Bronson road widening a fait accompli ?

Faithful readers of past postings will be aware of that the City traffic engineers have wet dreams about widening Bronson.

Motorists won’t notice the widening very much at all, since it is modest, about 2 feet wider. But it will make it just that little bit easier to go a little bit faster. Which is surely what the street and neighborhood needs — a faster road. Curiously, the road widening makes the lanes wider than what the City’s own guidelines call for (see table below).

Now you really do have to smile in amusement at the limit of their wet dreams. They only want wider lanes where they can chop out the trees or remove front porches or remove front gardens. They are perfectly content to have narrower lanes at major intersections, such as Gladstone, where they’ve run out of room to eviscerate the neighborhood.

Note also that the additional foot won’t make the street safer for cyclists. The lanes are wa-a-a-y below standard for shared motorists/cyclists; instead cyclists are supposed to use parallel streets such as Percy and Cambridge. All the additional width will do is let cars go faster. Alas, all the community suggestions to make those parallel streets really useful or attractive for cyclists were brushed aside, as being “outside the boundaries of their study zone”. (As noted in previous posts, they were very willing to jump outside their study boundaries when it came to making negative comments about community proposals. Their flexibility is somewhat selective).

So what are the consequences of the proposed widening that gets these traffic boffins so excited? Well, they propose to cut off the stairs to this historic church, as there won’t be enough space for them to come down to the sidewalk:

And this entrance to a house, chop it off! Presumably residents will be issued a ladder or springboard to get from the sidewalk to doorstep (and never, never ever extend your hand out the window or it might get broken off) :

Bronson is a pretty bleak street right now. And the traffic consultants are twitching in sheer delight at the prospect  of removing so many trees to open up sight lines, to enhance public safety, to rid the city of fallen leaves and other traces of nature. They’re doing for the cyclists, remember? Here’s some of the trees they are removing:

(Above trees are ones actually identified by the traffic engineers as ones to be removed. And there are many more…)

And here is Councilor Holmes, shown during a public walkabout with the engineers a few Saturdays ago, standing on the micro-sidewalk by a hedge that is slated to go-go-gone. But don’t worry, the consulting landscape architect tells us, it will be replaced by a new one of 12″ shrubs, set further back.  We’re sure not to notice a thing:

And lastly, here is a picture of a large Russian Olive tree slated for removal in the next few months. No one is going to notice its absence. It will be replaced, the landscaped consultant tells us proudly, with several low-growing shrubs and some of those “columnar trees” which mature at 15-20′ of height and only 5 feet of width,  and look rather like overgrown bushes. That’s progress in traffic-centric Ottawa. Coming up next: the same consultants will be looking at Bronson south of the Queensway, for the next phase. I wonder what gets them excited about the Glebe? Will it be the Official Plan that says we design streets for pedestrians first, cyclists, and transit users, and commuting motorists last? Or can it be the traffic opportunities? Watch out Glebites, you’re next!

The City’s ONLY public consultation event for the Bronson road widening and neighborhood massacre is at 6.30 Thursday, Nov 24th; at Centennial PS in the gym.

15 thoughts on “Bronson road widening a fait accompli ?

  1. Great post, terrible news. What is the stated purpose of the widening? Simply to make traffic faster? Isn’t the speed limit generally exceeded along this stretch as is? Also, have they released an estimate of what this is going to cost? And Councilor Holmes, proud host of the Pedestrian Summit, being led around on the Royal Tour without a hint of irony. What a hypocritical farce.

    1. They bounce back between “safety” and “it’s the minimum our guidelines will allow”. Ask them to elaborate on one, and they’ll give you the other. The closest thing to a logical argument for widening that I’ve heard, which you can see aren’t very close, have been:

      – wider lanes will mean that bus mirrors no longer overhang the sidewalks, and thus will be away from pedestrians’ heads;
      – if the lanes are narrower, it will slow down motorists and make them drive aggressively, which is dangerous to peds/bikes.

      Not sure what you mean by your comments about Councillor Holmes (disclaimer: I work in her office, though I am commenting here on my own time), but I assume it’s an acknowledgement of her putting constant pressure on the recalcitrant city engineers to get their heads out of the road design manuals created for cars and look at the pedestrians on the street.

      1. Speaking of bus mirrors… A number of years ago in Montreal, someone got smucked by one. As a result of the ensuing coroner’s inquest, the mirrors on transit buses in Quebec have a little reflective decal on them. (Unless they wear off, you’ll see them on STO buses).

        They cost, what, a few dimes apiece? But they aren’t found on OC Transpo buses. Guess it’ll take a nasty ensmuckening over here first before they spend the couple hundred bucks to outfit at least the passenger-side mirrors on the fleet with a few cheap decals.

  2. I believe that the traffic engineers think that the constantly changing road widths along Bronson “confuse” drivers (how, by forcing them to be alert?) and cause extra braking which increases congestion. So if they just widen it out into a uniform 14 meters, drivers are free to not have to think.

  3. Have I not done my research? I still haven’t read why the less busy Gladstone-Laurier corridor needs the same treatment as the south-of-Carling part of the road?

    They may as well remove the sidewalks completely… really. Then they could add another lane. Yes! P. Eng!

  4. I avoid Bronson like the plague and now I will have even more reason to do so. It’s such a blight. Some really nice trees too. All so people can get in and out of downtown faster without concern for the way of life of those who live down here. Pathetic.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if there are people out there actively working against improving the city. Instead spending money defacing streets, this money would be better spent reconfiguring the many poorly designed streets throughout the city instead. Improve the flow of traffic in the city would eliminate the “need” to widen the streets.

    1. There are days when I also suspect that certain vandals decided long ago that their ambitions would be best served by getting on the city payroll rather than by grabbing a can of spray paint. I don’t think they’re a majority right now, but I do worry that they’ve found the key spots from which to do the worst damage…which are not necessarily those that put anyone in front of a news service’s camera or microphone.

      1. ouch! cynical, but well said. This situation is just shameful. Thanks to Messrs Darwin, A-M and others for keeping up this fight!

    1. Yes, there are guidelines on sidewalk widths. That’s why the engineers initially proposed *narrowing* the sidewalks where the existing ones were bigger than what their technical guidelines said they needed to be.

  6. The planners’ current effort to eviscerate downtown Ottawa is in a way remiscent of the movie Cube wherein people are trapped in a huge maze that even an engineer present who worked on it knows little about, having worked on one aspect of it.

    Sometimes it is so hard to come back from working outside, to a place that is so mired in 1950’s planning of which Bronson widening, both the one planned for 2012/13 and the one done ca 1960 that didn’t work; are examples (well, in 1960 few people knew better).

    I have talked to people who lived in the area before the first widening as well. I hope in a way this becomes, I hate to say it, Ottawa’s Spadina (referring to the expressway planned for Toronto’s downtown portion of Spadina, where people turned back the bulldozers). There’s lots of opportunity to improve transit in the core or impose a congestion tax and no need for more cars.

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