’s the entire reference the NCC report has to Lansdowne, on page 83 (the last one):
“It is understood that the outcome of the current Lansdowne Park redevelopment may impact traffic and pedestrian patterns along Queen Elizabeth Drive. The NCC should monitor the projected/actual changes to these movements as this redevelopment progresses. “
The report goes through all the intersections and makes recommendations on what to do. In most cases, it is to do nothing, and there’s this predilection for roundabouts.
But let’s look closer at what the NCC says about the ends of this path.
NCC’s preferred option at Fifth
Notice how there’s no mention of the path as it enters into the circle.
NCC’s preferred option at Queen Elizabeth Place
Again, there’s no consideration for how the path would enter into the circle (and the path isn’t even drawn in).
The city should meet with the NCC to consider an enhanced intersection at the exit of Lansdowne, and do a complete route analysis.
And the more I get into this, the more I think they should put together an actual bicycle report.
November 27, 2011Posted by on
I’ve written about how success is going to depend on getting a lot of people out to Lansdowne, how getting the bike modal share is difficult, and how bike parking should be built to attract people there. But it doesn’t help if you can’t get to Lansdowne. Now, let’s talk about how to get there.
Unannounced changes in the plan
The city removed quite a bit of infrastructure since the original plans in June 2010.
I try to explain this in Figure 1; the original diagram from Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Management Plan Technical Report from June 2010 has been overlaid with changes in the Lansdowne Partnership Plan Implementation Status Report, from August 2011.
The changes I could find are:
- entrances and exits: from 14 down to 7 (8 removed and 1 added)
- paths/routes: various connectors removed, some added (although all the new ones are in areas just not filled in before)
- intersections for potential improvements to pedestrian and cyclist crossings: all 5 removed
- connections to the NCC Rideau Canal pathway: There appears to be no more plan to connect the park with the path on the east side of Queen Elizabeth Drive, just the one on the east side that goes nowhere.
There’s things that are totally missing, and it isn’t clear if that’s because they aren’t part of the plan, or they’re just an oversight:
- whether the routes are bike lanes, multi-purpose paths, etc.
- how the intersections will be built, or if there’s any consideration at all at those intersections
- directional signage
Where people come from
The current plans don’t say much about what can change outside the park. This is because the area of study really is just the park; any changes to infrastructure to support increased transportation demands is secondary. I know this is cause for concern for the Glebe residence; squeezing more traffic into the same amount of space is going to be problematic. Biking can help squeeze more people into the same space.
Here’s a diagram that shows the actual state of the local bicycle routes. This ignores whatever bicycle maps or the plans say, but is based on actual bicycle experience. These are drawn with the expectations of novice cyclists.
I tried to figure out a reasonable diameter to use to figure out where cyclists were likely to come from. I can’t understand their numbers, but I’d say within 8km you could get 50% of the people.
But you need to make sure that these people have a safe route to get to the park by bike, or they won’t bike. Or they won’t come at all.
These things aren’t all new, but they are worth highlighting as they represent change in the neighbourhood. For this article, I’ll just consider them final and constructed.
Clegg/Fifth Ave. Bridge
I’m going to be so bold as to say that this is a bridge that will be built. It is going to make Old Ottawa East now a parking lot when there’s events on. This is no different than the expectation of the Glebe. But the city will see this as a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits it will provide. Undoubtedly, it will be important to the TDM of Lansdowne. I just count on this now, but my guess is this won’t be built until 2014.
Bike lane in front of Lansdowne
Did you know there’s a crappy bike lane in front of Lansdowne? It runs from the edge of the Bank St. Bridge to Holmwood. With others at CfSC, I did a lot of lobbying as part of the Bank St. Reconstruction Advisory Committee. Although I’m happy it is there, some complain that there’s no point in a lane that starts and ends. But it does line you up properly for what’s next here.
This lane seems to get way too much attention in the 2011 plans.
Left turn lane on Holmwood
This is not yet built, but will be in the summer of 2012 when the Bank St. reconstruction continues. It is helpful for when going northbound on Bank St, and wanting to westbound through the Glebe. It helps address some of the problems in needing to take a left turn on Wilton.
Sharrows on the Bank St. Bridge
Cyclists are generally irritated with biking over the Canal. Over the last few years, I’m a bit soft on the city with things like this, and I believe them when they say there’s not much they can do to make cyclists happier here. The bridge just isn’t wide enough to add a lane, and widening the bridge is unlikely to happen, as the political and economic clout of cyclists just isn’t enough to spend millions on widening it.
But… Councillor Chernushenko has this idea of painting sharrows, which would help with some of the expectations of drivers and cyclists. I’ve heard mumblings of having a ‘do not pass cyclists’ sign over the bridge too (which is more valuable on the Billings Bridge). That’s probably all they can do. Biking southbound on Bank St. will continue to be difficult, particularly in heavy traffic.
Queen Elizabeth Drive crossing
This is the most important project to facilitate cycling to Lansdowne, and what’s more concerning is how the plan has changed. More on this tomorrow.
Entrance from Holmwood
We started off with six entrances onto Holmwood, now we’re down to one new one, at the foot of O’Connor. It isn’t clear what traffic on the site will be like, but by eliminating all the entrances west of O’Connor, we’re forcing cyclists to either use a Bank St. entrance or have them go
The situation is unclear; is there access for motor vehicles between the buildings along Holmwood? If not, does that mean that bicycles cannot?
Bike lanes on Holmwood
There is to be a special launchpad to get from Holmwood east onto Holmwood west. It is originally intended for use for northbound cyclists wanting to get into the western part of the Glebe.
However, a contraflow lane on Holmwood would also allow exiting bicycle traffic from Lansdowne to skip having to exit and bicycle on Bank St. It would increase the chances that a Lansdowne cyclist would never have to bike on Bank St.
Entrances from Bank St.
Of all the bounding routes, Bank St. is the worst one to bike on. Sure, it might be the best one for passenger vehicles, but cyclists have different routes.
There’s no indication how exiting cyclists are supposed to go southbound on Bank St. Is there a bicycle box? Are there bicycle lanes within the park that will merge in with motor vehicles? How will southbound bicycles get into the park? And why do there need to be four exits for bicycles?
North/south route through the Glebe
Two good bicycle routes going through the Glebe are O’Connor and Percy St. These both go along relatively calm residential streets.
However, these are not ideal. The large number of stop signs makes these paths difficult for cyclists. Stopping and starting in a car is easy, it is inefficient on a bicycle.
Routes through the park
There is not enough explanation of the types of surfaces that will be used within the park.
The plan affecting bike infrastructure seems to have been lead by the plan for motor vehicles.
In order to make Lansdowne easy to get to and get from by bicycle, the city should:
- make smooth connections to get from the park to the NCC Rideau Canal pathway
- create a contraflow bike lane on Holmwood
- properly plan the exits and entrances to Bank St.
- create more effective north/south routes with fewer stop signs
- be clearer about the bicycle routes within the park
Next, I’ll talk specifically about the problem with eliminating the connection with the NCC Rideau River pathway.
November 26, 2011Posted by on
In the first of this sequence of blogs, I wrote about how there were really very few bike facilities in the Lansdowne plans. Then I wrote about how 25,000 person events really needed to have 2-3% bike modal share, even though I can’t find any other stadium in North America that gets near that, even Minneapolis and Portland, OR. Today, I hope to be more positive by explaining what can be done with the parking aspect to the problem.
It’s all about feeling safe
The challenge is this: how do you convince 740 people that parking is safe enough? How comfortable would you be in parking your bike near a crowd like this group of comparatively calm Winnipeg Blue Bombers:
Now, picture 24,000 of them after the game, and imagine some of them being overjoyed or disappointed in the final score. And some of them are drunk, and know they’re leaving the neighbourhood on their way back to Toronto.
If people don’t feel safe in parking their bikes, they won’t. This has nothing to do with reality, it has to do with how they feel. Cyclists imagine things like this:
How safe would you feel?
The parking at Lansdowne needs to be so good, cyclists no longer worry about this.
The 10,000 and 25,000 floods require some special attention.
The plan for parking 3% of 25,000 visitors (750 spots) is to use all of the existing permanent 300 spots, then a temporary corral of 450.
For event parking, I support bike racks that are in one big group, under camera and slightly off the path of the crowd of exiting pedestrians, like this:
For cyclists to feel safe, bicycle parking for events should be:
- in one big group
- 24/7 camera surveillance
- ability to have valet bike parking or staffed security
- close to the stadium, but slightly away from passing pedestrians
The plan is to put in temporary corrals for the overflow of the 300. I think these programs can be great; Bluesfest in the summer parks about 1000 bikes some nights in their temporary corrals. This has some problems:
- it isn’t clear who would run it and who would pay for it
- if the 25,000 person events are happening once per month, isn’t it expensive to install and uninstall a temporary facility?
- if you’re only providing secured corral parking for the overflow, it still relies on bad spots for the remaining 300
My prediction: if the city sticks to the current plan, there will never be bicycle corrals as there’ll never be anywhere near 300 bikes, and with no good parking, there’ll never be bikes, etc.
Parking for access to retail is a different problem. If you want to go to the market or shop at Whole Foods or pick up a bottle of Chateau Lafie Rothschild, you don’t want to have to park in a nearly empty lot, walk 100m to your bike, pick up whatever it is, then walk back. What you’re looking for is:
- parking at right where you’re actually going, so to the front door of the store or restaurant
- preferably in view of where you’re going
- in a sufficiently public place that theft and vandalism would be noticed
- security cameras
There are a lot of examples of these; the plan gets it right by having many of these racks around the facility. I haven’t checked to make sure that all retail has the right amount of parking nearby all obvious stores. I have a sense the only ready they got this right is because they adhered to the Section 111 of the Parking, Queuing and Loading Provisions bylaws.
What hasn’t been made clear is the exact style of bicycle rack, and if they are covered. They should install some sort of covered rack. There’s lots examples. The ones I found quickly that I like are from Brussels and Corvalis, OR:
I’m sure an architect could design one that would fit in well with the existing style.
I am also a fan of the ones in Manhattan, which look like this:
You know, I’m not going to get into this. The debate about what rack is the best is just going to confuse this article. Just choose one, but be smart about it. And no wheel benders like this one at the Rogers Centre in Toronto:
The arguments for Lansdowne aren’t particularly different than anywhere else.
Up next: fixing up paths and crossings so cyclists can actually get to Lansdowne. So they show up, spend money, etc…
November 24, 2011Posted by on
(I’ll add here that my blog doesn’t necessarily represent the view of Citizens for Safe Cycling)
In a discussion today about why you didn’t support the Laurier Segregated Bike Lanes, you tweeted:
The last sentence warrants a response that I cannot fit in 140 characters. Actually, cyclists pay more than their fair share.
If you look at the 2006 Census, you’ll see that 2% of commuter trips to places of employment are by bicycle. The National Capital Region 2005 Origin Destination Survey backs this up, showing 2% of trips are by bicycle. Anecdotal evidence supports that there are many more cyclists in 2011.
Your implication that cyclists are getting more than their fair share is incorrect. Looking forward at your council term, the draft budget increases cycle-oriented funding to $24M over the next four years. Over the same period of time, the total transportation budget is $1231M. This means that 1.9% of the transportation budget is going to cycling. This allocation matches the cycling modal share from the mid 2000s, not from today.
It is important to point out who pays for municipal infrastructure. This is paid for by local landowners, regardless of their preferred form of transportation. There is no transfer of provincial or federal gas taxes to municipal infrastructure.
Cyclists pay the same tax rate as everyone else, yet their projects get proportionately less funding than they pay. In fact, cyclists are subsidizing infrastructure for other forms of transport, such as for motor vehicles.
I look forward to your response to this note.
– Alex deVries
November 23, 2011Posted by on
Yesterday, I gave an explanation of what bicycle facilities are in the current plan, and what’s not. Today I’ll compare this to other cities.
Here’s the short of it: the modal share for sporting events is far greater than other bike-friendly cities.
I’ll mention here that stats around traffic management are notoriously shaky. It’s really easy to come up with reasons why a number or report isn’t valid. This is especially true when it comes to modal share or anything having to do with biking; the methodology for counting bikes isn’t consistent. Even the definition of modal share isn’t consistent.
But this doesn’t mean that we should just ignore everything; there’s actually quite a bit of value in even rough research like this. Bear with me while we get into the expectations…
How much traffic?
Let’s work out a reasonable estimate for the amount of traffic to expect. The city’s doing the right thing in planning for the worst.
The most regular events expected are for 10,000, I’d guess for soccer or 67s games. The event size getting the most attention are CFL games. There’s typically one preseason game and nine regular games.
For the unnamed CFL team, I’m sure they’d want to max out the 24,000 seats, and I’m sure they have a business plan that says how many tickets they have to sell; I wish I could find it, it might not be available. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to sell out. If they fail, sure, they’ll go into receivership and taxpayers might get some of our money back. But we’d lose time and money, and we’d be looking at a huge empty stadium, like we are now.
I used to think 24,000 seats was preposterous, but then I found some raw data online and put them in a chart.
Here’s some conclusions I came to:
- Montreal’s stadium is too small; they sell out all the time, Some people see that as a good thing, I see it as missed revenue.
- Toronto’s stadium is too large, and given how much larger the city is than other CFL cities, they do quite poorly (particularly given the love the city normally shows for poorly performing teams).
- Ottawa filling a full house is certainly a possibility; they’d need to get all the fans from back in 2005 and get a few thousand more, which might be possible with the energy of launching a new team in a fancy new stadium. Maybe!
There’s also non-CFL events that are also large. They keep saying that we could get the Rolling Stones, but I’m imagining Justin Bieber or Rebecca Black. It’s all traffic to me.
And then there’s the regular commercial traffic. Just because the CFL is playing doesn’t mean other people won’t want to go see a movie. So I think their number of 25,000 is pretty likely to come up a dozen times a year. I’ll continue using this number in these articles.
And the whole thing could easily be worse. I’m not sure they’ve explained what happens if the CFL team is selling out, the 67s are playing also, Titanic II is premiering and there’s a snow storm. Plus there’s the Grey Cup every once in awhile, so I’d say one huge transportation day of 40,000 about once a year.
How many people will bicycle?
Let’s take it directly from the plan: 2-3% need to bike for the TDM goals to be met, from page 8 of the Traffic and Parking Management Plan from this July. For 25,000 people, it is 3%.
And if they don’t get enough people to bike in, more people will bring their cars or cram in buses, the harder it will be to get to the facility, etc.
Comparisons to other cities
Here’s what I’d have done, ideally: found every new stadium in a climate like ours, also with a similiar combination of retail, condos and hotels resuscitating a CFL team. We’d have year-round data that showed who was going to which facility and when, including a CFL team. There is no such other city. So I chose some that I can get some data for, which on its own is really hard. This won’t be exact, but I think you’ll see the pattern.
Here’s some detail on each of the cities.
- Population: 2,503,281 (2006 Census)
- City bicycle modal share: 1.7% (2006 Census)
- Stadium: Rogers Centre, 54,506 seats when configured for football
- Teams: Toronto Argonauts (CFL) and Toronto Blue Jays (Major League Baseball)
I emailed the stadium to try and find out how much bike parking they had, and what the utilization was. I was told there’s always lots empty. A friend and co-worker of mine, Mark, went through Google Streetview and noticed he could see pretty much all the spots (like this), which are on the outside. He counted about 120. I’m willing to move that up to 150 in case we missed some. That’s never more than 0.7%. Mind you, there is a lot of good transit nearby, so even though this is local, it might not be all that useful.
- Population: 3,280,000
- Bicycle modal share: 3.8% (2007 US Census)
- Stadium: Target Field, seats 39,504, opened in 2010
- Team: Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball
The Twins sell out, always. There’s lots of paid parking. There’s some nice bike trails that go right by the stadium and there’s a handy parking and route map.
The stadium has 400 bike parking spots, and run near capacity (but not past) for their games. I understand that many people drive nearby, then bike to the stadium from there. If the spots were to fill up, that’d be a bike modal share of 1%.
What I get from this:
- A city that has far more cyclists than we do, better connectivity and has an identical climate doesn’t get much past 1%.
- Population: 529,000 (2007 US Census)
- City bicycle modal share: 3.9%, second highest in the US (2007 US Census)
- Team: Portland Timers, Major League Soccer
- Stadium: JELD-WEN seats about 18,627
I know Portland pretty well, I’ve been there a dozen times to visit my employer’s parent company, Intel. I’ve biked there a handful of times, it is lovely.
JELD-WEN Field is located pretty much right downtown. They sell out pretty much always. Many people go to a game after work. This city also has an excellent light rail system called TriMet. The stadium provides about 105 fixed parking spots, and they close off neighbouring roads to provide 230 temporary spots during games. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) wrote up about some field research they did.
On Thursday, April 14th, 2011, the PBOT did a survey to see how many of the spots were used during the game. They came up with 185 on this dreary, rainy day. They had sold out at 18,627 seats, so about 1%.
It got better on Sunday, April 17th, 2011 at the afternoon. PBOT counted 385; excess bikes were locked to posts and railings. That’s about a 2.1% modal share for this sellout game. The weather was pretty much perfect: 16C and mostly cloudy. This is the largest number I have come across for a spectator sporting event in North America.
Here’s something cute: they reserve 250 spots for season ticket holders. And all of their parking is staffed by security during games.
Here’s what I get out of all this:
- even the most bicycle-friendly city in North America I know cannot get past 2% stadium bike modal share
- Population: 812129
- City bicycle modal share: 2% (2005 Origin-Destination Survey)
- Team: The Ottawa Somethings (Canadian Football League)
- Stadium: Lansdowne Park, to seat about 24,000
That’s there just for comparisons…
Let me make this short:
- the 2-3% target that the City expects has never been achieved anywhere else in North America.
- worse, no other city has a stadium modal share greater than that of the overall city
- we’ll have to do something pretty special to get there
Tomorrow: Doing something pretty special with parking to get more cyclists
November 22, 2011Posted by on
Why biking’s important to Lansdowne
I’m fervently in favour of making the best Lansdowne Park we can make. This means making the facilities enjoyable for everyone, as well as an economic success for businesses and taxpayers. Now, with that out of the way…
If it is difficult to get to the site, people won’t go. The businesses at the site are expecting a lot of people to go through their doors. They should be motivated to get as many customers there as possible. Transportation’s important for businesses.
You can get an awful lot more people into a site by bicycle. The plans acknowledge that cycling is important this way; it just doesn’t do very much to ensure that that happens. If we don’t address this, we won’t get the people onto the site we need to make this successful.
What cyclists are getting
Understanding what we’re getting requires a bit of research.
First, MCR only deals with the site itself, not with any other location. Here’s the best diagram that explains what facilities we can expect on the site. I know it is fuzzy, it is all we have.
- Paths: There’s various links through the park. The solid lines are ‘shared bicycle route’, the dotted ones are ‘optional bicycle route’. I’m not sure what optional means here. The inner loop is shared with motor vehicles.
- Parking: Racks are spotted around the site, the plan says in clumps of about 10 each. There’s no indication that they’re covered, let’s assume no. There’s no indication that these have any security cameras and no indication that these would be placed in visible areas to reduce theft. The good news is that there’s parking everywhere; the bad news is that you might have to hunt for a rack, and it might be in a desolate part. There’s about 300 spots available to the public.
There’s two other local developments:
- Fifth/Clegg Bridge: It isn’t a done deal, but significant addition to local cycling facilities is the link between Clegg and Fifth Ave. In some ways, the parking plan of Lansdowne depends on it, as it owes up all the parking in Old Ottawa East. This certainly makes it easier for cycling in the area.
- Bike lane in front of Lansdowne: CfSC’s lobbied for bike lanes during the Bank St. reconstruction, and managed to squeeze one in northbound on Bank St. from the Bank St. Bridge to Holmwood.
What we’re not getting
What’s missing is actually more important.
There’s nothing about missing links to get from the site to local bicycle routes.
The most important missing link is from the park to the NCC Rideau Canal Pathway. Along Queen Elizabeth Drive, there’s an eastern and western multipurpose path. The western one really goes nowhere; it connects nicely to the park, but then ends up at one end at Ralph, and at the other end at Fifth. In both cases, it ends somewhere you probably don’t want to go. The real gem is getting to the eastern side.
Right now, the crossing looks like this:
There’s no reasonable way to cross in heavy traffic.
I don’t know what changed; it used to be on the list of things to do, on page 2 from Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Planning, which says “Safe linkages across and along Queen Elizabeth Driveway”. And the Terms of References refers to it four separate times.
We’ve heard nothing from the NCC. And there’s no mention of it in any of the more recent material from September.
There’s also nothing in the plan about fixing up existing bike routes. The Glebe has a lot of stop signs, which are irritating for cyclists, and of questionable value. Using these residential streets is normally pretty good, but will be very busy when there are events. Riding between parked cars and motor vehicles is quite difficult. Overall, these just aren’t great routes.
And there’s also a set of just really bad intersections. The Bank St. Bridge’s problems are severe: it is too narrow to add lanes, and the sidewalks are heavily used. We’ve talked endlessly with staff about Bank and Wilton. We’ve heard nothing about these developments, and there’s been nothing in the drafts of the 2012 budget.
Finding all these documents can be hard, so here they are.
“Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Management Plan Technical Report “, dated June 2010. Weighing in at 195 pages, it tries to show that the use of this site is possible with the infrastructure available.
“Lansdowne Revitalization Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Management Plan Terms of Reference “, March 2010. A bit old, back when people were a little more optimistic.
“Traffic and Parking Management Plan DRAFT Final Report”, dated September 2011. 50 pages of recent info.
“Transportation Demand Management Plan Final Report” , dated September 2011. Provides some ideas on what bike parking looks like.
Tomorrow: comparing cycling facilities from elsewhere.