Many area residents are already aware that Churchill Avenue has been a hotspot of extensive road construction for most of the summer, causing major delays, community cut throughs, and the occasional bus detour.
Part of this busy street opened to vehicles recently, but one of its best attributes hasn’t received much notice from cyclists so far. Churchill Avenue is the first Ottawa road to have a new raised bike lane, a feature also referred to as a cycle track. The cycle track is intended to separate bicycles from vehicular traffic both vertically by a curb, and horizontally, by a buffer space.
Once the whole length of the road is completed, it will quickly and safely feed cyclists from Carling Avenue to Scott Street and to every point in between. It is estimated that 12,000 cars use Churchill Avenue every day.
For many people, the raised area may just look like a very wide sidewalk, but the track is visually distinct from the sidewalk, which is intended for pedestrians. The area intended for cyclists is black asphalt, whereas the pedestrian portion is grey concrete.
The new cycling track running south of Clare and Churchill Avenue is nearly complete, and most cyclists have been spotted passing right by the track.
Island Park resident Ali Yasr was riding north on Churchill Avenue when he pulled over for a short interview with KT. He said he thought the raised sidewalk was just a sidewalk extension and not a bike track, but he immediately recognized the value of it.
“It’s an excellent idea. It’ll be safer for bikes and easier for drivers,” says Yasr.
Athlone Avenue resident Bryan Arr says separating drivers and cyclists is the best solution for both parties.
“I have a friend who lives at Churchill and he said it was like a racetrack,” says Arr.
He also says he has enjoyed the reduced traffic as a result of summer construction, and the quiet that goes along with it.
Churchill Avenue resident Alejandro De Maio was part of the initial public consultation concerning the reconstruction project. He tried the new bike lanes with his son earlier this summer but found the unfinished paths “too patchy” to ride on. Regardless, he intends on trying them out again soon.
“After seeing them now, I think it’s an interesting concept but there doesn’t seem to be much difference or space between the sidewalk and the bike lane,” says De Maio.
Churchill Avenue resident Sheldon Klootwyk bikes downtown for work twice a week. He is looking forward to using the new raised bike lanes when they are completed.
“It’s an improvement. I like it. It’s a convenient feeder to downtown,” says Klootwyk.
Kenwood Avenue resident Jihan Abbas is excited to see a few people starting to use the new bike lanes.
“It’ll be safer and friendlier for pets and traffic. There are so many schools around here and a lot of kids are on bikes and skateboards. This will make things much safer for them,” says Abbas.
Councillor Katherine Hobbs says the increasing need for buffers between cyclists and drivers is an example of a cultural shift in which more people are choosing bikes over cars. She says there will soon be signage indicating to drivers to slow down and directing cyclists onto the new raised bike lanes.
Full completion of the Churchill project is expected in 2015.
Update: Next spring, the City will present their ideas to the public for a similar raised cycle track that would run from Churchill to Woodroffe along Byron Avenue. In order to retain sufficient parking space, Coun. Hobbs says the proposed Byron bike track would likely be on one side only. Depending on feedback from residents, the raised track could be completed by fall 2015.
*Update #2: The headline of this story was updated to more accurately reflect the content. Some barriers are still in place along on the track and cyclists are cautioned to be aware of areas of unfinished and uneven pavement.
For more information on Churchill’s new raised bike lanes, visit ottawa.ca/en/cycling-city. Have you tried out the new raised cycle track on Churchill? Will it encourage more people to ride their bikes? Send us your feedback.