Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

How the city’s attitude about Bronson has changed

Bronson speed limit

(This is part of a series on articles on Bronson. Friday, read about how the posted speed limits are wrong.)

They’ve done a U-turn. The city identified problems on Bronson in 2006 and ignored most of the recommendations in an unreleased report (until now). The changes didn’t do anything to deal with problems like speed. But their response after a recent tragedy is remarkable.

The death of cyclist Krista Johnson in October, 2012 drew attention to the traffic problems on Bronson between the Rideau River and Holmwood. Most of it pertains to speed, but some is also the lack of facilities for cyclists.

In relatively short order, with Councillor Chernushenko’s help, the city put together a group of city engineers, planners and affected community groups (I sit on both the GCA-TC and the board of Citizens for Safe Cycling). This is the only time I’ve been invited to a committee formed as a result of a fatality. The response of the city was phenomenal. Finally, we can see the city doing something progressive which prioritizes sustainable transportation.

In our second meeting a couple of weeks ago we were shown some ideas of what the city is thinking.  I don’t feel right in sharing their draft diagrams, but here’s a taste:

  • cross-rides across Bronson at Brewer Way
  • creation of a bi-directional path on the west side of Bronson
  • signalled crossing across Bronson for cyclists and pedestrians, just south of the Canal bridge
  • removal of turning lanes to make space for separated bike lanes over the bridge
This shows what a cross ride might look like, where the intersection of the pedestrian path from Carleton crosses Bronson to meet up with Brewer Way.

This shows what a cross ride might look like, where the intersection of the pedestrian path from Carleton crosses Bronson to meet up with Brewer Way.

I blogged about some of my own ideas a few months ago.

I have a set of concerns, mostly that the intent is about separation, not about reducing speed. But it’s probably better to wait to see what they present to the public.

Here’s the details of the open house:

Bronson Operational and Safety Review Open House

February 27th, 6:30-8:30pm

4th floor of the University Centre at Carleton University

If you’re interested in cycling safety, I do hope you can come. You might be surprised.

But the history is miserable…

The city knew there were speed problems where the death occurred and studied what to do. They ignored most of the report, and the speed never changed. That report has never been put online, until now.

In 2006, Syntectics Transportation Consultants was retained to prepare an In-Service Road Safety Review (ISSR). They focused on four problems:

  1. Excessive speed
  2. Rear-end collisions at signalized intersections
  3. Pedestrians and cyclists displaying unsafe behaviour
  4. Road configurations for on- and off-ramps of Colonel By Drive

Here’s an overview of the recommendations of the report and what they chose to implement when they were doing construction around 2009:

Title Recommendation Implemented?
Road changes to reduce speed At the north end, create gateway features such as pedestrian refuges or surface treatment to visually highlight any change in conditions No
Complete the curb-and-gutter installation on the east side of Bronson Yes
Reduce lane widths No
Short-term (2006-2009): construct a landscaping barrier on the median No
Long term (beyond 2009): Landscape the corridor boulevards and/or fence lines to provide a more urban atmosphere. No
Pedestrian signals at Brewer Way Short term (2006-2009): Adjust timing of flashers northbound approaching Brewer Way Unclear
Long term (beyond 2009): After speeds are lowered, remove flashers northbound approaching Brewer Way. No
New pedestrian countdown signals Yes, installed in 2008
Relocate northbound transit stop from the south side of Brewer Way to the north side (if consistent with City policy) Staff were to have discussions with OC Transpo with regards to implementing this measure.
Reflective bollards across the entrance near Brewer Way to further convey that access is provided by cyclists/pedestrians only. No
Change posted speed After first round of changes, post 60km/hr speed zone midway of Rideau River Bridge No
After it has been shown that speed has been lowered, post a 50km/h speed sign midpoint of the Rideau River Bridge. No
Pedestrian/Cyclist Education Co-ordinate an ongoing pedestrian/cyclist education campaign with Carleton University No evidence
Request high-profile police enforcement targeting violations by pedestrians/cyclists at Bronson Avenue and Brewer Way No evidence
Pedestrian Facilities Construct paved paths on the west side of Bronson Yes
Construct concrete sidewalks to connect path from Carleton University to other sidewalks. No
Traffic Controls Improve legibility and placement of guide and information signs No
Post a “No Stopping” zone throughout the study area Yes
Improvements to Colonel By ramps Designate the northbound curb lane N of Sunnyside / Campus Ave as right turn lane. Yes
Extend the island between the S-E,W and E,W-N ramps at Colonel By Drive to terminate the curb lane. No
Install “Yield to pedestrians” signs at ramps Yes
Pavement friction Increase pavement friction along the corridor Yes, installed in June 2006

The things I think would have really made a difference are the gateway features, narrowing lanes and landscaping. Instead, they installed a gutter and added a turning lane.

It is sad.

About the report

The report has never been put online, but it is a public document. A staff member scanned the document in and gave it to me and I am posting it here.

It’s too bad that more people didn’t have access to the report. Perhaps there would have been more information when the issue came up at council in May, 2009. The engineers seem to have just ignored most of the report and focused on car-oriented changes.


7 responses to “How the city’s attitude about Bronson has changed

  1. Diane D February 7, 2013 at 8:05 am

    It’s unfortunate that somebody lost her life on Bronson but we shouldn’t forget that she was cycling in the wrong lane – going north in the south lane (disobeying the rules of the road). I want to see more emphasis on cycling education. Before you pile on me I am a CAN-BIKE II trained cyclist and a former chair of the RCAC. Plus I’ve been riding a bike for 20 years.

  2. alexthepuffin February 7, 2013 at 8:58 am

    It does seem she was biking the wrong way, but that doesn’t excuse bad infrastructure.

    We should ask ourselves *WHY* someone would do that: there’s no attractive alternative. Riding on University Drive, crossing three lanes of traffic to take a left turn up Bronson, then having to deal with 80km/hr traffic? No. Humans won’t do that. And they don’t, read the report. Rule-violating pedestrians and cyclists is a known problem.

    It’s hard to disagree with cycling education, it is one tool we can use to encourage more cycling and safe cycling. It’s disappointing that vehicular cyclists spend more time complaining against infrastructure than actually lobbying for education.

    If people really care about my biking credentials, they can look it up.

    • Kevin O'Donnell (@ODonnell_K) February 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Traffic engineers also score “rule violations” when considering car movements. Breaking the rules because “hey, that just isn’t reasonable” is a general behaviour – drivers do it, bikers do it, and pedestrians do it most of all. That’s why “no right turn” signs only work so well to stop cars from taking a turn, and making the road one-way works better. Drivers will break one rule, but not the other.

      Designing for safety is important, and measuring why people are breaking the rules needs to play into it.

    • DianeD February 9, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Don’t disagree with finding out why she was cycling the wrong way but there are bike lanes in both directions on Bronson. The infrastructure may be considered inconvenient by some but I don’t believe it is inherently dangerous.

      As an aside I read that the safety person (can’t remember his official title just now) is a CAN BIKE instructor and if this is the case then why aren’t CAN BIKE courses being offered to students, staff and faculty at Carleton and in particular teaching them to safely navigate the bridge.

      I also made an offer to the councillor to lead a community ride through the area but it was in the fall and I am still willing to do so when the weather is a bit more favourable to cycling.

      • DianeD February 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

        Forgot to add that sidewalk cycling is not a solution to this issue.

      • alexthepuffin February 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        I don’t know who the ‘safety person’ is that you’re referring to.

        Infrastructure is never dangerous, what’s dangerous is how people use it. There’s no attractive infrastructure to use right now so people are misusing it. Let’s fix the infrastructure to encourage good behaviour.

        If you’d read the report I posted (or even the table I’d put together), you’d see there was a specific mention of an education campaign. I saw approval and support from Carleton University representatives to put this kind of thing together at the last meeting. I think it will help, but only a portion of cyclists will attend.

  3. Jose February 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    It is to my understanding that she was in the bike lane, if this is true her direction is meaningless as what direction you are facing does not stop injury or death. We can spend all day pointing fingers but we need to focus on fixing the problem…..Not debating it.

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