Monday, September 21, 2009

BikeWest - part ii - from Bronson to the transitway

The current transitway carries buses across LeBreton Flats and links them onto Albert Street (westbound) and Slater Street (eastbound) where Albert-Slater split, in front of the Good Companions Centre, located half way between Bronson and Booth Street.

Above: The Albert-Slater split, where the transitway begins/ends, by the Good Companions Centre. Slater, on the right, was originally built expressly for streetcar traffic to access the downtown.

Both Albert and Slater have dedicated bus-only lanes from the split right into the downtown core. These lanes will not be required for buses once the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel (DOTT) is constructed and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) service replaces the current bus rapid transit that uses street surfaces.

There are many contending uses for the bus lane space in the downtown core (east of Bronson over to the canal). But for the lanes west of Bronson, both Albert and Slater traverse vacant lands. The City, in its prior southwest LRT project planning, identified the Slater Street lane between the Good Companions and Bronson as unnecessary for traffic, and proposed converting it into a pedestrian sidewalk (currently missing either side of Slater) and additional greenspace merging into the wooded slope up towards St Vincent Hospital. As for Albert west of Bronson, currently four lanes (including the one counterflow lane that eases traffic onto Bronson), the City proposed reducing this road to three lanes once the buses were replaced by the LRT service.

Click to enlarge map. Dotted line shows the new bike route on the right side of each of the streets.

The BikeWest proposal is for a dedicated 3m-wide bike lane to replace the surplus bus-only lanes on these portions of Albert and Slater. There should be a concrete curb separating the car road from the bike road. The bike road could be about eight inches higher than the car road surface, to clearly identify it as separate from the vehicle road. Or it could be separated from the car traffic by a two foot wide curb/boulevard. Then beyond the bike path, there would be another curb and the concrete pedestrian sidewalk eight inches higher than the bike surface. These differing surface elevations and coloured asphalt paving will self-enforce a separation of traffic types.

Above: Slater Street bus lane would become a dedicated, physically-separated eastbound bike road made of coloured asphalt and there would be a separate concrete sidewalk for pedestrians.

This proposed tripartite vehicle road/bike road/pedestrian sidewalk would blend very easily into the existing wooded slope on the side of Slater. It would also coexist wonderfully well with the recently-constructed separate raised pathway that runs along the north side of Albert between Bronson and the transitway.

Above: west bound bus lane on Albert – shown on the far left - would become separated westbound bike route; boulevard and sidewalk would remain on both sides. Click to enlarge photo, and the new raised sidewalk on the far side of the photo (north side of Albert) will be apparent.

Only for the segment of BikeWest that runs from the downtown to the split would there be separated east-bound and west-bound bike lanes; for the rest of BikeWest project from the split to the west end, both directions would be on one paved surface on the north side of Albert. Cyclists would transition from the one way pair to the two-way portion at a signalized crossing where Albert-Slater split.

Here is a satellite photo of the route from Bronson west to the split at the Good Companions where the transitway is shown curving in from the lower left.

From the Albert-Slater split west towards Booth and then other points west, both direction lanes of the BikeWest road would be on the north (LeBreton Flats) side of Albert. This surface would not be reclaimed from the car road surface, but would be entirely new separated-by-curbs route, paved with coloured asphalt, created on the city-owned space along the north side of Albert, roughly where the current multi-purpose path is now. The pedestrian path/sidewalk would be located immediately north of the new BikeWest surface. This right of way is City owned for parts of the route, and might require some space from the NCC as part of the LeBreton Flats development in a few other spaces.

Above: the current ill-designed cyclist-ped path would relocate a few metres to the right as a new pedestrian-only sidewalk, leaving lots of room for a bi-directional BikeWest surface between it and Albert Street.

The first major intersection the BikeWest road faces is when it reaches Booth. This intersection is already a horror. It is scheduled to get worse. In order to be successful, the BikeWest users must have a fairly generous opportunity to safely cross Booth without excessive wait times.

I suggest this could be done by permitting right or left turns off the Albert Street stack lanes onto Booth only when there is a right turn/left turn green arrow. When there is a green light for through traffic on Albert, the bike road would also have a green light. There would be no turning traffic to cross the bike route during the regular green. Thus cyclists would have exactly the same amount of time to proceed through the intersection as would through-traffic motorists, and there would be no turning vehicles crossing WestBike when cyclists have a green light.

This procedure would be employed at all the subsequent major signalized intersections along BikeWest (eg Bayview, Parkdale, Holland, Island Park, Lanark).

Tomorrow: the Booth to Bayview segment


  1. "The bike road could be about eight inches higher than the car road surface, to clearly identify it as separate from the vehicle road."

    Bikes are vehicles, both in principle and in law. It's a shame to see a pro-cycling (?) blog not only make the mistake above, but propose a "solution" which will only further entrench the problem.

    Pat - bikes on roads with other vehicles 365 days/year

  2. The biggest mistake I see is that some cyclists who are comfortable mixing their "vehicles" with buses, cars, trucks, and impatient motorists, think that everyone should be comfy doing that.

    I don't feel comfortable or safe riding in very busy traffic, so I select my routing and time of travel to avoid these situations. I can do this partially because I am retired and flexible. Maybe there are so few cyclists "on the roads" because other people feel unsafe too.

    The purpose of BikeWest is "a dedicated, separated-from-cars two way bike road capable of moving thousands of people between neighborhoods and to the downtown". It's a bit more than a wider shared curb lane or painted bike lane.

    I think our city can have room for different types of roads to meet various needs. We have vehicle roads specially for scenic drives, for fast drives, for trucks, for cars only,etc. Surely we can provide a variety of cycling facilities too.

    Would closing the NCC bike paths to bikes and forcing cyclists onto Colonel By Drive or the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway because they are "vehicles" encourage more cycling?

    Holland, with extraordinarily high cycling rates, provides segregated bike routes as well as mixed traffic ones.

  3. I agree with Eric in that, while I am completely comfortable riding with cars, my wife isn't, and thus she doesn't ride as much as me. And as the number of cycling deaths this year demonstrates, a fear of cars is not irrational.

    I saw a while back a speech from the head of transportation engineering in Copenhagen (a trained landscape architect of all things) in which he states that the key driver of cycling is the perception of safety...

  4. Your photo of the "Albert/Slater split" shows a woman attempting to cross the street after walking down the south side of Albert. This is a terrible spot for pedestrians. The sidewalk leads you down Albert then abandons you when you have just about hit good companions. There is no crosswalk to lead you to another sidewalk. Perhaps the bike west plan could fix this too . . .