Carling … from Preston to the Glebe

Will the reconstructed Carling Avenue between Preston Street and Glebe be a traffic sewer or a beautiful, functional urban Avenue?

The reconstructed Carling proceeding east from Preston follows a similar design to the road sections west of Preston described here yesterday:

Similar comments apply to the Booth intersection, where pedestrians are left perched on isolated bits of asphalt crosswalks when the medians / refuges stop short of the crosswalks. The remedy is simple: extend all four medians into the intersection beyond the crosswalks / crossrides, to encourage vehicles to turn less obliquely and more slowly, and thus approach the crosswalks nearest the receiving lanes at right angles.

And, the cycle track merge onto Booth NB is too short, move it another 10-20m along the street.

As we move east along Carling, notice the centre median, currently somewhat green, becomes paved. The new road configuration is wider than the current right of way, so the city plans to acquire land from the edge of Commissioners Park for the wider road, sidewalk, and cycle track. More on this below.

Here is the road between Booth and Cambridge


The south side sidewalk has been converted into a MUP, ie combined sidewalk and cycle track (if its asphalt), or cycling-on-the-sidewalk (if it is concrete). Other options to handle this segment include expropriating more front lawns to gain a wider right of way and keep separate sidewalks and cycle tracks.

Or doing nothing at all, which makes cycling dangerous and unattractive. Does anyone think we have too many students at Glebe HS or going to Carleton?

The cycling track will connect at the top of the hill to Glebe Avenue, which is part of the Glebe cycling plan connection to the O’Connor Bike Way and eventually the Fifth Avenue crossing of the canal north of Lansdowne Park.

Of course, cyclists heading south will skip the hill and follow Dows Lake Road around and thru the neighbourhood to the Fifth Avenue intersection at Bronson, whether a connection is made to Dows Lake Road or not.

The north side of Carling will have a cycle track all the way along, above the curb, beside the sidewalk, like Churchill or Main Street.

Both LeBreton and Bell Streets will be right in – right out intersections only if there is a curbed median … but the drawings also show the east bound transit lane as discontinuous, which implies left turns might be legal onto Bell.

As we climb the hill towards Cambridge, the eastbound bus transit lane stops being in the median. Here is a cross section, with lane widths, at the point marked B–B on the drawing:

Note the cycle track on the north side (left), and the MUP on the south side.

Having crossed Cambridge, the bus lane moves back into the median to become a bus-only approach towards Bronson. Here’s the cross section immediately east of Cambridge, showing the new median bus stop that replaced a number of bus stops formerly on the south side :

All my previous comments on protecting pedestrians at a median bus stop given yesterday apply to here too. The current city proposed design is dreadfully inadequate. A lot of cattle fences will be required to prevent pedestrians from trying to get to and from the bus stop to Cambridge St, which in turn accesses a number of apartment buildings, with many more to come. The design looks barely adequate for current conditions, I see nothing but problems as more people (esp immortal students) move in.

Traffic leaving the Bronson intersection will have one receiving lane on Carling. The layout there today is sort of a very wide single receiving lane in front of the Taggart Building, and it seems to work fine. Here is the city’s proposal for that intersection:

Now, shift focus to westbound traffic,  starting out onto Carling from Bronson as a single lane, which quickly becomes one general traffic lane plus a bus lane, and at Booth becomes two westbound general traffic lanes plus a bus lane.

Tomorrow, we will take a detailed look at the Bronson intersection and Richard has some suggested different layouts for keeners to examine.

Design for Coming Land Uses: All along Carling Avenue between Sherwood and LeBreton there is to be intensive infill and redevelopment (the “southern gateway” high rise zone). With lots of office workers and residents on the north side of Carling (about 500 stories worth, someday), major parkland destinations on the south side, and possibly a hospital to be built, considerable care needs to be given to improving the pedestrian experience and that of adjacent land users, in order to keep the area viable and not blighted by an ever-bigger traffic sewer.

I do wonder if this planned build out is influencing the road design. I don’t see any evidence of it. thus far.

To this end, I’d like the City to implement a prototype street drainage design that would eliminate curbside catch basins on the outside curbs and drain all water to median catch basins. This would reduce the amount of splashing and spray-washing of pedestrians and cyclists.

The current road designs alway puts the lowest point of the surface drainage of the road at the crosswalks, which then flood frequently and splash pedestrians; the prototype design would make the sidewalks and crosswalks  the crown or highest point of the surface, and thus remain unpuddled. We’ve actually done this at a very few places, eg Lincoln Fields transit station.

Other cities can do this, why can’t Ottawa? (pictures available on request).

I would like to see the remaining bits of centre median treated as a landscaping and traffic calming opportunity, rather than as bits of leftover weed patch or more concrete.

The wider bits (eg near Champagne, Preston, and Booth  ) should be constructed as planters raised at least 18” above the curb, right along the curb line (and not buffered behind the curb) and filled with quality top soil and appropriate planting material. These planters offer aesthetic improvements and will help mitigate the extraordinarily wide seas of asphalt along this “avenue”.

There is no reason why urban avenues in Ottawa have to both look and be cheap and ugly. Although the previous planner on this road project told me if we want pretty, look to the NCC land, not to the City.  Ottawa’s formerly poor cousin, Gatineau, did much better on Maisonneuve and Alumetieres. But in Ottawa, road building is not yet city building.

Off road bike path: When it comes to the bike tracks and bike lanes, the city is sticking firmly with its master policy of separated facilities for every user – bus, bike, pedestrian, motorist. It really fills up all the space with asphalt and concrete. And generally, the city likes the idea of glueing the sidewalk and bike track and minimal setback or buffer strip onto the upper edge of the curb. Yet Carling Avenue offers a remarkable opportunity to to do something different, to achieve a highest order cycling facility much more popular with users and much safer.

Why not take advantage of the no-buildings on the south side of Carling from Dows Lake Road all the way past Commissioners Park, “Juliana Park”, the Farm … all the way to Fisher Avenue. Instead of putting pedestrians and cyclists up tight to the speeding cars, push the paths back 20-40′, wandering slightly, with trees and landscaping? This would enhance the Farm’s spray zone setback from Carling, and the City could achieve something only the NCC has been able to do up to now (and the NCC did it in the 70’s!). A set back path network would look more like the paths along Queen Elizabeth Driveway or the Ottawa River and less like Main Street. It would open up huge areas of the inner suburbs to safe, attractive cycle commuting and recreational use.

Of course, this would require phasing in over time, and cooperation with the NCC and Farm and PWGSC and maybe even the Civic. Which might be why the idea has been the subject of unremitting hostility from the City traffic and cycling boffins ever since I first proposed it. Mind, when I first floated the Bike West concept of a continuous path from Bronson to Dominion along Albert-Scott-transitway that too was ridiculed.

Building Better Sidewalks: The City’s normal construction practice for driveways is to provide motorists with a low-slope ramp that runs over the side boulevard and the sidewalk space. For pedestrians (and in this case, cyclists on the cycle track) the result is a surface that roller-coasters up and down, and often tilts precariously towards the curb, with the predictable snow plowing hazards and treacherous user conditions during freezing weather.

Instead, the design documents should carefully specify and the construction supervisors enforce a design that keeps the pedestrian (and cyclist) surfaces “flat” and the grade change from road to driveway should all be accomplished in the side boulevard space. See this in practice on Bronson Avenue north of Somerset.

The plan does not show lighting, although the photoshop illustrations suggest what is intended. In the normal city of Ottawa model, this would be tall standards with arms to put the lighting over the vehicle lanes. The appearance will be one of a freeway designed to move cars fast, not an urban street. Cycle tracks and sidewalks would lurk in relative shadows.

There needs to be a urban lighting plan for the avenue, with ped lights along the sides and on the median bus platforms. If possible, posts should be located in the curbside buffer zone, to visually reduce the apparent total road right of way (as was done on Bronson north of 417). The wider the road looks, the faster vehicles go. (Note: the illustrations show signal posts in the curbside buffer zone, which suggests ped lights could be similarly located). A better urban avenue would also help make the area attractive to people to move into those new apartment towers. In the suburbs, we insist amenities precede home buyers, its time to do that in urban neighbourhoods too.

The current speed limit on Carling Avenue might be suitable for the existing set back office-campus-design, but it is too high for the planned intensified urban environment. Reduce it to 40 kmh. Do not design it for a high speed limit now, and claim the limit can be reduced later, as the high speed road design will encourage traffic to go too fast.


Next: looking more closely at the Bronson intersection


PS – if you want a better Carling, be sure to tell your Councillor what you want and when you want it.





3 thoughts on “Carling … from Preston to the Glebe

  1. Check out that turn radius at Bronson. Westbound drivers won’t even have to slow down! Efficient!

  2. Disclaimer: I went to Glebe Collegiate – by bike – as a teen so I know the Carling hill up to Bronson all-too-well.

    I really dislike the plans for the bicycle facilities on the hill. It’s as if they were designed by people who have never gone up or down that hill by bike.

    Eastbound, the decision to merge the bicycle and walking facilities is a bad idea. One of my usual strategies to climb that hill (assuming I didn’t get stopped by a red light at Booth, which ought not to be a problem now) was to “gun it” as much as possible on the flats. That would get me to a point well beyond where the plan is merging the bikes into the pedestrians before I started slowing down for the inevitable slog up the rest. Further up the hill, the last thing I would want is to have to dodge pedestrians: even though you might only be climbing at 10 km/h, you’re still going faster than pedestians AND you’ve now lost some of your ability to manoeuvre due to going uphill. I suppose for cyclists who just give up on hills and push their bikes up it might be all right, but even if that’s the case for most cyclists it’s still kind of a pathetic way to plan cycling facilities.

    Bad as the eastbound scheme is, it’s just that: bad. The westbound scheme is far worse. Do they have any idea how fast bikes can go down that hill? I’ve clocked up speeds of 50 km/h going down that hill, and routinely in excess of 40 km/h. I dislike these raised cycle tracks at the best of times, but at 40-50 km/h, that design is just insane: you’re going to have cyclists passing within a couple of feet of pedestrians at the same level while going at over 10X their speed. One ill-timed wayward move by a pedestrian or a descending cyclist and you’ve got a nasty incident. The potential to actually kill someone (and/or oneself) in a cyclist-on-pedestrian collision on this hill is all too real. To top it off, there are two side street crossings where cyclists drop down from curb height and then go back up on the other side. If those transitions aren’t completely perfect, or in slippery conditions, the potential for a nasty wipeout is immense.

    The thing to do on this hill is to remove the westbound bike track completely and have bikes and buses share the curb lane – BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN ANYWAY as no sane cyclist is going to dare go down that hill on a narrow cycle track shared with pedestrians. There are no bus stops on the hill and speed the at which bikes will be descending matches that of the buses. Removing the westbound bike track then frees up enough width to put it on the south side for the eastbound direction, thus eliminating the shared uphill facility.

    Additionally, I’d close off Cambridge at Carling to vehicular traffic (except for a bike connection on the west side) and shift the bus stop to the now-closed Cambridge intersection, using the space to route the bike lane *behind* the bus stop. Just to the west of the bus stop, the bike lane would emerge (at the effective crest of the hill, joined by the aforementioned Cambridge bike connection) into the bus lane where it would become a shared bike-bus lane. Given that buses would be stopped here, bikes would have the advantage of momentum to get out well in front of most buses leaving the stop.

  3. I wonder where all the buses that arrive for tulip festival will park with these changes? Current approach of drop off, long-term loitering and pick up Carling will have to come to an end.

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