New Year’s Diets: for roads


Bronson is "too busy" to try a road diet that's proven effective in other cities

Everyone is familiar with the New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, to get fit, to go on a diet.

For the better part of a year the Rescue Bronson group in downtown Ottawa have been pushing back against the City’s plans to rebuild Bronson without first looking at what should be done with the road. Is it so perfect today that no improvements could be made? Is its interaction with the adjacent community, landlords, tenants, businesses, pedestrians, transit users … so obviously beneficent that no one need inquire if it could be improved? Or was the city just trying to slip a 1950’s planning blunder under the table and condemn Centretown to another half century of misapplied transportation “planning”??

Since Rescue Bronson has been raising a fuss, we have made slow progress. The engineers are running our road design through their transportation models, ever so slowly. Despite coming to the table with a huge bias against the road diet they are now begrudging the odd “it might work” statement.

I met a city engineer at a Christmas party where, once he confirmed I was the guy from “that blog” and the road diet lobby, grimaced out that we were a real pain, causing so much fuss, that road diet was all what they were all talking about. (I wished him a Happier New Year).

The section of Bronson that we think a road diet will be easiest to improve is the Laurier to Somerset segment. It has the lowest traffic volume, with 18-20,000 vehicles per day. It might also work from Somerset to Gladstone, where volumes are a bit higher. We don’t expect it would work south of Gladstone, and instead suggest some other improvements for that section, and for the northmost section at Albert/Slater.

While Ottawa fudges, and dodges, and tinkers, and doesn’t want to face difficult issues lest they be seen as divisive … Chicago is going ahead with its 11th road diet, where it plans to put a four lane road 30% busier than Bronson onto a road diet. It carries 26,000 vehicles a day. Here are the benefits it anticipates:

Removing one lane in each direction will make room for wider sidewalks to foster a more welcoming experience for pedestrians. In addition, a designated bike lane in each direction will be striped. In-street islands will be built along crosswalks to create a safe haven for people crossing streets. Other amenities will be added, including more than 150 trees, better lighting, benches and even enough space for sidewalk cafes, officials said.

You can read about it  here:,0,377920.column

As an end note, our suggestions for a pedestrian refuge island on Bronson were laughed and snickered at as being too dangerous, out of the question. I guess Chicagoans are a tougher breed.

3 thoughts on “New Year’s Diets: for roads

  1. Have a lot of people been emailing the City or councillors to raise their concerns? Or being vocal? Is there any value in getting the local community more mobilized and involved?

    I heard about the good turnout at the meeting at McNabb…is anything being done with that community interest and support? Or do you think things are fine with the slow begrudging reception from the planners? Is there anything that your readers can do to pester or elevate the discussion?

    It would be such a shame if little or nothing gets done with this chance to make things better.

  2. Eric – Everytime I read your observations about the City’s traffic planners/consultants, I get so depressed. This is 2011 for heaven’s sake – how can so many of them still be living in the 1950s/60s/70s/80s? Did they ALL work for Nepean, Gloucester & Kanata before amalgamation? How close are they to retirement? When will Council start demanding some real accountability in the Planning department?

    1. They aren’t ALL that way. There are a number of “progressive thinkers” in the group, who understand that the public right way must meet many user needs and not just motorists; and who respect pedestrians and a built environment; and who want green streets, complete streets … but the reality is that 70% or more of movement is by car in our society, and roads rule, and that is especially true if a lot of their work comes from suburban widen the road and make a bigger entrance to walmart type work. We must edcuate educate educate, and hope the dinosaurs die off and new engineers think more holistically.
      thanks for reading and commenting

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