Bike in the Glebe, but stay off of Bank Street

Yesterday, the Glebe BIA published an eloquent, earnest and completely misguided blog post. Titled, Glebe biking network a dream for avid cyclists in the city, it attempted to paint the Glebe as a bicycling panacea. I’m friends with the person who likely wrote it, and I’m sure he believed every word, and it’s pretty easy to understand why someone might think this. There’s a painted bike lane on First Avenue (that only regularly has people parking in it). There’s a contraflow lane on a block of O’Connor and part of Holmwood. They’re building some bulbouts for bikes to ride over on the rest of O’Connor. Percy and Fifth are considered bike routes. And you’ve got the Canal MUP. Further, the Glebe has one of the highest modal shares for bicyclists in the city.

But read the piece and notice that only once do the words “Bank Street” appear. Councillor David Chernushenko notes that at some point in the future (we hope!) there will be a bridge so that people can go to a favourite restaurant on Bank Street:

“People from Alta Vista or Overbrook and Vanier can take the River Path or the new Main Street cycle route and then Clegg and over the bridge and, there I am, at the football game, at my favourite restaurant on Bank Street, getting my bagels, going to work at the Civic Hospital through the Glebe.”

That’s it.

Because god forbid you actually want to bike down Bank Street, the busiest and most important street in the neighbourhood. It’s where the bulk of the commerce is. It’s the connection to downtown. It’s the connection to Old Ottawa South and Billings Bridge. It’s pretty much the main street in Ottawa.

There’s no talk of the inherent dangers on Bank Street. There’s no talk of the wretched Bank Street Bridge. There’s no talk of making Bank Street welcoming, or acknowledgement that we have done a massive disservice to bicyclists, residents and businesses by making Bank Street so hostile to bicyclists.

(We could play the same game with pedestrians, of course.)

But you can park your bike on Bank Street after riding the side streets, so we’re cool, I guess.

I wrote before about how “the Glebe Cycling Plan” is actually an anti-Glebe cycling plan. The routes are derived to get you around and past the Glebe, not really through it and certainly not to participate in the life of the Glebe.

Bank Street went through a massive re-development a few years ago, but there are no bike lanes. There is no infrastructure to protect vulnerable bicyclists. Hell, they’ve built a damned parking garage on prime land and haven’t even reduced any other parking. All planning for the Glebe has been incredibly car-centric.

I wrote in that old post that I would hope that my councillor would want a better bicycling plan for the Glebe. Sadly, he doesn’t. Not only did he help kill the bike lanes on O’Connor, not only did he suggest creating dooring zones on the Bank Street Bridge, not only did he laud the opening of the parking garage that city reports said wasn’t actually needed, but now he’s actively promoting the toxic (literally and figuratively) traffic planning of the city, suggesting that “[i]f the most direct, fastest route isn’t necessarily your thing, you can find your way into the Glebe through all sorts of back door routes and have an uninterrupted beautiful ride.”

I honestly don’t know what he’s saying here.

At first, I thought he was saying that if you don’t want to take the most direct route (the canal MUP) you can take side streets. This got me very annoyed, because the canal is not a direct route. The Percy bike route is not a direct route. There is no direct route to get anywhere south of the Glebe, or anywhere downtown west of City Hall and east of Percy.

On second reading, I’m starting to think he’s saying that if you don’t want to take the most direct route (that likely being Bank Street), you can take the MUP and side streets. This is far more insulting. There are no measures to keep Bank Street safe. The city knows there are problems (as evidenced by the speed-clocking sign), but they won’t do anything meaningful. This is basically saying, if you live in the Glebe, either you get to take long, picturesque bike rides or you get to risk your life.

I am incredibly sick and tired of the notion that bicyclists have nothing better to do with their lives than take winding, out-of-the-way routes to get from point A to point B. My daughter’s dance class is about 1 km away from my home. To take a remotely safe route (which still dumps me onto Kent Street), my ride is 2 km. Taking the canal would likely up it to 4 km, and I’d still be dodging traffic at times.

And, you know, I read it a third time, and it seems that maybe he wasn’t even talking about the Glebe at all. He was talking about people coming to, through and around the Glebe, just like that insulting Glebe Cycling Plan would have it.

Regardless of his intentions, there is no way that comment demonstrates the merits of bicycle infrastructure in the Glebe. It is, again, dismissive of bicyclists and residents who are trying to live, work and enjoy the city on a day-to-day basis.

As a friend noted on Twitter, the Glebe bicycling network is a dream. It’s a fantasy. Maybe someday, we’ll have the necessary leadership to make it a reality.

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