Ottawa bike politics.
Tonight, there’s going to be an open house at Carleton University to talk about proposed changes to Bronson Ave. If you can’t come, or you want it explained in a different way, look at the diagrams below.
The problem is that cyclists choose to take a route that’s dangerous. Why? Because the alternatives are simply terrible.
Here’s some details that I expect to see, based on my participation at a few related advisory committee meetings. The response to the situation from the city is remarkable. Read about it at my last post.
Here’s the situation for northbound bicycle traffic today:
This is dangerous. The facilities encourage bad behaviour.
The primary problem to deal with is how to separate cyclists from fast motor vehicles. Here’s a summary of the changes proposed:
Here’s the routing that will be proposed for cyclists:
(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:
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.
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:
Here’s an overview of the recommendations of the report and what they chose to implement when they were doing construction around 2009:
|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.
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.
On October 18th, a cyclist died in a collision with a car on Bronson Ave in Ottawa. The police said she was going the wrong way on Bronson, which is probably true. David Reevely described some of the problems better than I could have. Really, it’s a shitty place to have to bike.
I have some suggestions to make it better:
Here’s a diagram of the current lane arrangement:
Here’s a diagram that shows how I’d reconfigure the existing space:
The sacrifice here is that the on- and offramps to Colonel By Dr. would be shorter. That might mean that traffic would back up during the congestion. But I wonder how often that really happens.
Another downside is that in some parts (particularly between Findlay and Holmwood), the median might have to be moved to make room for a new path. A median is intended to reduce the chance of head-on collisions. But I’d argue that allocating all the space to motor vehicles puts vulnerable road users at risk. And why should drivers be protected, but cyclists not?
These stories normally get a lot of media attention. What’s different is that city appears to be having an immediate reaction to it. I’ve never seen that before. Citizens for Safe Cycling will be at the Carleton Graduate Student Association (GSA) town hall on Nov. 6. Councillor David Chernushenko’s also putting a committee together to talk about this?
It is good that the city’s looking at this. But does this mean there’ll be a change to address this? Not soon, anyway. And then it’ll inconvenience drivers, which is very rare for the city.