Proof People Who Cycle are Cheap Dates


People who walk or cycle want infrastructure improvements. Fortunately these improvements are cheap compared to facilities for people who drive motor cars. More cycling and pedestrian infrastructure isn’t an extravagance or luxury in a city budget, it’s a bargain.

Repeat: people who walk or cycle are cheap dates.

Pretty much all residential streets in the US and Canada built since the 1940’s lack facilities for people who walk. We just decided to ignore them and their needs in favour of people who drive cars. In the west side of Ottawa, this is generally true anywhere west of Churchill Avenue.

Now look at the picture above. Your first reaction might be to snicker. What a poor “sidewalk”, just painting a line down the street. But it is better than nothing, which is what Ottawa does.

Funny enough, I felt much more subjectively safe and  comfortable walking on this pedestrian lane than I did walking on the even-less-traffic sidestreets off this collector, which didn’t have even the line. And one big reason is that there is no parking permitted “on the sidewalk” or on the cycling lane.  Repeat: No Parking. The black and white diamond marks this as a “priority lane” which means really high tickets / fines for people who violate the law.

Ottawa has abundant streets designated as cycling routes, but other than putting up  directional signs, does nothing to actually encourage cycling or make it a better or safer experience. People who drive cars park along the roads. People who walk or bike  have to weave around them  (traffic engineers caution against weaving … but what’s the choice? Walk down the centre of Roosevelt?)

Actually the situation shown above is a great role model for Ottawa.  Make facilities designated for people who ride bikes better than the alternative “regular” streets which are designed only for people who drive cars. Le’s start with Armstrong and Roosevelt and all those other west side streets that are designated for people who cycle: remove parking on both sides of the street. Yup, people will have to park on adjacent streets or in their driveways. Later we can address the doomed-to-be-ignored stop signs.

And on the collector residential streets that don’t have a safe place to walk for people who want to walk, let’s start painting some sidewalks right onto the street.

If you go back to the look closely at the picture above, the municipality didn’t even put up a new sign for this facility for people who walk and people who bike. They just put new stickers over the old 25 MPH speed sign.  Cheap date indeed.


Note: the city with the painted facility shown above saved the cost of installing concrete sidewalks, and saved aggravating homeowners who hold lawns and driveways sacred. The narrower lanes for people who drive cars possibly yields some traffic calming. What a collection of winning features!


4 thoughts on “Proof People Who Cycle are Cheap Dates

  1. Umm, all of the streets immediately west of Churchill were laid out and built long before the 1940s, and indeed before the first T4s rolled off Henry Ford’s production lines. Most still don’t have curbs. A few still have drainage ditches rather than storm sewers. Roosevelt is something of an exception with its discontinuous sidewalks but continuous curbs.

    Having grown up on one such curbless, sidewalkless street in a neighbourhood full of such streets, I just don’t see the problem, at least not how it pertains to most of the streets of Westboro and environs.

    Since the streets pre-date mass motoring, they have always been used by pedestrians and others. Cars would have been introduced gradually, so motorists would have had to adapt to the people who were already there using the streets. This “culture” if you will of motorists deferring to pedestrians and people feeling like they can use the street as an extension of their front yard has managed to sustain itself over the decades. I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking on the streets of the Westboro area. We’ve got a kind of quasi-woonerf thing going on here.

    Am I going to suggest this could be replicated in new suburbs? No. Short of transplanting entire blocks of residents from the Westboro area to a new suburban development with streets of the same or very similar design to act as a founding population, there really isn’t a good way to replicate this culture from nothing. In such an environment, cars will “naturally” be the first things to occupy the space and set the rules and conventions of how the space will be used.

    But I agree that Roosevelt is too far gone and too busy to continue in its present state. I’m not sure banning on-street parking would do much good during the current semi-Mcmansionization building boom taking place on Roosevelt, though, since most of the parking (what’s left of it, anyway) is being occupied by construction vehicles. Indeed, the issue of parking may almost solve itself once there is a complete wall of driveways on both sides of the street.

  2. When my wife and I were looking for a house last year, I told our real estate agent that my only requirement (besides being a walkable/bikable distance to one of the core neighbourhoods in Ottawa) was sidewalks. If there were no sidewalks, I wasn’t interested. To me, sidewalks are a prime indicator that a neighbourhood is an actual community.

    Funnily enough, we ended up moving to one of the first “suburbs” in Ottawa (Experimental Farm/Fisher/Carling area), built just after WW2. Sidewalks a plenty. Sadly, our suburb seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

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