What about local streets?

The City of Ottawa’s New Draft Transportation Master Plan (TMP) has made quite a shift. Instead of recognizing cycling routes as only those roads identified in the Master Plan, it now recognizes that all new collectors and arterial roads will now have cycle tracks and protected intersections and all existing Collectors and Arterial roads will be upgraded to separated cycling facilities. 

Written by Daniel Domen.

TMP POLICY 7-1 Improve and Expand the Cycling Network

In line with the new Official Plan policy that all roads in the Urban area and Villages are part of the City’s ultimate cycling network (with the exception of highways and transitways), cycle tracks and protected intersections are to be provided on all new Collector, Major Collector, and Arterial roads. Existing Collectors, Major Collectors, and Arterials (including bridge spans) are to be upgraded to include separated cycling facilities at the time of redevelopment, reconstruction, and where feasible during asset renewal.

Excellent! But what about local streets? Nothing.

The City’s position is that local streets will be designed to 30km/hr and therefore will not require any separated cycling facilities. Yet the city would like to design their infrastructure for ‘interested but concerned’ cyclists (TMP Policy 7-4). Based on data from the Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18, for Interested but Concerned cyclists the typical travel speed is 10–25 km/h (OTM Book 18 Pg 13). If you take the slowest cyclists, for example children, that would be a speed difference of 20 km/hr. I don’t know many drivers who would want to wait behind you while you travel 10 km/hr.

But on top of that it isn’t always about speed. The main concern is just about volume and how busy the road is with people parking, entering and exiting entrances, etc. A good example is that the City wants to encourage children to cycle and walk to school. (TMP Policy 11-2) But what happens when their direct access to the school is a local street? Well, they are supposed to bike on it even though there are parked cars on the road, there are cars pulling up to drop off their children, perhaps there are school buses dropping people off. It is a pretty busy place on the road. I don’t even have children and I don’t want children to be cycling there. But the city does recognize these risks but only for children who walk to school. For those walking, they will get sidewalks on both sides of the local street if it provides access to a school. The city even recognizes in the TMP that adding sidewalks has increased the amount of children walking to school (TMP Policy 11-2).

So if we want to increase cycling to schools and among children, and allow all local streets to be used by all users, then the City also needs to provide segregated cycling facilities on some of them. We do agree that not every local street will require cycling infrastructure, some will have such a low volume that it is not required. But where the vehicle volume causes someone not to take that route by bicycle because of concerns for their safety, is where these facilities need to be added. This is even recognized in the TMP in Policy 2-2.

TMP POLICY 2-2 Design Streets for People of All Ages, Abilities, and Backgrounds

A key aspect of designing for all ages, abilities, and backgrounds is recognizing the importance of safety, both real and perceived. There are many factors affecting the safety of a trip for different user groups, such as snow and ice clearing, vehicular speeds, and traffic volumes. If a person’s travel choices are impacted due to safety concerns, then their access to destinations has been restricted.

So let us take a look at two Community Design Plans (CDP) that have been developed for areas of the City, to show where we think local street segregated cycling infrastructure is required. The Kanata North and Mer Bleue Expansion Area CDPs. We first show where cycling infrastructure will be put in these plans based on the current TMP, in blue, and also show the pathways connections in these communities, in bright green. The second image shows which local streets should have segregated cycling infrastructure, in red. To provide safe access to destinations such as to schools, to local pathway connections and along local streets that will have elevated volumes such as those that connect to collectors and arterials.

What would Bike Ottawa like to see added to the TMP? That segregated cycling infrastructure should be added to local streets when required just like sidewalks.

That segregated cycling infrastructure shall be provided on Local streets where required to create continuous and direct connections to destinations such as public transit stops or stations, schools, public parks, pathways, recreation centres, public buildings and institutions and commercial areas. Where a Local street provides a direct connection between collectors and/or arterials, or where the traffic volume is so high that a cyclist’s travel choices are impacted due to safety concerns.

So how do we achieve this? By speaking up!

Write to City staff who are handling the TMP update by emailing them at TMPupdate@ottawa.ca.

Contact your local Councillor. If you know of a local road that will require segregated infrastructure because you feel unsafe using it or you feel unsafe letting your child use it, then let them know. Don’t remain silent.