O'Connor segregated bike lanes approved by committee

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

Downtown Ottawa could soon see its second segregated bike lane.

The city’s transportation committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to build a 2.5-kilometre, north-south cycling spine on O’Connor Street between Wellington Street and Fifth Avenue.

The $4-million plan, if approved by council next week, would be built in two stages. The first section, from Laurier Avenue to Fifth Avenue, will begin next year in conjunction with the scheduled resurfacing of O’Connor.

The section between Wellington and Laurier wouldn’t happen until 2018 at the earliest because the city wants to avoid construction in the downtown core during celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation in 2017.

Transportation committee chair Keith Egli said the success of the four-year-old segregated bike lanes on Laurier Avenue West likely helped the proposed O’Connor plan pass with little public opposition.

Only one person spoke against it at the meeting, which is a striking change from 2011, when the committee heard from dozens of speakers — many opposed — before ultimately approving the Laurier pilot.

“I think that people have seen it’s been a positive impact on the downtown, a positive impact for how people get around town,” Egli said.

Because O’Connor is essentially two types of road in one — arterial north of Highway 417 and residential south of there — the plan has several components:

  • Between Wellington Street and Pretoria Avenue, where O’Connor is a one-way street: A two-way bike lane on the east of the street separated from vehicle traffic with curbs and flexible bollards
  • Between Pretoria and Strathcona avenues, where O’Connor is a one-way street: A bike lane on the west side for cyclists heading south and what’s called a contraflow bike lane on the east side of the street, separated by a curb, for those heading north
  • Between Strathcona and Fifth avenues, where O’Connor is a two-way street: Shared-use lanes (meaning cars and bikes both use the roadway), with the potential for additional traffic-calming measures

The committee also supported a motion from Capital Coun. David Chernushenko to consider reducing the speed limit on O’Connor to 30 km/h from Pretoria to Holmwood avenues and extend the dedicated bike lanes further south by five additional blocks (thus reducing the shared-use part to the length between First and Fifth avenues).

The motion also called for additional traffic-calming measures for the Glebe section of O’Connor.

“This project is doing a lot for cycling,” Chernushenko said. “It isn’t perfect but we’ll have to take that very good and go from there.”

The plan initially proposed designated bike lanes south of Strathcona, but concerns were raised about effects on on-street parking and curbside access.

The city made a “concerted effort” to make the Glebe lanes happen, but there were “significant obstacles” that led staff, and Chernushenko, to conclude that a shared lane was the better option for some sections of O’Connor.

Orléans Coun. Bob Monette supported the plan, but told the committee it was a “bit of a disappointment” that the bike route doesn’t go all the to Lansdowne Park, which is just a few blocks south of Fifth Avenue.

City staff responded that some further consultation is needed with residents in that part of the Glebe, but expect the plan to connect the bike lane to Lansdowne to be completed by next year.

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