Community Newspaper Columns

Canal crossing signals major shift in active transportation

October 2016

I took a great deal of pleasure in the recent federal government funding announcement that chose to highlight and use as its backdrop the site of a new pedestrian/cycling bridge over the Rideau Canal. Pleasure in knowing this bridge will be of enormous value to Glebe residents and visitors, and in realizing it represents an important shift in priorities from three levels of government supporting it.

The Fifth-Clegg Bridge is proof that the importance of "active transportation" is finally being widely recognized. More and more people are telling us they would walk, cycle and roll more for work, fun or exercise if governments built infrastructure that makes it appealing to do so: safer, convenient and more pleasant. Providing viable alternatives to driving encourages more of us to get around by other means. When large numbers of people do that, society benefits from improved public health, increased public security, reduced pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and more vibrant streets.

The federal government making a big deal out of emphasizing active transportation and public transit as cornerstones of its infrastructure projects is in itself a big deal.

Some will think this shift doesn't go far enough (while others decry it as going too far), but remember that, not long ago, this major announcement would have been about widening a highway or building a bridge exclusively designed for driving. It's a change of significant symbolic and practical value at a time when we need to take urgent action to address physical inactivity and the resulting public health epidemic, as well as the climate crisis about which I often write.

I'm glad we now have the municipal, provincial and federal governments aligned in our vision of a city where it's increasingly appealing to get around by active and public transportation.

Aside from the bridge, many other projects were announced, including a wide range of enhancements to the Confederation and Trillium (O-Train) lines, improvements to multi-use pathways, extensions of many paths, new cycling tracks, and widened shoulders on rural roads.

Specifically of interest to residents of Capital Ward:

  • Design of a new multi-use path and crossing over the Rideau River between Carleton University and Confederation Heights alongside the Trillium line, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to avoid the Airport Parkway and Dunbar Bridge.
  • Construction of an underpass along the Rideau River at the south end of Billings Bridge, allowing east-west pathway users to avoid the daunting level crossing at Bank St.
  • Design of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor from Billings Bridge to Bayshore via Heron and Baseline Rds., including cycling corridors.
  • Cycling tracks along Heron, connecting Bank St. to these new BRT corridors.
  • Two new pedestrian crossings of Queen Elizabeth Dr., at Commissioner's Park and at Queen Elizabeth Place.
  • Rideau River Western Pathway construction, lighting and park linkages.
  • Design funding for completion of the Trillium Pathway from Carling Ave. to Dow's Lake, with a signalized crossing at Prince of Wales Dr.

Brewer Park Reimagined

There have been musings in the media about the decreasing popularity of smaller, older urban arenas, and a potential shift away from such costly (to repair) single rinks in favour of multi-pad suburban rinks. While I understand the challenge the city faces, I will do my utmost to preserve neighbourhood-scale arenas and pools. I see a future scenario in which Brewer Park and its facilities are substantially redesigned to make better use of the space, by consolidating roads and parking to create more space for fields, arena(s), a pool and even a gym. We will consider these possibilities as part of a Brewer Park Reimagined exercise later this fall. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to the mailing list.

Infrastructure renewal in NW OOS

The City of Ottawa is undertaking preliminary design work for the renewal of the northwest corner of Old Ottawa South — between Bronson Pl., Colonel By Dr., Seneca St. and Sunnyside Ave., plus a three-block section along Seneca extending south to Grove Ave. and encompassing part of Glen Ave. and Grove near the Brewer Arena. The existing infrastructure — watermain, sewer and road — has reached the end of its useful life and needs upgrading.

A public information session to present the preliminary drawings is planned for later this fall.

Enhancing the Glebe's Traditional Mainstreet

As the Glebe's official Traditional Mainstreet (TM), Bank St. presents many faces between the Queensway and the Canal: residential, commercial, park, seniors' residence, long-term care, parking lot, patio, bus stop, entertainment district, stadium and place of social interaction. Residents and visitors may wish to see the street enhanced and updated, but not at the expense of TM attributes and character. According to this year's Imagine Glebe community visioning exercise, people want more of the things they like about Bank.

Given the current flurry of developer interest in several properties, we want to know what they will do to protect, enhance and advance our Traditional Mainstreet? Here's my evaluation. of four of those projects.

667 (La Strada parking lot): A plan to develop this site seems respectful of the street-level engagement attributes of a Traditional Mainstreet. The request for additional height is above the zoning allowance and imposes significantly more shade on neighbours and the Exploration Garden. No formal application has been submitted; changes can be expected.

852 (McKale's): This four-storey proposal respects existing zoning and contributes to residential and commercial choice. It also enhances the Traditional Mainstreet by removing a surface parking lot and sidewalk drive-over lanes, replacing these with street-level commercial units and underground parking.

Fifth Ave. "burnt-out block": The owners are rebuilding these retail units at the previous one-storey height, as required by their insurance. The removal of cross-sidewalk surface parking on Fifth Avenue is a modest improvement. A shame they cannot add another storey or two.

890/900 (Mr. Muffler / Beer Store): This proposal for an eight-storey seniors' residence with supportive services and commercial units violates the Traditional Mainstreet in many ways. It effectively doubles the allowable height while removing existing parking supply and adding parking demand. I am hard-pressed to find redeeming TM attributes, but many drawbacks, such as substantial overshadowing of neighbours.

Main Street Update

Main St. north of Clegg reopened in August, but there's still work to be done both on final touches and large infrastructure updates. October through December will tentatively see the installation of the various public art elements at the corner of Main and Hazel, while November should bring much needed relief to all: the end of the northbound closure between Riverdale and Clegg!

Because of the significant infrastructure changes on Main, my office is working with the Safer Roads Ottawa team, the City of Ottawa's Cycling group and the senior Main St. project engineer to develop an education campaign for all road users. It's not enough to educate cyclists on using the cycle tracks and bike boxes. We must also educate pedestrians and motorists so all road users can gain the intended benefits from this significant taxpayer investment.