Sunday, September 20, 2009

BikeWest – part i - Opportunity Knocks

The BikeWest project is an idea. An idea about how we can move beyond shared bike lanes. About doing something significant and big to promote cycling to work. An idea for a dedicated, separated-from-cars two way bike road capable of moving thousands of people between neighborhoods and to the downtown. At the same time, an idea that is affordable. Achievable in the medium term. An idea that doesn’t monopolize cycling resources or block other projects. A project that builds up Ottawa rather than dividing it.

Ottawa has many cycle paths now, almost all of them provided by the NCC (bless them for that!). Most of the paths are designed for recreational use: they are scenic, winding paths rather than straight origin-destination commuter paths. The City has marked some “bike routes” and “multipurpose paths”, but they are often unsuitable for both commuters and users who feel threatened by pavements shared with motorists. Some of the marked lanes are really beneficial to those comfortable with on-road cycling.

The main impediment to a high volume dedicated bike route are pretty obvious. First, there’s the car-oriented mentality that dominates City Hall and the NCC. Of course, cars currently are the dominant mode of transport. Second is the short-term mentality at City Hall and the preference to do small-area planning and thus miss the longer-term opportunities. As for the NCC, it’s simply not in their mandate. Third, there is the physical problem of finding a route that has land available, is fairly direct, and goes where people want to go.

Fortunately, there is an opportunity for a dedicated bike route where there is space available, all in City ownership, in a direct line to where users want to go, and where a dedicated bike road can be built where already in-advanced-planning-process major capital expenditures are planned over the next decade and a half.

BikeWest is a bikeway from the downtown running due west along Albert Street to Bayview, continuing west along Scott Street to Westboro, and easily extendable to Lincoln Fields and other points west and south. As evident from the map, it’s an amazingly straight line in a built up city.

The population between the River and Carling Avenue, from the downtown to Westboro, is about 80,000 people. All these people live within an easy ride on residential streets that feed into the BikeWest route. This is a tremendous prime potential feeder area to BikeWest. Of course, there are also many hardier cyclists that would come to the route from outside this catchment area

Above: the main route (click to enlarge)

In subsequent entries, I will describe each segment of the BikeWest project.

The next entry will look at the first section, between the end of the Transitway at the Albert-Slater split by the Good Companions centre, and the downtown.

Opportunity is knocking. Will Ottawans let it in?


  1. Looks good just looking at the map. The problem will be getting the NCC and the City to work together. As well, when (if?) Tunney's Pasture gets redeveloped, it could be oriented arounf LRT and the Western Bikeway

  2. Chris: actually the City owns the right of way from Bronson to the split/transitway AND from Bayview to Dominon all the way along Scott.Thus for three quarters of the route the city already owns enough land.

    For the in-between setment, the City owns a narrower right of way from the split west to Bayview, but I am not sure if it is wide enough to put in both the BikeWest two lanes AND a pedestrian sidewalk. This is the only segment that might require some NCC land to be carved out of the building setback along Albert.

  3. Just heard your interview on CBC radio, and Googled to find this. You have my congratulations for taking this initiative, and my support! Ottawa needs much more ambitious and effective approaches to facilite bicycling as something more people can incorporate into their regular activities, and commuting to work is certainly one.

  4. I love the idea .. gets my vote for a go.

  5. Good idea, but it basically parallels the pathway along the river. Perhaps other routes would be more beneficial from cost perspective.

  6. Dear Eric this is the cycle route I use regularly. It's 20 minutes downtown from my place near Lincoln Fields vs over an hour via the Parkway. I avoid the Parkway trap by switching over to Richmond Rd @ Roosevelt. I suggest you consider extending your plan the same way.