Monday, April 7, 2014

False Sense of Security

This morning this Tweet appeared in my Twitter Feed:
After several replies and a bit of "lively" debate, this response:
These two Tweets illustrate just how far cycling advocacy still has to go in Ottawa. A city that was awarded Ontario's first "Gold Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition" (pdf) Less then two years ago.
Those were heady times, the Laurier Bike lane the cities first protected cycle lane was in full swing, very popular, successful by all metrics. The Streets, Main and Churchill were approved for cycle tracks better sidewalks and status as "Complete Streets". Heady times, momentum and political will were on the side of those of us advocating for "Livable Cities" and better cycling infrastructure. Since then it has been a steady slide back to the 1960's Parkways, Expressways and wider roads. Which brings us to the first Tweet: Here is St. Patrick Street via Google maps:
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Not only is this street the only connection between Lowertown and Vanier, it also connects Quebec's highways 50 and 5 to the Vanier Parkway. This is a busy 4 lane divided road, and while I can't say it is popular with cyclists it is one of only three spots to cross the Rideau River north of the Queensway. East of Cobourg St. it has been marked as part of the East-West Bikeway. West of Cobourg St. to Lowertown and Ottawa's Market, popular destinations, there has been no plans to accommodate cyclists. @VanierCycles has been working hard to connect Vanier to the rest of Ottawa's active transport plan. As well as make active transport a priority with in Vanier. St. Patrick is an obvious, if difficult, cycling connection. Unfortunatly the road surface is quite narrow as can be seen in this google maps Street view:

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As you can see not a lot of room on the existing road bed. Ignore the grass buffering the sidewalk new construction is not being considered here. No this would be a paint only project, and to accommodate a painted bike lane the road will need to be over 8 meters wide. City Engineers are telling VanierCycles a panted lane is not possible, but maybe Sharrows. Now, I am a confident cyclist I like Sharrows but they are completely inappropriate here. This is a road designed for 80 km/h officially 50 km/h. Volume is high most of the day, not a Sharrows candidate but city engineers don't want to provide a "narrow" bike lane.

Which brings us to @Centretowner's Tweet:

This is I imagine the exact thought process of the city engineers; why provide a false sense of security with a sub-optimal bike lane. This is logical, a narrow bike lane can be host to all sorts of problems, such substandard facilities will not appeal to tentative potential cyclists. The question is will they provide a "false sense of security". My unscientific personal observations is, no. Narrow substandard painted bike lanes appeal to a select few. Many people on bikes will continue to chose to ride the sidewalks or avoid the route entirely. The few who do use the route will be confident cyclists, who while not needing the painted lane, prefer that it is there. No narrow substandard bike lanes don't provide a false sense of security, they provide a little bit of security to those who need it least and none to those that need it most.
St. Patrick requires grade separated protected cycle tracks. Traffic volumes and speeds dictate this. The City engineers should say this. They should say that they don't have funding to do this at this time but here is what we can do to get there. Not offer the worst backwards "solution" available. A City that claims to care about cyclists, livable environments and core neighbourhoods wouldn't do this.
That Ottawa has says a lot.  

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