You may have seen or heard that Ottawa's Transportation Committee voted unanimously in favour of a Bank Street Bridge redesign plan. The plan will now go to Council for a final vote. At the Transportation Committee meeting, chair Sue Neill made a submission on behalf of OSCA's Traffic and Safety Committee. Below is the full text.
Councillor Tierney, Councillor Menard, Members of the Transportation Committee.
I am speaking to you as Chair of the Old Ottawa South Community Association (OSCA) Traffic and Safety Committee.
First, I would like to thank Councillor Menard and his team for advancing the discussion on the Bank Street Canal Bridge to this point.
This bridge forms a critical link between our community of Old Ottawa South and the Glebe and Lansdowne Park, and provides a direct route to the downtown core. Residents of Old Ottawa South are heavy users of the Bank Street Canal Bridge and therefore take a great interest in the proposed safety enhancements.
In Old Ottawa South, we know the bridge and its traffic patterns well. We have been advocates for greater safety on the bridge - particularly for cyclists who, under the existing configuration, now share one northbound and one southbound lane with motorists, trucks and buses. As noted in the report before you, because of this dangerous situation, cyclists often take to the sidewalks thereby endangering the safety of pedestrians.
The OSCA Traffic and Safety Committee believes that segregated spaces for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles provide the safest and most sensible bridge configuration. And we are not alone! 82% of respondents to Councillor Menard’s recent survey either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement “I think it is important to give all road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists) separated space” (see question 7).
Our preferred design is therefore one which gives separate space to each of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles. It would see two lanes (one northbound and one southbound) for vehicles, two bike lanes at the same grade as the motorized vehicle lanes and separate raised sidewalks. This is described in Alternate Design #5 in Document 1 of the report. It should be noted that 66% of respondents to the survey agreed with this alternate design over the design proposed in the report. Only 32% supported the design recommended in this report.
We do not agree that the proposed raised multi-use pathways (MUPs) on each side of the bridge for the combined use of cyclists and pedestrians are safe. Perhaps pedestrians and cyclists can co-exist in the same space in areas where numbers of users are small but not on busy thoroughfares like the Bank Street Canal Bridge. Cyclists either wobble because the hill is too steep or travel much too fast (especially on the lengthy downhill sections) to share the space with - adults with shopping bags, parents with children, seniors, people with disabilities or residents simply out for a stroll.
Also, cyclists overtaking slower cyclists will inevitably intrude into the undefined pedestrian area.
We know from experience with many multi-use pathways in Ottawa that the situation can be unpleasant and unsafe for pedestrians given the huge disparity in the speed of cyclists relative to pedestrians.
We also do not agree with the lopsided solution of having two northbound lanes and one southbound lane for vehicles in order to preserve one northbound lane for buses waiting for spectators to exit events at TD Place. This northbound lane reserved for bus parking perhaps 10-15 times a year would prevent the City from adopting a sensible design for traffic flow on the bridge which would be safer for all concerned. Surely this can be changed!
Yes, safety enhancements to the bridge are absolutely essential and this consideration by the Transportation Committee provides an opportunity – perhaps the only one to “get it right” for many years to come.
We request that you direct staff to develop a design for the bridge which puts the safety of pedestrians and cyclists first – that is, one with segregated spaces for cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles.
Submitted by Sue Neill, Chair OSCA Traffic and Safety Committee