Strandherd Drive widening project

Bike Ottawa recently learned that the plans for the Strandherd Drive Widening project were altered to include a slip lane. This modification came as a surprise to many, as this slip lane was not in the plans shown at the last public meeting on the project. We are also concerned with the modification itself, since it unnecessarily endangers vulnerable road users; we therefore wrote a letter to the City of Ottawa to object to this modification.

Please find this letter below:

To: Josée Vallée, P.Eng, Design and Construction – Municipal, City of Ottawa
Via email:
Date: April 15, 2021

Subject: Strandherd Drive Widening Project

Dear Mme Vallée:
We write to express our concern with the Strandherd Drive widening project, and specifically with the “slip lane” in the most current plans for the intersection of Strandherd Drive and Borrisokane Road.

First of all, Bike Ottawa objects to the process by which the slip lane was added to the plans for the Strandherd Widening. This slip lane was not included in the plans presented during the last public consultations earlier held on this project, but found its way into the plans at some point afterward. We believe that the City’s planning process should be transparent and the plans for projects not be modified in such a drastic fashion after consultation is finished. Changing plans without the knowledge of residents erodes their trust.

Secondly, Bike Ottawa is concerned with the inclusion of a slip lane at all. The basic principle of slip lanes is to facilitate automobile movement through an intersection at speed. However, the marginal increase in convenience for drivers that slip lanes afford comes directly at the cost of the safety of the most vulnerable road users. Specifically, slip lanes encourage drivers to direct their attention to oncoming car traffic from the left, ignoring all other road users approaching from the right, including those walking, using mobility assistive devices, or riding bicycles.

The basic principle of protected intersections, by contrast, is to protect these vulnerable road users. One way they do this is by encouraging vehicles turning right at an intersection to reduce their speed. The correlation of automobile speed with pedestrian safety is well-known: the U. S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, cites data that “about 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, about 40 percent for vehicles traveling 30 mph, about 80 percent for vehicles traveling 40 mph, and nearly 100 percent for speeds over 50 mph.” In brief, the danger to pedestrians of automobiles increases exponentially relative to automobile speed. Another way protected intersections protect vulnerable road users is by directing drivers’ attention to these road users as they cross the intersection. The slip lane added to these plans removes both of these safety features.

Prioritization of vehicle speed over the safety of vulnerable road users also runs counter to the City of Ottawa’s own guiding documents. The Transportation Master Plan (2013), for example, describes both pedestrians and cyclists as “group[s] of vulnerable road users that warrants special action” (40, 50) and specifically mentions intersections as a location where the City seeks to “reduc[e] the frequency and severity of preventable collisions involving pedestrians” (40). This Plan also states that “[m]aximizing the safety and security of all road users is a fundamental objective of the City” (77). Similarly, one of the goals listed in the Ottawa Pedestrian Plan (2013) is “a safe city,” which is described as an “environment in which people feel safe and comfortable walking” (3). This plan therefore opposes some of the City’s most fundamental transportation-planning principles.

In light of the above, Bike Ottawa urges the removal of this slip lane from the plans for the intersection of Strandherd Drive and Borrisokane Road. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

William van Geest
Nelly Leonidis
Advocacy Working Group, Bike Ottawa