Popular bike and ped route “locked shut”

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.

16 thoughts on “Popular bike and ped route “locked shut”

  1. I am very disappointed to hear that this year you have not (as of yet) been invited to a planning meeting with the City/Bluesfest/NCC etc.

    This just adds to my discontent on how Bluesfest and the City ignores the community adjacent to their site. I am not a Bluesfest grinch by any means. I am actually really excited about its proximity to our community, but I really feel that Bluesfest could do a lot more to be a “good neighbour”. Unlike any other festival within a community that I have been exposed to elsewhere, there appears to be are absolutely no consideration for the community in preparing for the huge number of visitors. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival goes above and beyond by providing the local community with free passes to off-set the inconvenience of the noise and people trooping though their neighbourhood. They also have strict parking restrictions during the festival. Even here in Ottawa, the Glebe gets temporary parking restrictions during Super Ex – why nothing for Bluesfest?

    I love having Bluesfest outside my front door, I also love the throngs of people and the life it brings to the area, but I don’t love people parking illegally in my neighbourhood making the streets unsafe. Ideally, I’d like to see some sort of modified parking access and restrictions during the festival, and a flyer or newsletter in my mailbox from the Bluesfest organizers letting me know what to expect for those two weeks, but I don’t imagine either of those things are going to happen. At the very least I expect strict, strict enforcement of existing parking restrictions, and sadly, that certainly hasn’t happened in the last few years.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I use that crossing daily, as it’s safer than going down Booth Street. I have shared my concerns with the mayor.

  3. This is unacceptable. This is a popular route for utilitarian and recreational cyclists, and there are no good alternatives. And to block it off with no consultation and no detour set up? It’s disrespectful of cyclists and pedestrians as legitimate users of Ottawa’s transportation system. It will also decrease safety as peds and cyclists are forced to use other routes. And all this from a “cycling-friendly” city?

  4. I notice that they have also locked the gate on the other side of the transitway. All done with no notice and no signage explaining the change. Very poorly managed.

  5. I wonder if the officials responsible even have the legal power to do this. I assume that Preston is a public road allowance; being a road allowance doesn’t necessarily allow one to drive on it but pedestrian access should remain possible. To block it off completely should require at the least a Council vote.

  6. That’s disappointing.
    As a resident of the area, I look forward to Bluesfest more than Christmas – it’s exciting, so close and really adds colour to the ‘hood. I don’t want this area to turn into a ‘no parking’ area like the surrounding streets of Landsdowne Park when the SuperEx is on. More parking creates a buffer between the pedestrian and the vehicle. It’s safer for the community when all those people are on the street and the parking actually slows down cars on the streets.
    Having said that, it would be nice to see a few more hornets on the street enforcing the no parking signs etc. When one person parks illegally, it’s a ticket. But if 50 cars park illegally, it seems to be OK. To me, it’s easy money for the city!
    But I digress.
    To limit access to the west side of the Bluesfest seems counterproductive – it’s going to be packed on the Eastside. On top of that (and more importantly), it hampers the travel of people who use it everyday. This on the heels of a bike conference trying to promote urban cycling!

  7. Not that it excuses closing the year-round pedestrian connection, but Bluesfest will only have one entrance, at Booth (the entire area where the main stage was last year will be the entrance gates – see http://www.ottawabluesfest.ca/map), so people going to Bluesfest will have to walk to Booth at some point, either before or after this crossing.

    In brighter news, the fence blocking Pooley’s Bridge has been taken down, so Bluesfest patrons arriving on foot no longer have to climb over the fence to get through from that direction.

  8. If a road were shut down in this way, without advising anybody or without any signage, there would be lots of outrage.

    Until they opened up the old bridge by the new development of Lebreton Flats, I used this path to get to work.

  9. I’d second the bolt cutters idea. If there is a fence on the sides when the fence opens you could also buy a new lock and lock both gates with your own padlocks to keep the route permanently open. (Or at least until the city decides to cut them).

    This is our city. Take it back!

  10. Hmmm, When I took the bus downtown on Wednesday morning (June 29) the gates on both sides of the Transitway were wide open. They were still open at about 17h00. Maybe all it took was some-one pointing out the problem. Thanks Eric.

  11. I noticed that this route was not only open and very active last night, but also ‘supervised’ by NCC staff – what happened?

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