Several years ago a gate was installed at the north end of Preston, where it crosses NCC land. There is a paved path (actually a derelict bit of the transitway from pre-1980’s) that leads to a legal marked crossing of the current transitway and then out the Ottawa River bike paths.
The gate was installed by contractors during water main construction a few years ago. On Monday, it was locked shut.
I went out Monday evening to view the scene. I met cyclists coming up from the River, having crossed the transitway, and were then forced to return and recross the transitway to search for an alternate route in the Booth Street area. These two cyclists actually returned to cycle along the transitway itself to get to Booth:
Before I could put my camera away, three more cyclists approached from the Preston side. Here they are perched straddling the centre line of Preston since the road is designed only for motorists, with a right and left turn lanes, but no straight through lane for cyclists:
They approached the gate in some confusion, as no signage indicated why the gate is suddenly closed and locked. They eventually headed off west along Albert. I hope they didn’t try to get to the River via the Bayview O-Train station since the paths from the Station going north the few hundred feet to the River have also been well marked by OC Transpo with NO TRESPASSING signs and their Enforcers will do a Dukes-of-Hazard pursuit in their squad cars to stop you.
For those unfamiliar with the area, the Preston extension crosses the transitway at this legal marked crossing:
As it happens, I was traversing this crossing late last week when I came across a bevy of City employees at the site, snapping photos and gesticulating. I asked what was going on.
According to one story, they were planning to close the access during Bluesfest, rather than put a patrol of crossing guards there. The route is a popular access route to the west gate at Bluesfest; closing this route will enforce a very long walk around, or illegal crossings elsewhere. According to this version, the sponsors of Bluesfest will pay for traffic patrol for cars but not for pedestrians. (Perhaps we should therefore all drive to Bluesfest??- ed). Could Mr Monahan confirm this?
The gentlemen on the site the day I came across them were not so forthcoming. They insisted they were there to “improve pedestrian safety”. Not being born yesterday, I asked if this meant they were going to close the crossing. They would not deny it, repeatedly asking “where did I hear that?”. I pointed out it was a legal crossing, and if they closed it they would need additional patrols to “improve safety” at old Broad Street crossing, and near the Bayview Station, since crowds have learned from previous years that there is a crossing here.
Sensing some adversity in my posture regarding the crossing, they folded their arms and, aw shucks, patting their bellies, denied having business cards handy. But one did claim to be the Director of Operations for the O-Train.
I did not expect them to close the path a week before Canada Day crowds, and so far before Bluesfest.
IMO, this is a ham-fisted and ass-backwards way to control a crowd “problem”. Shutting the main legal crossing of the transitway, sans signs, simply redirects the crossers to Broad and other sections of the transitway where it is darker and they are unexpected.
I also note that in previous years, the organizers and City held a planning meeting well before Bluesfest, to discuss crowd control and parking control. I did notice that I was not invited this year (if a meeting was held) (I normally go as head of the local community association). I should have figured something was up. It seems the ole spring it on ’em when it’s too late to make changes approach still thrives at OC Transpo and some branches of the City.
There are alternatives to posting security guards at the crossing all evening. They could, for example, advise buses to slow to a crawl at the site (pretend its a road maintenance or bore hole exercise…) and not post guards. Or put up a temporary traffic light ( crowds of lubricated pedestrians obeying a stop light in the middle of field might be iffy). Funny enough, OC Transpo has no problem paying dozens of extra drivers to stand around on the site for a full shift of overtime waiting for the concert to end so they can do a single #95 run …
Just yesterday, Mayor Watson spoke at the Cycling Summit, inviting cyclists and pedestrians to pester politicians with their issues, so don’t be shy, here is his email: Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca.