Response to Bronson petition

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Following the tragic death of Carleton University student Krista Johnson on Oct. 18, more than 1,000 people signed a petition to demand that the City of Ottawa make the Bronson Bridge safer for cyclists and pedestrians. I have gotten the message and am taking immediate action. This is the response I have sent to everyone who wrote to me about this urgent issue:

Dear Concerned Citizen,

You recently signed a petition to Ottawa City Council calling for urgent attention to the safety of Bronson Avenue, in particular the Bronson Bridge over the Rideau Canal. I thank you for writing to share your concerns and specific suggestions. As Capital Ward councillor and as a regular cyclist and driver, I am very familiar with this road and bridge, so I want to respond to you with a detailed reply.

I share your sorrow and distress over the accident that took the life of Carleton student Krista Johnson. Any road accident, whether fatal or not, is one too many.

And I want to assure you that I am already bringing City Council and the City's staff together in an effort to make this stretch of road safer for everyone. This situation can and must be improved.

I will bring a motion to the Transportation Committee to conduct an Operational Safety Review of Bronson Avenue between Holmwood Avenue and the Rideau River to examine the following issues:

  • Traffic speed (both the posted limits and their enforcement)
  • The geometry of lanes on the Bronson Bridge
  • The interaction of vehicles at on- and off-ramps
  • Connections with existing routes used by cyclists and pedestrians
  • The Bronson/Sunnyside intersection and the signalled crossing between Carleton University and Brewer Park (both sites of a number of accidents over the past few years)

The Operational Safety Review could potentially include recommendations for:

  • Speed limit reductions and increased enforcement along Bronson
  • Improved bicycle lanes and road markings
  • Clear signage indicating who has the right of way
  • Special contra-flow bicycle lanes allowing cyclists to get over the bridge without crossing Bronson at this dangerous location. Such lanes would ideally be separate from the sidewalks, but if that is not possible, cyclists would be required to yield right of way to pedestrians at all times.

I will be working very closely with City's traffic and cycling staff and members of the Transportation Committee to ensure that this review is set in motion as soon as possible, and that it is conducted in close consultation with cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Everyone has an interest in safer roads and can contribute ideas to making them safer.

In this vein, I have already set in motion a process to work with student associations, the Carleton University administration and adjoining community associations to build a common vision for a much safer traffic environment around the university and in the Bronson corridor.

On your specific proposal that the City build a new cycling/pedestrian bridge at this location, I unfortunately do not believe this is a viable solution. One reason is that a new bridge would take several years to build (even with near-instant approval and funding). More critically, such a bridge would have to be built on one side or the other of the existing bridge, which means that many users — depending on their direction of travel and destination — would still have to cross Bronson Avenue to use it.

If you do not agree with my assessment, I invite you to look at a map and identify where such a bridge might start and end, keeping in mind the very long approach needed to make such a bridge accessible for pedestrians, bikes and wheelchairs without being steep. Then plot out the various ways that people might use such a bridge. Personally, I can't find a practical configuration. While I understand and share your motivation for proposing a new bridge — greater safety and convenience for pedestrians and cyclists — I believe we can achieve those goals more effectively and much sooner by modifying the existing bridge, roadway, signage/road markings and speed limits. I hope you will work with me to identify and implement these improvements.

Everyone — politicians and city staff, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians — has a role to play in reducing the number of accidents on our roads. As cyclists, we can take greater responsibility for our own safety. I am especially alarmed by the number of people I see riding in the dark with no lights or visible reflectors. We all want to reach our destination as quickly and as conveniently as possible, but we must exercise extreme caution because our own and other road users' mistakes can have tragic consequences. Please ride safely.

Best regards,

David Chernushenko
Councillor, Capital Ward