Laurier Segregated Bike Lane, part i

The City is considering a number of options for a segregated bike lane in the downtown. There has been lots of coverage on the Somerset and the Gladstone lanes, business opposition, etc. But what of Laurier?

Here is a picture of Laurier just east of Bank, in front of L’Esplanade Laurier:

The City is considering segregated cycling lanes on Laurier for a number of reasons. It’s a two way street, it isn’t a key shopping street, it services a large number of office buildings with underground parking and civil servant cyclists (ie, the Feds like this option). At the east end, it connects via a bridge to Ottawa U and Sandy Hill (cycling trip origins and destinations) . It also makes a great photo op in front of City Hall (or is that too cynical?). At the west end of Laurier, it can connect to BikeWest route along Albert/Scott or the bike paths paralleling the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway.

The illustration below is the same location as the “before” photo shown above. The segregated facility is in the Copenhagen model, where cycling tracks are attached more to the sidewalk infrastructure than to the road. The on-street parking zones are between the track and the road. New York uses this model in some places too, and has discovered it requires a larger “daylight” triangle or sight line at intersections for vehicles turning right to see cyclists approaching the same intersection on their right. Cylclists would turn left at intersections in two stages, just like pedestrians, and NOT in the single movement motorists make. Ottawa will have to come up with a suitable crosswalk design to handle both peds and cyclists.

The photoshop illustration of the lane shows a generous, coloured-pavement track. There is a buffer zone proposed between parked or moving cars and the cycling track. Reflective posts keep vehicles off the track, and allow for opening car doors so the scheme won’t deliver the “door prize” to (un)lucky cylists.

The photoshop illustration only shows one side of the street. The other street would have a cycling track going the opposite direction … except, the street today is configured as sidewalk-parking-travel lane / travel lane-parking-sidewalk. The simply isn’t enough room for a sidewalk-cycling lane-parking-travel lane / travel lane-parking-cycling lane-sidewalk configuration. It is most likely that the parking lane will alternate block by block, ie on the north side for one block, on the south side for another block.

For twenty years I ran a storefront business in downtown Ottawa, and think I know a bit about the realities of deliveries, short-term parking needs, etc. Trucks and couriers going east on a block with only north side parking/delivery zones will still stop on the south lane to make deliveries. This is traffic calming courtesy of the guy in the UPS short pants. And I am willing to bet that numerous drivers will pull over to the curb (ie, blocking the bike track) where the little bollards are absent in front of parking garage doors. Downtown traffic is far from perfect now, and will survive cycling tracks just fine, but expect the unexpected. My suggestion for now is to eliminate all on-street parking and leave lots of “delivery zones” for customers doing pickups, the Canon technicians, Grand and Toy trucks, taxi stands, the guys with the hairy legs in short pants, etc. I do not think that the City is obligated to provide longer-term storage spaces for private motorists on  downtown streets where there are many competing demands for space.

Look again at the “after” picture in front of L’Esplanade. What’s missing?? The “after” picture conveniently cut off the red bag over the first parking meter. You know, the reserved spot. You know, the prime spot for chip wagons. Essential fatty nutrients to keep those cubicle farms humming. Will wagons be banned? relocated? can the 18″ painted strip be widened to take the lengthy ped lineups at 11.30am? Will the whole segregated bike scheme be foiled by the insatiable demand for deep fried potatoes?

Next: the east and west ends of Laurier …