New bike lanes are coming to the Glebe…just months before the election

Last month, maybe two months ago, a friend noted that there were new bike lanes on Glebe Avenue. I’m rarely around there, so I hadn’t noticed. This was an interesting development.

A few weeks later, I happened to be taking the bus down Glebe, and, yeah, there are some new bike lanes and stuff. There’s a bi-directional along the school and some ride-overs at intersections and some weird islands that seem to separate cars and bikes, slow cars down, and…force bicyclists into the back of parked cars, or something. So, yeah, some of the design decisions seem odd, but this could be promising.

A week or so later, another friend pointed out some dotted lines on the north side of Fifth Avenue near O’Connor. It looked like the makings of a bike lane. Lo and behold, there are even signs pointing to a non-existent-but-maybe-soon-to-be-existent bike lane.

Again, this is, potentially, a positive development. Granted, I couldn’t help but notice that there were only signs of a coming-soon bike lane on the one side of the street.

This isn’t unusual. The city likes the idea of putting in bike lanes more than they actually like doing it. So they tend to find places where it’s easy and displaces the least amount of parking (or no parking at all) and do it there. Often–like, say, on Lees Avenue–this means they’ll put a bike lane on one side of the street, but not the other.

You need to get to work safely, but it’s cool if you die on the way home, or something.

Oh ho! No, my skepticism did not appear to be warranted. Today, I noticed the makings of a bike lane on Fifth going west towards Bank. In fact, they’re even (it seems) re-jigging the intersection, so it’ll just be two car lanes, rather than three, and two bike lanes.

This is exactly what Fifth Avenue needs. It’s a connection to O’Connor (which is supposedly a bike lane), the canal MUP, Bank Street (granted, it’s shit to ride on, but it’s still the main street), the Percy bike route and Madawaska, which connects you to Commissioners Park, the canal MUP, the O-Train MUP, etc. etc.

If Bronson weren’t a (literal, sadly) death trap, it’d also help you get to Carleton University. So, hey!, the city is actually doing something right. My skepticism–my undying and ever-growing cynicism–was not warranted. This is marvelous! This is outstanding! This is what this neighbourhood and this ward (remember there’s an election coming up) should be.

Oh, wait, no, shit. We can’t really shake the cynicism just yet.

It’s noteworthy–it’s really fucking blaringly conspicuous–that this is happening just as the election campaign is kicking into gear (and the incumbent seems, and should be, vulnerable). The area has seen inadequate commitments to safe bicycling infrastructure from a councillor who seems happier opening a parking garage than securing a safe bike lane.

Very little has been happening in the Glebe in terms of bike infrastructure in the last eight years. We got screwed out of bike lanes on O’Connor–a decision the councillor supported. We got a protected contraflow lane on one block of O’Connor and Holmwood (this is a very good thing…though it took a long time to make it protected). And we got a painted bike lane on First Avenue…and, I dunno, maybe something else?

That First Avenue lane is interesting. I’m not particularly sure it’s needed on that street. It goes to the high school, so that’s nice, but it doesn’t seem like a really busy, dangerous street…but maybe I’m just wrong on that.

What I do know about the street is that the bike lane regularly becomes parking. It’s not protected, and, so, drivers feel entitled to it. I used to take that lane every Saturday morning and *every* Saturday morning, there would be at least one person parked in it (even when going to a house with a driveway).

Oh yeah, and about that bi-directional bike lane on Glebe, when I was there, a tractor trailor was parked in it, completely blocking it. It did move, but then there was another car parking in half of it. An unprotected, painted bike lane will always double as parking in this city.

Hell, even the rest of it along Glebe was a waste, because now they’re tearing up the fucking street. They built bike lanes (and I’m sure they’ll replace them…I mean, I’m pretty sure) on a street that was slated to be re-built within a month. Tell me it was much more than PR.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the westbound bike lane on Fifth. Not sure if you can see it, but it just ends at Bank Street, directing bicyclist into the curb. It doesn’t connect with any other bike infrastructure. It’s a token gesture by token city planners overseen by a councillor with a token interest in biking in the neighbourhood.

You may also be able to notice a sign on the lightpost, it tells drivers to yield to bicyclists when trying to turn right…but it’s installed after the intersection (where the bike lane has suddenly ended and conflict has been engineered-in).

The same sign appears for eastbound traffic, again, after the intersection, but at least the bike lane actually continues on there?

And, of course, let’s really hold off our applause until we see if the lanes are protected. Are they putting up bollards or curbs? Or will the lanes just double as car lanes when drivers want to park or jet around a turning car? And, hey, what about a bike box in front of the stop line? Maybe a bike and pedestrian advance? What about a prohibition against rights on red? Are we going to make it a dashed line, inviting drivers to bully bicyclists? Will there be any enforcement, or is this just an empty gesture by a politician looking to scrounge up votes.

This is information I’m waiting for.

But even when this is done…even if it’s executed perfectly (in its own, inherently-flawed way)…it won’t be enough. All infrastructure has been going on east-west routes (save for one tiny contraflow lane). There’s no way to go north-south safely, and there’s no way to get to anything on the “Traditional Main Street” safely and legally. We still can’t bike over a bridge without unnecessary risk.

I’m glad that something’s being done in the community, but I don’t think residents should just forget that for the last eight years, the needs of the neighbourhood have been ignored for the sake of commuters speeding through the community, injuring people and risking lives.

It came out recently that residents in the Glebe want safe bike lanes, even on their own streets. Only now are we seeing action from the city. Don’t get fooled. Don’t assume this is a commitment to do right by central neighbourhoods.

It’s electioneering. It’s cycnical. And it’s not how we should run Ottawa.

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