Planning the O-Train bike path

Okay, so it’s not really a “bike path”, the City doesn’t have any of those. We have MUPs, or Multi User Paths, which are shared by cyclists, dog walkers, parents with wailers, grannies with yappers, kids alone,  etc. (It makes an interesting contrast: on roads, cyclists are told to play nicely with cars, buses, and tractor-trailers going 70km; off road, cyclists are sent to play with various pedestrian folks). I’m on the PAC (public advisory committee) for the O-Train path that will eventually run from the Ottawa River pathways south to Dow’s Lake. The City will construct the section from Bayview Station to Somerset (or maybe … Continue reading Planning the O-Train bike path

City counts cars

  It took numerous calls and some arm twisting by the Councillor, but the City is now conducting traffic counts on Preston, Bronson, and Albert.  The unique value of these is to count cars while Booth Street south of Albert is closed due to construction. The City always says it cannot close Booth south of Albert to through traffic because, like dammed water, it would flow around and flood the adjacent streets with cars. And push those streets to the breaking point, resulting in traffic chaos. To anyone who bothers to go out on the streets at rush hour (and that is all … Continue reading City counts cars

Road to nowhere

Booth Street … what did our neighbourhood do to deserve such an abused street? Legally a local collector, it is of course abused by thousands of motorists daily who use it as a shortcut between the Queensway and Chaudiere Bridge. Every year on Nov 11th we notice it is deserted, which establishes that it is used by civil servants (who don’t work that day) and not by private sector, teachers, or university profs (who do work that day). But who the motorists is, is of less import than the fact that the street shouldn’t be carrying the volume of traffic it does. And … Continue reading Road to nowhere

What should go at street level? (part ii – the bad)

I wrote this post last week for, you should have read it there! It got a number of responses so for this version of it I have corrected and clarified some things. There are also more pictures, because that is the WSA style! Thank you for reading. __________________________________________ What should go at street level? Large property development firms are seldom compared to little domesticated birds. But in some ways they are canaries in the coal mines of the urban streetscape. And the song these messengers sing is not a cheerful tune for downtown pedestrians. Consider this not-so-old  downtown condo: … Continue reading What should go at street level? (part ii – the bad)


Some days on the west side of town are just peachy. Other days are a tad … dull. Depressing, even. Someone had enough time and energy to attack this Ginkgo tree in Plouffe Park: Meanwhile, over on Albert Street, where a half-assed multi-user path runs along the north side of the road, these have appeared scattered all along the path: Some of the posts are steel, like the one shown. Others are chunky 4×4 posts, all about 10′ high. I think the city buys one size of post, digs any depth hole, plants said post, then cuts it off at … Continue reading Dullsville

Air rights over the transitway/LRT

Councilor Katherine Hobbs is in the news for asking the City to examine developing the air rights over the west side part of the transitway/LRT line. I have a bunch of mutually contradictory thoughts on this. 1. The City should sell air rights to help pay for the transitway. Taxpayers are forking out a bundle of money for a transit line, we can recoup some of that expenditure by selling prime access to the most-accessible locations in the city. Otherwise, many of the development benefits go to the builders on adjacent lands. In some cases, these are private developers; in the case … Continue reading Air rights over the transitway/LRT

The devil rides Watson’s new LRT route

Warning: long post. Go pee or get your coffee before you start reading. After so much huffing and puffing, the City has detailed its final LRT route and station locations, and their costs, to Council and the Public. The most noteworthy change has been to move the tunnel from the “cross country” deep alignment under Albert Street, then Queen Street … to one that traverses the downtown always under Queen. I have read the available material from the City justifying the move. It is a very political document, light on the technical stuff. It’s way more PR oriented than the previous reports. … Continue reading The devil rides Watson’s new LRT route


Last Saturday, readers who also listen to the CBC awoke to a real nightmare. My dulcet tones were on the morning news, talking to Laurie Fagin about the lack of markings on the multi-user path (MUP) that runs along the north side of Scott Street and Albert Street.” Is it a bike path?” was the theme of the story. (It’s OK, you can listen to the radio today, it is Eric-free). Long time readers may recall that last May or June I reported that the City decided to paint a yellow line down the path to clearly indicate that it is … Continue reading BikeWest

LRT Stations (part iv) LeBreton

There is currently a bus transitway station at LeBreton Flats. The proposed LRT station is essentially at the same location, except it extends further west under Booth Street and is a few feet south of the current station, allowing room for landscaping and breathing space between it and the aqueduct. On the aerial photo above, note also the pedestrian crossing of the aqueduct off to the left side of the picture, this is the old Broad Street right of way and ped bridge. The site analysis drawing, above, shows the proximity of the current LeBreton residential neighborhood. Blue arrows show view planes, but both are rather curiously … Continue reading LRT Stations (part iv) LeBreton

LRT Stations: (part iii) Bayview Station

The Bayview Station is quite complex to describe compared to Tunney’s or Hurdman. Basically, it is a long thin platform built atop an earthen embankment, pretty much where the bus shelters are now. But rather than have sloping pedestrian paths connect to the O-train platform about 16′ lower down, under the overpasses, the City proposes to build an escalator connection at the west end of the new platform that takes users directly down to the O-Train platform. This is a great development for users that transfer.  What complicates the Bayview Station is that it is in the middle of an … Continue reading LRT Stations: (part iii) Bayview Station

Bus shelters vs a station for Bayview

 The picture below shows the current Bayview Station. It is simply a bus shelter on a hill in the middle of a field. It’s been that way since 2001, and while not ideal, it does function. The City is currently designing its transit stations for the new LRT network. For the first few years of the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel (DOTT) process, they had very elaborate station design for Bayview. It was a long elevated structure with east-west trains on top, and underneath was a second set of platforms for the successor to the north-south LRT that would someday replace the O-Train. Until that … Continue reading Bus shelters vs a station for Bayview

Sidewalk spacing

This is a post I wrote for Spacing Ottawa earlier this week. I repeat it in case you managed to miss it at that site. It was subsequently picked up on the national spacing network, as our problems with sidewalks are common throughout Canada: Sidewalks are installed by the City as an after thought. They are simply glued to the side of the curb on the assumption that if the road geometry is good for cars, it’s perfect for pedestrians. There is little consideration given to pedestrian origin or desires. And certainly no thought is wasted considering the pedestrian experience when actually using … Continue reading Sidewalk spacing

Downtown’s changing skyline

Ottawa has a curious bunch of downtown buildings dating from the Robert Campeau era (1960’s and 70’s). They all share a certain formula: towers “inspired” by famous buildings elsewhere, usually built on massive ugly windowless podiums, and with no apparent front doors. Consider the Centennial Towers, whose entrance used to be facing a drive through arch, mercifully removed during its last renovation. Or the Marriott hotel, also sitting on a rough concrete windowless podium, its entrance facing a mid-block driveway well concealed from motorists and pedestrians alike. Or the black cube Place de Ville office towers, some of which still have their entrances … Continue reading Downtown’s changing skyline

Equipment size matters

The City owns a parking lot on the north side of Albert, between Brickhill Street and Commissioner (ie, just west of Bronson, on LeBreton Flats). On the western edge of the lot, they installed landscaping consisting of a low berm, some swizzle-stick-caliper trees, and some shrubs. It’s enough to gently direct motorists to the proper driveway entrance. Then the City sends a grader to plow the lot. Notice that a grader has its snow-clearing blade in the centre of the vehicle. To get to the edge of the parking lot, half the considerable length of the grader must extend beyond the … Continue reading Equipment size matters

Who sets the street agenda?

I spent a little bit of time in Montreal over the holidays. I was struck by several huge differences between Montreal’s treatment of downtown streets vs Ottawa’s. In the following photos, notice that the traffic signal lights are pushed off to the side of the road. Their cases and mounting brackets are dark coloured, and very unobtrusive. They are mounted low, not high in the sky. The pedestrian signals, which are relatively rare in downtown Montreal compared to Ottawa, were mounted snugly close to the traffic signals.     The discreet treatment of traffic signals means that the downtown streets are not dominated or given … Continue reading Who sets the street agenda?

Mysterious construction

Travellers along Albert west of Booth can justifiably be mystified by the construction project in front* of the Ottawa Community Housing project. The new wood fence constructed a year or two ago has been demolished and the gardens dug up. No ped detour is necessary, it seems. According to OCH, the problem is that the brick wall is on a concrete foundation. It isn’t very far out from the building foundations. Moisture gets trapped in the soil, saturates it, and cause leaks and mold in the housing. The amount and repetitiveness of repairs to these units has astounded me for … Continue reading Mysterious construction

One two three … Redlight !

New red light cameras have been installed on Albert a few metres west of Booth Street, presumably to catch east bound (downtown bound) traffic on Albert that runs the red light at Booth. Another camera has been installed at Albert and Commissioner (the going uphill part of Bronson, so as to speak) between Albert and Slater. I guess it will catch cars running the red light as they accelerate to go up the steep part of Bronson Hill south of Slater … or turning left across Bronson to get onto Slater. Continue reading One two three … Redlight !

Boxing Day

Familiar pale green utility boxes like this occupy many city boulevards. This one belongs to Rogers. Note the clever use of all-canadian duct tape to hold the box together. Inside the box appear to car-like batteries. Lead? Acid? Looks perfectly safe to me. The box in question is on the left, in the snow. The sidewalk squeezes between the post and the box because … the city widened the road in the early 1980s but declined to relocate the utility pole. The sidewalk used to run unobstructed on the right side of the pole. The resultant squeeze play pinches the … Continue reading Boxing Day

Winter Cycling Path Maintenance

Alright, I admit that the multipurpose path on the north side of Albert between Bronson and Bayview is not really an official cycling path. If it were, it wouldn’t be plowed in the winter, because the City and NCC do not maintain cycle paths in the winter. But since this is officially a sidewalk  … it just happens to look like and function like and get used like a bike path … it gets plowed and winter maintained. I thought this path provided some insight into the feasibility of winter cycling in Ottawa. Continue reading Winter Cycling Path Maintenance

They Tried …

There is a traffic detour around the sewer control station being reconstructed on Booth Street immediately north of Albert. The four lanes are very narrow and the traffic persists in moving too fast. This week, safety no doubt improved immeasurably with the addition of a yellow sign in each direction showing a car beside a bike. Does this mean “no passing” or “share the lane”? In either case, the temp lanes are so narrow no one can pass a cyclist in the same lane. Continue reading They Tried …

The City taketh away …

Just a block down Albert Street from the new tree planting at the parking lots, the City has removed a dozen trees from their City Living housing projects. These trees were in front of the project at the corner of Albert and Booth, and Albert and Rochester (the trees were removed on the Rochester street side) and the corner of Albert and Preston. As shown in the pictures, these were mature trees, planted about 25 years ago when the housing projects were built. The housing is now undergoing “renewal” by recladding the stucco with artificial wood; and removing the brick sound … Continue reading The City taketh away …

The city giveth …

I rejoice when the City provides some nice landscaping in Dalhousie neighborhood. The City owns some temporary parking lots along Albert Street, between Bronson and the transitway turnoff at the Good Companions centre. They spent some time last month rigorously pruning and thinning the existing tree and shrub growth around the lots, possibly to improve the social safety of the parking lots by making them more open and exposed. Then they added some topsoil, mulch, and planted a dozen trees at the entrance of the lot, which faces Brickhill Street (a tiny street that services the parking lots and connects … Continue reading The city giveth …