Even when they do something right, they do something wrong

It was with a bit of (well-deserved) fanfare that the city and the NCC unveiled new crosswalk lights at Fifth Avenue and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. It made a lot of sense. The multi-use paths on either side of the QED are quite popular with both pedestrians and cyclists. Fifth Avenue is a main street and bike route linking people to the canal. Before the new lights were put in, it was quite dangerous to try to cross the QED, as cars zip by ridiculously fast.

The design of the new intersection was well-executed. Bike lanes were added to Fifth Avenue. At the intersection, the lanes extend from Fifth to the entrance to the MUP. Signage dictates that cars yield to bikes and both yield to pedestrians.

On both sides of the QED, there are pedestrian buttons to trigger the light, as well as clearly marked dots allowing bikes to trigger them, as well. All three different types of users, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, as kept separate and have infrastructure designed specifically for them.

It’s quite a good little intersection, now.

The other day I was approaching the intersection from the north along the canal MUP. There was a short line of cars lined up across from me waiting to turn from Fifth onto the QED. I pulled up to the intersection just as the light changed. There were no other cyclists and no pedestrians at the intersection. I didn’t get a light.

Having not been there soon enough to trigger the light change, the lights changed only to allow cars to turn. This is a flaw in the project.

Sadly, it’s not unusual for crosswalk lights to fail to change with the traffic lights if they’re not specifically triggered in time. This should change. There’s absolutely no valid reason for it. It is especially egregious at an intersection that gets heavy pedestrian and bike use, and that’s officially part of Ottawa’s bike route network.

This is a perfect example of the car-centric nature of Ottawa planning. Even when we take the necessary steps to accommodate and (hopefully) provide a little equality for all users, we screw it up by always giving consideration to cars, but only giving limited consideration to pedestrians and bikes. You won’t see an intersection where a pedestrian triggers a cross light while car traffic gets an unchanged red.

This is why we have problems. This is why our streets are far more dangerous than they should be. Even with a bunch of pedestrians around, we don’t really want them getting in the way of cars.

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