Guarantee the green: Compromise city

Time for an update regarding are efforts to push to end revert reds and guarantee the green light for crossing the street.

At the end of the January 26th Transportation Committee the motion to end all revert reds was deferred. Many councillors were concerned with revert reds, seeing the dangers, but were concerned with the “any and all” portion of the motion (removing revert reds entirely from any and all signals). Questions around why staff could not look at more specific locations, at priority bike crossings, for example were posed, could we not try those intersections to begin with?

Other councillors were still in support of “education” on the yellow dots (the dots you sometimes see at crossings, sometimes, but not always!). For the record, we do not believe these sorts of campaigns are effective for people on bikes, just as they are not for drivers, and people who use sidewalks. Safe Systems means design that is intuitive to the user, and should not need extra signage. How’s that going?

So, where are we now? Bike Ottawa has been working with councillors to try to find a compromise to the situation, and changing “any and all” intersections. You can read our latest efforts to persuade those councillors who are still unsure of the correct course of action (it’s to guarantee the green light, just in case they are reading this post…).

We hope this compromise, though not ideal, is a place to start, where we can see that guaranteeing the green light at intersections will not throw the entire traffic system into disarray. Instead, it’ll prioritize safety for those most vulnerable on our streets. The goal the City says it has in it’s Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, and Active Transportation goals.

Let’s make those words a reality.

You can help by emailing your councillor to vote to support this compromise “pilot project.”

Let’s not lose any more lives on our streets.

Dear Councillors,

Over the course of the December 1, 2021 Transportation Committee meeting, and January 9, 2022 City Council meeting, it has become clear that there are unresolved concerns around the potential impact of eliminating red reverts to improve safety for people on bikes at intersections. For a reminder, here is a video highlighting the danger of red reverts for people on bikes:

Bike Ottawa would like to propose a focussed pilot project where red reverts would be suspended at a smaller number of intersections with higher volumes of people on bikes between July 2022 and July 2024. This pilot project would enable the city to better understand the safety and operational impacts of guaranteeing a green light for cyclists when the sensor is triggered. 

We would like to propose the following intersections for the pilot project:

  • Intersections where dedicated cycling facilities, including cycle tracks, cross rides, bikeways, multiple-use pathways (MUPs), “jug handle” turns, painted/buffered bike lanes, contra-flow lanes, bike boxes, and left-turn bike boxes exist; 
  • Intersections located on designated local bike routes, spine bike routes, and any other identified bikeways in the Ottawa Cycling Plan; 
  • Intersections with a no-right-on-red restriction; 
  • Intersections that have been identified in the Cycling Safety Review of High-Volume Intersections as those that are unsafe for cyclists; and 
  • Intersections not identified as part of bike routes in the Ottawa Cycling Plan used by more than 250 cyclists in a 12-hour period from April to September. 

Focussing on these intersections would:

  • Create an immediate safety benefit for people on bikes. Many of these routes are heavily used, with up to 4,000 riders a day crossing intersections such as the MUP crossing at Booth Street and the War Museum, or up to 3,600 people on bikes using the Laurier Avenue West segregated bike lanes per day to cross Metcalfe Street during 2019.
  • Give the city the opportunity to improve its understanding of the impacts of removing red reverts, while improving safety for people on bikes; 
  • Be consistent with the 2020 Road Safety Action Plan commitment that “Red Reverts [will be] eliminated at signals where multi-use pathways and cross-rides are present”; and,
  • Improve safety at the highest risk intersections for people on bikes as identified in the Cycling Safety Review of High-Volume Intersections undertaken by the city.

This ‘guaranteed green light’ pilot project focuses on locations with high volumes of people on bicycles. It should greatly improve safety at these locations while minimising disruption for traffic on main streets.

I am happy to discuss this proposal with you at your convenience.


Érinn Cunningham

President, Bike Ottawa