Ottawa bike politics.
The City’s been planning on widening Bronson north of the 417 for awhile, which would further narrow sidewalks and encourage yet more motor vehicle traffic. The city announced on Wednesday that they were abandoning those plans. On the surface, it seems pretty good. But I’m more cynical.
Here’s the stated reason in an email from Deputy City Manager Nancy Schepers on Wednesday to city Councillor Diane Holmes, forwarded widely later:
During design of Bronson Avenue it was realized there would be impacts on existing Hydro plant in moving to a wider pavement width of 14 metres, but the extent of these impacts were not completely known until very recently. Relocation of the plant is challenging and costly for certain portions of the roadway.
Based on this recent information and further consideration of the very constrained corridor, location of adjacent buildings (including stairs, porches and entrances), varying road widths and sidewalk widths at pinch points, it has been determined that maintaining the existing width is acceptable.
I understand that the existing hydro posts are already too close to the sidewalk. They don’t have to be moved as they’re grandfathered in, but if they widen the street the posts would have to be moved, taking the place of the added width. So the stated reason for cancelling the project is that it violates a technical rule.
I’m a big supporter of my Rescue Bronson friends, but I worry that some community groups and their leaders see this as the victory (like Eric Darwin). And it isn’t. Not completely, anyway. There’s no acknowledgement that the transportation master plan said this would be a bad idea, or the concerns from Councillor Holmes or the community were listened to. Instead, they stuck with the technical. This leaves the community groups in some sort of limbo.
Community hero Charles Akben-Marchand asked me if I thought maybe the community had influence, but they just didn’t acknowledge it. It is probably true. Perhaps that was a big part of the decision, but they didn’t dare acknowledge it. I think everyone’s paranoid about fuelling a cars vs. everyone else battle. They can’t be seen as violating The Golden Rule.
A real victory is if they’d said they’d listened.