Life, especially when it comes to municipal planning in Ottawa, is full of inadvertent disasters. Sometimes these come from the law of unintended consequences, whereby something ostensibly for the good turns out to be awful. Other times is results from good wishes, which when delivered, make you wish you had never asked in the first place. That sounds like something from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the proposed reconstruction of Carling between the O-Train and Bronson is looking a bit grimm to me today.
In a city whose new mantra is taxpayer dollar value, we are looking at an expensive road scheme that will be grossly-oversupplied 21 hours a day, and full-up for ninety minutes each rush hour. Haven’t we learned that you can never build enough capacity for the peak?
At the meetings last year * residents were given a peek at the consultant’s and traffic planners marching orders. They paid lip service to cycling and pedestrian needs, but it was pretty obvious this was all about catering to cars. More particularly, cars at rush hour. And even more specifically, cars going to and from Gatineau.
The city got an earful of comments about their not improving the cycling along the street. Now they have. And you may join me in wondering if would be better if they hadn’t listened.
They propose a painted cycling lane from Preston to Bronson (not including the little segment east bound from the O-Train to Preston, where the major north-south cycling priority corridor is being installed…when the city finds some money). Since the curb lane will be the bike lane, the bus lane buses will pull onto the bike lane for stops. While not ideal, this is do-able.
As cyclists get up the hill approaching Bronson, the buses switch from the bus lane to the left turn lanes. The cyclist lane then sorta-jumps over to be between the two left turn lanes. If a cyclist turns left onto Bronson northbound going towards the downtown, she is now riding the white line between the Bronson lanes***. Oh oh. Don’t wanna be there. If the cyclist wants to go east, onto Glebe, they discover that vehicles on their RIGHT are now crossing over the bike position to go north on Bronson. Does anyone see a conflict here?
Wouldn’t a better solution be to let the bike lane continue straight all the way to the Bronson intersection, with right turning vehicles onto Bronson-southbound moving over to the right turn lane, same as they do for the previous intersections? At the intersection cyclists could cross Bronson straight onto Glebe Avenue (and thence to Percy for an improved N/S bike route to the downtown and eventually the Laurier SBL). Or, they could cross Bronson and wait at a Bronson bike box for a green light to head north (this is a two-stage crossing that will irritate vehicular cyclists). Much less lane switching, and consistent treatment from intersection to intersection. Given that the city wants to sell naming rights, I propose this intersection be renamed Flattened Cyclist corner.
Alternatively, the right most EB car lane on Carling approaching Bronson could be a combined right turn-straight through lane for cars, with cyclists in a cycling lane between the right- and left-turning cars. Again, reduced conflicts.
Or, we could look at a segregated bike lane instead of a painted bike lane. I can picture a bi-directional lane entirely on the south side (where it could someday extend all the way from Bronson to Island Park with very few intersections — what a joy for commuters and other cyclists). Here is a pic of a seg bike track, from world-leading cycling city of Gatineau:
To draw on an example closer to home, I envision a segregated bike lane / MUP on the south side of Carling either adjacent to the curb or set back a bit where possible (with the cooperation of the NCC and Experimental Farm folks) much like the set-back path along Albert and Scott (but better designed):
But the city-proposed painted bike lanes are not just dubious for cyclists. The lanes were added to the road not by reallocating pavement space, but by making Carling Avenue wider. The five foot bike lane in each direction widens the pavement by ten feet in total. Add in the new left turn lanes (which are hugely long, taking the entire blocks between Preston and Booth) and the whole road now got between ten and twenty more feet of pavement from side to side. This is not an improvement.
Wait, there’s more! The wide weedy median down Carling gets a makeover. But instead of planting it nicely, like Allumetieres and Maisoneuve in Gatineau **, for some blocks it’s being pruned out of existence, down to a five foot wide concrete strip.
This section of Carling will look a lot more like a suburban interchange, like Baseline at Woodroffe or Baseline at Greenbank, not an inner-city street.
So what are the good things in this plan?
Well, there’s a plan to plant a six(!!) trees on the south side between Madawaska and Cambridge, provided the property owners agree. And there will be a crossing light at the O-Train cut so that transit users can get from the south side of Carling to the O-Train station, and so that peds and cyclists can follow the as-yet-unfunded O-Train N/S cycling path. And the plans calls for some decorative brick pavers at Preston on the south side of Carling, and at Booth.
There are some new ped-scale lights scattered between the existing overhead road-lights. The crosswalks will be concrete strips rather than painted lines.
The city is holding a public meeting where you can express your appreciation for this road plan. It’s Wednesday, March 2nd, between 5 and 7pm, in the Dow’s Lake Pavillion building at the very south end of Preston where it meets the Prince of Wales/QE Driveway.
*** for another cycling viewpoint see http://ottawabikingproblems.ca/?p=1361