It’s change we don’t like
On July 10, the city of Ottawa opened the Laurier Avenue bike lane, the first of its kind in Ontario. Unlike other designated bike lanes in the city, the Laurier bike lanes are physically separated from motor vehicles by barriers such as curbs, plastic poles, and parked cars. The $1.3-million pilot program is part of a city council initiative to make Ottawa more cycling-friendly.
The bike lanes have been met with opposition from various groups within the community. Businesses located on Laurier Avenue expressed concerns during the construction of the lanes, as the project required the removal of 122 parking spots on the street—prime places for shoppers to park. Some businesses have also experienced difficulties receiving deliveries as the cement curbs lining the lanes block access to store entrances. The limited access to sidewalks has also elicited complaints from Para Transpo users and emergency vehicle drivers.
These legitimate concerns have community members questioning whether the existing infrastructure of Ottawa’s downtown core is able to support a segregated bike lane on such a traffic-heavy street. However, isn’t it also necessary to ask whether our city—with its rising population, congested roads, and persistent transit woes—can afford to scrap the project?
The city of Ottawa’s best response to growing transportation challenges is its proposed light rail transit system, a project touted as the future of clean, sustainable transportation in the city. But these plans have been in the works for years, and transit users will have to wait until 2018—if ever—for the completion of the $2.1-billion project.
In the meantime, city council’s support for—and follow-through of—the segregated bike lane project not only demonstrates its commitment to making Ottawa a cycling-friendly city, but it presents daily commuters with a feasible alternative to motor vehicle use. Concerns with public transportation aside, the city has lent its support to an initiative that reduces air pollution and promotes an active lifestyle.
There are growing pains associated with any change made to a city’s infrastructure, particularly one that affects traffic and transportation. Last week, the city of Ottawa proposed the addition of four parking spaces for those with accessibility permits and 23 pickup and drop-off zones for Para Transpo and emergency vehicles in response to the aforementioned concerns regarding accessibility. City officials have demonstrated that they are willing to implement further changes to the bike lanes if necessary—it is a pilot project, after all.
The Laurier Avenue bike lane is a welcome challenge to the way we view sustainable transportation in Ottawa. And while city staff adapts the bike lanes to the needs of community members, we too will adapt so our daily routines can coexist with this new initiative.