Opinion: Cyclists speak out

Special to KT by Michael Napiorkowski and Maayke Schurer, Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project

Dear 2014 Municipal Candidates,

As many are aware, the Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project launched a petition this past year regarding the need for protected bicycle lane networks that directly link the main urban districts of Ottawa (a #minimumgrid). The growing response has been immensely encouraging as we now have 1,709 signatures to share with you as election day approaches. We hope this petition reveals the rapidly changing transportation needs of our city, as well as the associated infrastructure expectations and needs of the residents who live here.

If anything, this project is revealing that all-season everyday bicycling is a norm for many in Ottawa, and through our extensive community outreach, we’ve come to learn that the desire to ride bicycles for practical everyday needs extends far and wide and the number is increasing fast. Residents clearly want to be able to use their bicycles as a fast, efficient, healthy and cheap transportation option. Despite this, too many are currently discouraged from following through because they do not feel comfortable or safe without adequate bicycle infrastructure. We keep hearing the call for protected bicycle lanes, and not simply on periphery routes. People want to be a part of their city and move around by other means than the car. One must also consider transportation equity and the high cost of designing our cities solely around the highly expensive automobile. Many who can’t afford to own a motor vehicle or simply wish not to, are left at a transportation disadvantage because cheaper modes of transport are always an afterthought. Needless to say, protected bicycle lane networks would be a huge step forward in closing this gap.

With its new leadership, the City of Ottawa is in a very good position to initiate a major modal shift towards more sustainable transportation by prioritizing investments in practical urban protected bicycle lane networks. On this note, although we appreciate the current “complete streets” strategy, we feel the long timeline for implementation and absence of complete streets as networks falls short of the real demand. Waiting many years for road reconstruction on a street-by-street basis is not an appropriate response to the currently impractical and dangerous system. The City needs to take a more aggressive approach by using cheap temporary materials (paint with flexi-posts, planters, turtle bumps, etc.) in the interim, while more permanent solutions are considered. This approach will be a long-term benefit in two ways:

  1. Immediately establish safe and functional networks as pilots to inform long-term decisions
  2. Ridership will increase dramatically, which in turn will continue to help build the momentum towards permanent solutions.

Also, by fast tracking a temporary protected network now, the city would be providing immediate options to offset the traffic woes of years of LRT construction. With so many other North American cities already taking such extraordinary action, it simply makes sense to move forward on such a strategy now. For example, see Calgary’s urban protected bicycle network for 2015.

As a grassroots organization, we would like to extend our hand in helping the City of Ottawa establish this much-needed urban bicycle network, and are willing to help in any way we can. We hope that the new mayor and council will have the courage and leadership to take such positive and necessary action in building a more liveable Ottawa with streets that truly support all road users and encourage even more to shift towards sustainable transportation.

 

 

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