March 24, 2015

Safe Cycling Inspiration from Ottawa

Having written a travel series on last year’s Europe trip, I acknowledge the power of travel in providing new perspectives and inspiration to better our communities. However, inspiration can also be found closer to home. Thanks to a suggestion from a fellow Cycle Toronto advocate, three of us went to Ottawa last weekend for Spring Bike Ottawa; organized by Citizens for Safe Cycling (CFSC).

Before the summit, I walked around downtown Ottawa to observe how their cycling infrastructure compared to Toronto’s. Five things came to mind.
Laurier Cycle Track (next to Jack Layton Building)
  1. Ottawa’s Laurier cycle track was properly plowed, but the other painted lanes remained snow covered. (similar to Toronto)
  2. Even though the Laurier cycle track is a pilot project, they use concrete barriers and bollards for separation, which Councillor David Chernushenko informed me, would eventually be replaced with a raised cycle track. Toronto’s Richmond-Adelaide pilot project only uses bollards.
  3. The Gladstone contraflow lane uses a concrete median at the end of the street, while Toronto’s Shaw and Fermanagh contraflow lanes do not.
  4. Certain Ottawa streets prevent through car traffic, but allowed for bicycles, as a traffic calming measure. Vancouver also does this, but not Toronto.
  5. Certain Ottawa residential one way streets have bike lanes that are not contraflow and put parking on the left side to reduce dooring incidents.
Councillor Catherine McKenney kicked off the summit saying there was the same number of cycling advocates on council as there are women. She discussed the lack of cycling funding in the city’s budget and the strong social media presence from Ottawa’s cyclists.
Panelists Schuyler Playford, Jamie Stuckless & Nicole Laviolette
CFSC board member Isabel Jenish then moderated a panel discussion featuring CFSC director Schuyler Playford, Share The Road executive director Jamie Stuckless, and University of Ottawa law professor Nicole Laviolette. Playford discussed the 4th Annual Report on Bicycling in Ottawa, which identified CFSC’s advocacy strategy, history, progress, and their top ten priorities; the latter of which included identifying detours in construction zones. Stuckless focused on the Ontario government’s #CycleON strategy, recent government initiatives such as Bill 31[1], the Environmental Registry[2], and the upcoming Ontario Bike Summit in Toronto. She also referenced a poll claiming 66% of respondents agree getting more people to bike is better for everyone. Laviolette provided some humorous remarks such as how Ontario allows the use of gongs on bicycles, but not Québec. She mentioned many cyclists have little knowledge of Canadian law – the basis for her book “Every Cyclist’s Guide to Canadian Law” – and suggested a three step process to advocate for better laws.

The panel wrapped up with cycling safety suggestions. Playford suggested making eye contact, communicating, and getting involved.[3] Stuckless encouraged cyclists and drivers to understand each other. Laviolette recommended riding as an informed rider.

A half hour break followed the panel session before resuming with two keynote speakers. In keeping with the “Mapping Change” theme, PIXO Design’s Glen Gobuyan focused on wayfinding and changing maps; something Toronto is currently overhauling through three separate consultations. Gobuyan walked through the following wayfinding principles: location and orientation, destination and route, and developing mental maps. He compared wayfinding via routes (e.g. US Interstate System) and waypoints (destinations), and emphasized neighbourhoods must be recognized as destinations. He recommended keeping traditions as closely as possible, as well as consistent themes.
Glen Gobuyan starting his wayfinding keynote
Trevor Haché from the Healthy Transportation Coalition gave the final presentation. The Coalition is similar to the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, but also advocates for poverty reduction, housing, and health. Haché discussed the Coalition’s budget proposals such as low income transit passes, user pay for roads, and $20 million in annual cycling funding. Haché stressed the importance of affordability while discussing Bayshore; a low income neighbourhood lacking amenities within walking distance such as grocery stores. The Coalition uses 50% of dues collected to provide mini grants for initiatives such as housing, helmets for kids, and cargo bike rental. The summit finished with updates from community groups and city councillors, and Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi cited the government’s plan to lower city speed limits to 40 km/h.

Including a post-summit meeting with a local representative from Dutch transportation consulting company Mobycon, Spring Bike Ottawa was a great opportunity to learn how similar (and different) Ottawa’s cycling challenges are to Toronto’s. Thanks to CFSC, including President Hans Moor, for organizing this event and I look forward to future co-operation between Ottawa and Toronto.

Stay inspired!
Rob Z (e-mail)

 

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[1]Bill 31 includes increased dooring and distracted driving fines, a one metre passing rule, dedicated bicycle traffic signals, and legalizing cycling on paved shoulders.
[2]The Environmental Registry collects public feedback on government initiatives such as #CycleON, the municipal cycling program, and skills training.
[3]CFSC has the Advocacy Working Group, while Cycle Toronto also has Ward Advocacy Groups for connecting with local councillors.

1 comment:

  1. christania’s “rent family bike” bikes are rolling across the city. The system, less than a year old, is funded by christania’s municipal government. It is currently only in one of christania’s 22 administrative districts. Although a 2nd generation system, there are 12 “Houses” in this district, each with around 40 bikes. The yearly subscription cost is the equivalent of $2 US, and allows the use of a bike for up to four hours at a time. In less than a year, there have been 6,000 subscriptions sold. There are larger 3rd generation systems in the world, which do not have a subscription to bike ratio as big as that.

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