Op-Ed

Photo: CC, Dylan Passmore.

Pedestrian-friendly options in Ottawa will add economic benefits

Downtown Ottawa doesn’t exactly scream pedestrian friendly, does it? Between small sidewalks and drivers who think stop signs are just warnings, downtown is a place firmly built for cars.

New bike lanes are the beginning of changing that, and with similar efforts invested in alternative forms of transportation, downtown Ottawa can become a better place for all, while reducing the City’s carbon footprint and increasing the revenues of businesses close to these developments.

The City will receive $325,000 to develop new bike lanes along Mackenzie Avenue, the street along Major’s Hill Park and the American embassy. These bike lanes are more than just painted on lines, as they will use concrete pillars to create a physically separate space for cyclists to travel in.

Bike lanes have been proven to increase revenue for businesses on streets with the lanes in cities like New York. These separated bike lanes can also increase a business’ base of potential customers, as people feel more confident about riding their bikes through busy streets.

Ottawa has already firmly committed itself to the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project to provide another way of bringing commuters into downtown while reducing cars on the road, and this is another step in the right direction.

Making downtown easier to manage for cyclists and others who don’t commute by car makes it easier for more people to come into and enjoy downtown. This means more money being spent by Ottawa consumers, which allows businesses to grow and become better, in turn providing more incentives for people to come downtown.

Ottawa should also seriously consider closing parts of the ByWard Market to cars either permanently or for small periods of time on a trial basis. Cities around the world have seen great success from closing all or some of their streets to car travel.

Along with the cycling lanes, car-free days is another idea that should be considered to make downtown more pedestrian friendly.

Car-free days are increasingly popular in major cities, and provide not only a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also serve as a chance to reconnect citizens with other travel methods. From Bogotá to Paris these ‘Car-Free Days’ are becoming more and more common—it’s time for Ottawa to join in.

Through these efforts Ottawa, and other cities can change their downtown to become a space shared and enjoyed by more residents.