Budget 2021: Some progress, but no bold moves

Ottawa City Council is expected to pass its 2021 Budget on Wednesday, December 9th. The city will spend approximately $8.9 million (M) on dedicated bike infrastructure – down significantly from the 2015-2018 years when the city was budgeting $20M in “Cycling and Pedestrian Plans.”

This funding will mainly come through:

  • Cycling Facilities Program ($5M)
  • Cycling and Pedestrian Major Structures ($2.6M)
  • Funding for missing pedestrian and cyclist links ($1.3M)

While there are some wins for bike infrastructure in Ottawa, sprawl, wider roads, and induced demand still drive Budget funding decisions. The City’s Draft Official Plan states that by 2046 “most trips will be made by sustainable transportation”, but the predictable way to get bike infrastructure built is still when the city builds a new road or has to replace the infrastructure under an old one, meaning that space for automotive traffic continues to grow, making it harder to shift more trips to active transportation. 

In addition to dedicated funding, some additional bike infrastructure will be funded through road, wastewater and sewer infrastructure renewal. Here are the projects currently in the works: 

  • The city is finalizing the design for the northern section of Main Street, Greenfield Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue and Colonel By Drive between Hawthorne  and Graham Avenues. Main Street and Greenfield Avenue will be rebuilt with raised bike lanes, while Hawthorne Avenue will have a segregated bike lane heading west. A bidirectional MUP will be added to Colonel By between Hawthorne and Graham Avenues to access the contraflow bike lane on Graham. (Note, the Main street missing link of sharrows between Hawthorne and Graham are not included in the plan currently).
  • Work continues on the functional design for the rebuild of Bank Street between Riverside Drive and Ledbury Avenue. Raised bike tracks will be built along the length of the route, providing people on bikes with much more convenient access to local amenities. Construction is expected to begin in 2022-23.
  • Planning also continues for the renewal of Montreal Road between North River Road and St. Laurent Boulevard, including raised bike tracks between the Vanier Parkway and Saint Laurent Boulevard.  

Other infrastructure projects that are in the planning phases, will also include bike infrastructure: 

  • The city will start planning and design for the twinning of the Airport Parkway between Hunt Club and Brookfield Roads, including a multi-use path (MUP) on the west side of the Parkway. 
  • Work will begin to widen Strandherd Road to four lanes between Maravista and Jockvale Roads, including bike infrastructure. 
  • The design for widening Bank Street between Leitrim and Dun Skipper Roads will also include bike infrastructure.

In addition, the city has budgeted $2M to implement permanent, engineered traffic calming measures on existing local and collector roads, and $4M for activities under the Road Safety Action Plan. 

Safety Still A Concern

While the budget speaks to many things we can expect, it’s silence in other areas. In September 2020, the city released a list of 29 high risk intersections throughout the city for people who walk, roll, and bike. The budget does not provide funding for any of these projects, which should be a high priority for safety on our streets.

Also not included in the Budget are projects that were slated to start in 2021, including adding segregated bike lanes to Albert and Slater Streets downtown, and extending the O’Connor Street bikeway northwards from Laurier Avenue West to connect with the McKenzie Avenue bikeway. These projects have been delayed until at least 2023 due to  funding pressures related to COVID-19

The Budget also leaves rates for on-street parking and city parking garages unchanged at their 2019 levels, while transit fares are expected to increase by 2.5%. 

The true intentions of any organization are found in its budget. If the City is serious about a shift to sustainable transportation, funding for active transportation needs to increase to ensure that safe infrastructure is in place to facilitate it. We will not grow the modal share without it.