Committee wants major changes to streets to favour cyclists


Ottawa drivers could soon be taking a backseat to cyclists.

And with the arrival of bike boxes, it will be no right turns for motorists at dozens of red lights.

A new report from the city’s transportation committee — the cycling safety improvement program report — which the committee wants council to approve would implement bike boxes, among other changes.

The bike boxes mean drivers will have to stop at traffic lights sooner to make way for cyclists.

The boxes give them more visibility and ideally, mean a safer place to turn left.

A box is slated for construction this year near Wellington St. and Bay St., said city spokeswoman Jocelyne Turner, adding it’s a joint initiative with the National Capital Commission.

Bike boxes are already in place in Toronto, Portland, Oregon, and a few parts of Europe.

“If we didn’t have people walking, cycling, and using the bus, the people using their cars would be stuck in gridlock a lot more than they are now,” said transportation committee chair Marianne Wilkinson.

Poor infrastructure is to blame for many problems in Ottawa, said Citizens for Safe Cycling vice president Alex deVries.

“They (cyclists) can obey the rules all they want, but the infrastructure makes it very dangerous,” he said.

He gives an example of Hunt Club Rd. between Riverside Dr. and the Airport Pkwy., where “the bike lane just kind of ends.”

“Cyclists are forced to merge into very fast moving traffic and neither drivers nor cyclists are expecting cyclists to be there, so that is dangerous for everybody” said deVries.

The city’s first segregated bike lanes on Laurier Ave. W. between Bronson Ave. and Elgin St. open Sunday.

The lanes separate bikes from traffic by using concrete curbs, planter boxes, plastic poles, and parked cars.

New rules for the two-year pilot project kicked in about one week ago — and right turns on red lights are banned.

The bright green rectangles on Laurier aren’t bike boxes, said deVries, explaining they’re “launch pads,” for cyclists making left turns from the segregated bike lanes.

Roughly $3 million out of the city’s $2.3 billion budget is being spent on cycling safety, said Wilkinson.

“It’s a small amount of money but it gives us a good return.”

deVries said the program will make roads safer for cyclists, “but also make it easier for drivers so that they know where to expect cyclists to be on the road.”

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