Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

How does the bike use expectation at Lansdowne compare?

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.

(Photo: Jesse Gwinn)

There’s also a good article specifically about how they used bicycles to thwart traffic snarls. It is worth a read.

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


8 responses to “How does the bike use expectation at Lansdowne compare?

  1. ottawa-cycle-chic November 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Interesting, and I guess slightly discouraging if they have an unrealistic target. It seems such a small number though. I’d like to think we could hit it.

  2. Pingback: Biking to Lansdowne | Ottawa Citizen

  3. balloonhed November 25, 2011 at 10:18 am

    good provoking research. this angle needs to be brought forth on planning efforts if we want a community that will remain relevant in the future (ie, as resources and wealth change and more people stop driving)

  4. Chris B November 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    … and who are th 2% that they see biking to 67’s games in the winter?

  5. Meddlesum1 November 30, 2011 at 9:48 am

    What I’m not seeing in your research is a comparison of how much car parking is being provided at these other stadiums. If you build a 25,000 seat stadium and provide a few thousand parking spots to go with it, you are likely not going to get 3% biking there. If however you only provide a thousand spots, maybe with nowhere to park you’ll see more people cycling. The pessimistic view is that people would avoid going to the games because there is nowhere to park, especially after the City gets through blocking off viable spots in the neighbourhood to appease the Glebe residents. As a cyclist myself, I of course am rooting for the optimistic view.

    • alexthepuffin December 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      You’re right, Mister.

      A complete comparison would include proximity to transit, parking descriptions (cost, availability, proximity) and other factors.

      I’m not sure where Lansdowne fits on the continuum. Do its 1000 paid spots + several thousand free walking distance spots make for enough cheap parking that people won’t bother? How does that pay off when the local traffic is jammed so you can’t get to them?

      Portland, BTW, has very little parking onsite parking, but paid parking is distributed throughout. Minneapolis is one huge parking lot (big enough that people often park and then bike). Toronto has terrible car parking, but great public transit. Hamilton has actually zero bike parking, but lots of car parking.

      I doubt the city will make any changes to the parking lot called The Glebe, despite complaints.

  6. Charles A-M December 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I doubt it affects the bottom line, but the comparison between Ottawa and other cities of expected bike share to an event compared to the share for the whole city needs to–perhaps–take into account that Ottawa’s modal share for cycling is artificially lower due to our suburbs and rural area being part of our municipality (i.e. Mississauga doesn’t figure into Toronto’s numbers). So if you took only the part of Ottawa that corresonded to the other cities (i.e. within the greenbelt, or maybe just downtown core), there might be less of a discrepancy. Of course, it likely still wouldn’t be twice of the modal share expected at games that we see in other cities, and of course if Ottawa doesn’t build bike parking, they may not come.

  7. Pingback: A summary of the Lansdowne bike situation, an open house, what’s next… « Alex Bikes

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