BikeWest, RIP




BikeWest was a idea I came up with a few years back. Hard now to recall, but just five years ago the city was enthralled with ‘vehicular cycling’, the idea that anyone from 8 to 80 could cycle on the regular city streets and roads, and all that was needed was to educate cyclists as to safe riding on lanes shared with cars, trucks, and buses travelling at 80kmh.


OK, I exaggerate, but not much. Back then, NCC trails were for recreational purposes, real cyclists, mostly bearded males, rode on the real roads as their bikes were real vehicles. Even painted bike lanes on the sides were controversial.

The BikeWest idea landed like an unpleasant blob. I think it is safe to say it was decidedly unpopular, if not mocked, by our main cycling groups and city hall staff. (Fortunately, attitudes have changed, but not enough yet …).

BikeWest was an NCC-style path off to the side of the road, that would go from Bronson on the west side of the downtown through Lebreton Flats (probably on the north edge of Albert), somehow get past Bayview, and then follow a much-improved alignment on the north side of Scott. Ottawa would have the rare privilage of having a dead-straight path from the prewar suburbs to the downtown. And its a route with remarkably few intersections.

I lobbied transportation committee, which was enthused. Bedard asked “where’s Bike East?”. The transit commission passed a motion demanding the design of Bayview and Tunney’s stations not block a Bikewest through route.

Not everyone was happy though. And it has taken consistent lobbying to keep the route unblocked. Both the Albert reconstruction ‘complete streets’ plan and the Scott CDP complete streets plan (looked at in the previous post) put a great deal of emphasis on bike tracks that are parallel to the direction of vehicular traffic, sort of mini car lanes set back a few feet.

On the Scott Street alignment, the south side has about 25 more intersections than the north side, plus oodles of driveways, some, like the beer store and Holland Cross, very busy ones. IMO, the streetside tracks are useful, especially for commuter cyclists, which seems to be the dominant vision at city hall planning.

But would you let your 8 year old cycle on the south side of Scott, either accompanied by you or alone? Again, in my opinion, there are valid reasons to have cycling tracks on the edge of roads, and valid reasons to have separated bi-direction NCC style paths. I had hoped that with all the planners involved in the OTrain path, familiarity would have bred comfort. That the value of path for suitable for kids, the elderly, recreational and utility cyclists, would have been recognized. But I think I am wrong.

The new Scott Street complete street cross sections have killed off the BikeWest route for a dozen blocks.

Now maybe the Toronto planners aren’t aware of BikeWest. Maybe, because what most planning consultants do is simply re-sell what is new in The Big City to the yokels in smaller Cities, maybe Toronto doesn’t have a similar off-road bi-directional path to copy and resell, and instead we are force-fed current Toronto examples, which are single direction curb-side paths.

But the Dark CDP for Scott didn’t come out of the blue. It has been developed in consultation with our cycling boffins at city hall, and if Bikewest is gone, it is deliberate.

I am also on the Albert Street advisory committee, and its the same story there. Cycle tracks along the curb, either in the care  lane or beside the sidewalks. When pressed, a quick mention of a bidirectional path on the north side, but only as a concept, not considered in any detail or firmness. **

Ironically, at recent meeting with the LRT implmentation group, hosted by Councillor Holmes, there was considerable enthusiasm for working out how to get BikeWest past the Bayview Station, but what if there is no beyond to get to?

Fortunately, the space required for the north side of Scott sidewalk and its accompanying one-way westbound cycle track happens to be the same as required for a bi-directional shared use path (a MUP, in city jargon). It remains to be seen if the bi-directional path can be resurrected, and actually developed as a real path and not  crippled-by-design like the current asphalt path along Scott built back in the 70s, the relative dark ages of cycling infrastructure in Canada.


** I also like the idea of a bi-directional off-road pathway on the south side of Carling, from Dows  Lake road (near Bronson) to Holland, which would also have very few intersections and would be a very pleasant ride, but the latest cross sections for Carling — developed by more Toronto consultants — don’t include anything other than the standard formula bike tracks curbside, flowing with the traffic. You don’t have to repeat it endlessly to recognize this is the city’s preferred model.




2 thoughts on “BikeWest, RIP

  1. Eric – your little afterthought route there would also fit in with the city’s vision for a bi-directional bike route on Glebe Avenue through to the Canal. So imagine, we could have an essentially off road bike route from the Canal MUP through to the O-Train MUP. It would be almost as if we were trying to build a dense connected network of bike routes.

  2. Cycling with traffic on the South side of Scott? That will make a big splash (when cars speed past you in the Spring and Fall).

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