Cyclist hit on same day O'Connor bike lane opens

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Mayor says there's still a learning curve for drivers and cyclists

Michelle Nash Baker, Ottawa Community News

The excitement surrounding the opening of a new two-way bike route in Ottawa’s downtown core was short-lived when only hours after city officials celebrated, a cyclist was hit by a vehicle.

Ottawa police responded to the call of a cyclist being hit at the corner of O’Connor and Waverly Streets on Oct. 25 at 5:23 p.m.

One male cyclist was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The driver of the car, who was making a left onto Waverley, was charged with failure to yield.

The O’Connor Street Bikeway consists of a combination of protected two-way bike lanes, painted bike lanes, and shared-use lanes connecting the Laurier Avenue Bikeway with Fifth Avenue, near Lansdowne Park. It is part of the Cross-Town Bikeway Network, a system of seven bicycle routes designed to provide a safer, continuous path for cyclists across the city.

The collision took place exactly four hours after city officials, including Mayor Jim Watson, Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney and Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko, celebrated the new bike route.

“Over the past decade, we have expanded our cycling infrastructure network to meet the growing number of cyclists in Ottawa, and to encourage that number to continue to grow,” Watson said at the opening. “The city of Ottawa is committed to being a cycling-friendly city, and with so many cyclists on the roads, everyone needs to be more dedicated than ever to safety.”

McKenney called the new lanes a great example of safe transit option in the city.

Chernushenko called the lanes a way to get the bike "wannabes" out on the road.

Staff blitz O'Connor bikeway users after opening-day collision

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Cyclists have been using the new O'Connor bikeway since last Thursday, but it officially opened Tuesday afternoon, just hours before a cyclist was struck by a car. EMMA JACKSON/METRO

Councillors and staff insist the O'Connor Bikeway is still safer than riding on O'Connor without bike infrastructure.

Emma Jackson, Metro

The O’Connor bikeway is still safer than no bike lanes at all, councillors and city staff insist after a cyclist was hit on the brand-new segregated lane Tuesday evening.

Ottawa police were called to O’Connor and Waverley streets around 5:20 p.m., where a 44-year-old cyclist had non-life threatening injuries.

A 71-year-old woman was charged with failure to yield to traffic.

Timing couldn’t have been worse, as politicians and cycling advocates had officially opened the new bi-directional bikeway with great fanfare just two hours before.

But Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko said he believes the bikeway is still “much better than what we’ve had before.”

O’Connor is a one-way southbound street, so drivers are not used to checking both ways before they turn, he said. Cyclists and drivers just need time to learn how the new infrastructure works.

To that end, staff installed temporary digital signs reminding drivers to watch for cyclists when turning almost immediately after the collision.

“There are yield signs right there, but this is an added signage,” said Vivi Chi, manager of transportation planning at the city. “We felt we had to make it really visible for drivers.”

The signs will likely remain on site for another week, Chi said, and ambassadors from Citizens for Safe Cycling, EnviroCentre and police are out in full force to make sure drivers and cyclists understand the system.

Chernushenko said he wants staff to also consider more permanent tweaks to make it crystal clear cyclists are going both directions.
“I am sure there is something we can do to make that clearer to people,” he said.

Chi said her team is monitoring the bikeway and has the power to install more signs, road markings or other tweaks as necessary.

Ottawa councillors and staff guinea pigs for new light-up bike helmets

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The Lumos Helmet uses bluetooth technology to connect the helmet's lights to sensor buttons on the bike's handlebars. (CBC)

Safer Roads Ottawa bought 12 helmets for $180

CBC News

Some Ottawa city councillors and staffers are testing out a new bike helmet that lets others on the road know when they're turning and braking, just like a car's lights.

The Lumos Helmet uses bluetooth technology to connect the helmet's 60 or so LED lights to buttons that can be attached to the bike's handlebars.

"Once you click the button to turn left or right on your handlebars the actual helmet itself will light up a turn signal on that same side of your helmet so anyone behind you knows what your intent is out on the road," said Rob Wilkinson, co-ordinator of Safer Roads Ottawa.

The group is a partnership between Ottawa paramedics, police, fire, public works and public health services dedicated to trying to stop road deaths and serious injuries.

The sensor inside the handlebar remote can also tell when a cyclist is slowing down and will turn the helmet's brake lights on.

"The obligation of the cyclist is to signal with their arm, but where we kind of envision this is all about visibility at night," Wilkinson told CBC Radio's All in a Day.

5 city councillors test driving

Wilkinson said his team spotted the helmet on social media about a month ago and reached out to the founder to test it out. They ordered 12 helmets at a cost of about $180 each. Only about 1,000 helmets have been made so far, said Wilkinson.

Five city councillors — Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney, Mathieu Fleury, David Chernushenko and Tobi Nussbaum — are currently using the helmets along with paramedics and bylaw parking officers. Two helmets are also being sent to Citizens for Safe Cycling for community members to try.

"Because of the lights and the battery pack in the back it's slightly heavier, but most people adjust," said Wilkinson.

So far "people feel much, much more visible on the road."

Wilkinson said the pilot project isn't about selling Ottawa cyclists helmets, but he does believe they could be useful for city employees whose work involves riding a bike in the dark.

Safer Roads Ottawa plans to go through all the surveys their test drivers fill out to determine whether the helmets are worth the city's investment.

Councillors support O'Connor two-way bike route despite opening day collision

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The bikeway on O'Connor Street officially opened Tuesday, hours before a cyclist was struck by a vehicle on the lane. JEAN LEVAC / POSTMEDIA NEWS

Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

It wasn’t the way the city wanted to celebrate a new bikeway on O’Connor Street.

“With great smiles and ringing bells, we went out (Tuesday) and officially opened it. Believe me, when I listened to the evening news and heard there had already been an accident, nothing could have hurt more than that,” Capital Coun. David Chernushenko said Wednesday.

According to police, a driver making a left turn at Waverley and O’Connor streets struck a cyclist on the bikeway. Paramedics said the cyclist, a 44-year-old man, was transported to hospital with shoulder and rib pain. The 71-year-old woman driving the vehicle was charged with failing to yield to traffic under the Highway Traffic Act.

Earlier in the day, the city cut a ribbon opening the bi-directional bikeway on the one-way O’Connor Street.

Chernushenko said he understands that drivers approaching O’Connor Street wouldn’t be aware about cyclists travelling in the opposite direction of vehicles.

“A driver approaching on a one-way street to another one-way street has for days or maybe decades not expected a user to be coming from the other direction,” Chernushenko said. “The fact a cyclist is now coming from another direction is something we have to make clearer to the driver for all of those people who don’t anticipate that.”

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney was scheduled to meet with city staff Wednesday afternoon to discuss the collision.

“We have to look at what occurred and what we do to prevent that again,” McKenney said.

Mayor Jim Watson said one crash doesn’t call for a complete re-think of the new infrastructure.