NCC closes popular cycling link after promising to keep it open

Readers may recall the brief brou-ha-ha in late June and early July, when the gate at the north end of Preston street was unexpectedly closed and locked. You can read about it here: http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/popular-bike-and-ped-route-locked-shut/#comments (when you get to the link, scroll up a bit to read the post, and down a bit to see the commentary). See also http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Shortcut+river+locked/5038541/story.html

To recap, there is a paved bit of ‘closed’ road running north from Preston and Albert to a legal crossing of the transitway and then connections to the Ottawa River pathway network. It is popular with people walking to work, cycling, walking dogs, etc. Alternative connections to the riverfront lands are much lengthier and unfriendly to cyclists or pedestrians.

Here is what the gate looks like today:

The cyclist in the background has just crossed the transitway at the legal crossing, and ridden up to the Albert Bikewest path at Preston only to discover the gate is closed and locked, and he must return and recross the transitway.

Here’s what the NCC had to say a little while ago about the route:

From: Comeau, Michelle michelle.comeau@ncc-ccn.ca>
Date: Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 2:47 PM
Subject: Popular pedestrian and cyclist route closed
To: “[local resident who wrote in to complain]

Cc: “Lemay, Marie” marie.lemay@ncc-ccn.ca>

This message is sent on behalf of Jean-François Trépanier, Executive
Vice-President, Operations, of the National Capital Commission.

 Dear  [local resident who complained]

Thank you for your e-mail of July 4, 2011, addressed to Marie Lemay,
Chief Executive Officer of the National Capital Commission (NCC),
regarding the temporary closure of an informal path leading north from
Preston Street.

I am pleased to inform you that the informal path has since then been
reopened for access by pedestrians and cyclists. The informal path was
temporarily closed for 24 hours due to recent illegal motor vehicle
access. Barricades currently remain in place to ensure that there is
no access for motor vehicle traffic. As well, during Bluesfest, a
National Capital Commission (NCC) Conservation vehicle remained onsite
to further discourage illegal parking.

Bluesfest organizers also contributed to safe pedestrian crossing
during Bluesfest hours by installing temporary tower lights at the OC
Transpo crossing and staff were on hand to assist users.

Once again, thank you for sharing your concerns wit the NCC.

Yours sincerely,
Michelle Comeau, B.Sc., B.ED.
Senior Vice-President / Vice-présidente principale
Environment, Capital Lands and Parks Branch /
Direction de l’Environnement, des terrains et parcs de la capitale
Telephone: 613-239-5209
Fax: 613-239-5337
Email: michelle.comeau@ncc-ccn.ca

Now that letter doesn’t actually contain the words “we promise to keep the route open”, but it does allay our protests by calling the previous closure temporary, and saying it has been reopened for pedestrians and cyclists.

But, alas, it seems it was only open long enough to fabricate a large metal box, now welded to the frame of the gate,  enclosing the lock and chain, so that it can’t be cut off by irate citizens:

Irritated users of this popular path, which has no record of safety issues, might wish to let their wishes be known to marie.lemay@ncc-ccn.ca.

Personally, I don’t know if this is just a case of a lawyer off the leash who thinks that anything that isn’t officially open must be locked up; or if it is a plot between OCTranspo and the NCC to cut off the route. Choose your villains, there’s plenty of villainy to go around. Ironically, the city put up signs this week making the path along Albert (from where these pictures were taken) a signed city bike route.

25 thoughts on “NCC closes popular cycling link after promising to keep it open

  1. GAH. This is so frustrating. The alternative for biking is to head north on Booth, merge into the left lane, and make a left turn just north of the Transitway across 60km+/hour traffic. Or bike along Albert to Bayview and head north there. Or bike on sidewalks or along the Transitway.

    I just don’t understand how they can get so uppity about land they appropriated about 50 years ago and have left fallow ever since (except two ugly, over-priced condo towers and the War Museum).

  2. I’m pegging this land for Woodstock ’12, a debauchery-filled music and drugs festival I plan to hold next summer. I’m hoping to get NCC approval, as there will be many, many artists, every one of them an oppressed minority of some sort.

  3. I was just feeling somewhat warm towards the NCC too – their new construction along the East Canal path created a drainage situation under the Laurier bridge (where after every rainfall, an 8 foot long standing puddle would sit until it evaporated). I complained and less than a week later the drainage problem was rectified.

  4. How will “authorized vehicles” get through with that box permanently attached to the gate? Seems to me the sign is pretty much a lie.

  5. In my email to the NCC about this, I suggested that if they want to keep vehicles out, they could cheaply install a pedestrian bicycle portal next to the vehicle gate. All they would need to do is install another gate post next to one of the posts for the existing gate, attack the fence to this post, and then cut the fence in between the posts.
    I also questioned why the NCC needed to keep the vehicle gate there at all when they have easy vehicular access to the Parkway at Booth and next to their office and yard on Bayview? There is no need for vehicular access here, but there is a big need for pedestrian and cycle access, for Canadians who live and visit this part of the capital city.

  6. Matthew… you’re a lot nicer than I was. In my email I was polite and civil but more than a little snarky. I find that the more I deal with the 311 or other beurocracies like the NCC the less I can hide my contempt for them. Maybe an ice-cream and bike ride will fix me up.

  7. Michelle – yes, this is a designated route on the City’s downtown cycling map. So is the old pathway that runs parallel to the Transitway on the south side, crossing Booth. The part of the latter on the East side of Booth has been tightly fenced off also, last time I was there. This strands cyclists and their only legal options are to ride along the high-speed traffic on Booth, or to turn around and go back up to Albert.

  8. If all they wanted to do was keep out vehicles (i.e. cars) a couple planters would have done the job. Something else is going on.

  9. Government governs only with the consent of the governed.

    I suspect the consent of the governed will prove to be lacking in this case.

      1. It’s typical for the NCC, in other words.

        It’s like Marcel Beaudry is still running the joint. Appaling.

    1. That’s BS. They’ve wanted people off that path since they started taking notice when people complained about the illegal Bluefest parking. This year they tried to lock it off for Bluesfest. If the real reason was land reclamation wouldn’t they put up a sign indicating the hazard and notifying the public…and not an Authorized Vehicles Only sign? And to go to the trouble to cage the lock? Clearly they understood people wouldn’t be happy and might try to tamper with the closure. Yet no attempt to notify the public or do some PR work first? And no attempt to create a work around for the public? The NCC needs all the good will they can generate. They could fence off the sides of the path. Or they could open up the other path to the east (which the NCC also fenced off around Bluesfest). Man the NCC sure knows how to do lousy work and waste people’s time and money.

      http://nccwatch.org/

  10. Has anyone looked into the possibility of challenging the legality? It sounds to me like this path would qualify as a right-of-way. If it’s been used as a path for long enough — and you can prove it — you can get a court order to force them to open the path. For anyone interested, I recommend Yavar Hameed as a civil rights lawyer, since he’s reasonably priced and has an excellent track record.

    1. It’s been busted: the cut lock is still on the pavement. I would presume the NCC staff would not have left that on the ground as litter had they done the lock cutting. Or used a key.

  11. AND it’s locked again. We went for a bike ride through the opened gate, leaving at about 12:30pm. On the way back at 2:45 the gate is locked again. There’s enough of a gap now that people can pass their bikes through.

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