The Anti-Glebe Cycling Plan

The other day, I was at a public consultation that was purportedly about the Glebe Cycling Plan (though it was mainly about driving, kind of about pedestrians and hardly about bicycling at all…but I digress). I won’t get into the details (it wouldn’t make a particularly interesting post), but they did display the following diagram. Do you see a problem with it?

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 7.59.23 PM

This is an image of the “Glebe Cycling Plan”. Bank Street is the Glebe’s main street. The “Glebe Cycling Plan” seems designed to keep you away from Bank Street…and the numbered streets…and Central Park.

This plan is designed to get you through and out of the Glebe without enjoying any part of it. It’s a giant middle finger from the city. I’d love to see my councillor do something about it.

Car wars

Today I published an op-ed–okay, it was kind of a polemic–on the supposed War on Cars.

To be clear, there’s no war on cars. As I argue, there is a war on us. Cars, drivers, are killing us. They’re destroying the environment. They rob us of time and space. They injure us. They kill us. And through it all, we get little more than a corporate shrug from the city.

We don’t build proper sidewalks, or bikelanes, or intersections. We keep expanding roads. We desperately clutch to our parking–our city is zoned so that all new developments must have parking. It is absolutely insane.

Specifically in the piece, I talk about the failed attempt to build a bikeway along O’Connor. The city has cancelled have of it. The councillor for Capital Ward is suggesting some half measures to smooth over the open hostility the neighbourhood and the city has for non-automobile transportation. The official line is that we need to balance needs. We need to compromise.

Here’s what I didn’t get to in the op-ed. The O’Connor bikeway was the compromise. Every street–every damned street–is built for cars. Even our pedestrian mall allows cars. Lansdowne, a primarily pedestrian zone, has been given a car-centric makeover.

We have no bike infrastructure in the Glebe. None. We have sharrows and painted lanes. Latex on concrete isn’t infrastructure; it’s a pacifier.

We should have north-south bikelanes on multiple streets in the Glebe. Percy is considered a bike route. No bike lanes. Bank is considered a bike route. No bike lanes. O’Connor will be called a bikeway. No bike lanes.

Bike lanes should be going on Bank Street. That’s where the shops are. That’s where the restaurants are. That’s the main street that connects downtown, the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and parts beyond. Right now, bicyclists intermingle with cars that can easily kill them, drivers that can easily kill them.

Bike lanes on Bank Street would still provide the majority of the street to cars; it would still be a compromise.

Bike lanes on O’Connor would still provide the majority of the street to cars; it also ensures that all the space on Bank Street is devoted to cars; it would be a further compromise.

Nothing on Bank, nothing on O’Connor, nothing on Percy or Lyon, that’s not a compromise.

That’s surrender, and that was the point of the op-ed.

The Missing Bike Lane

[Editor’s note: the revelation of the cancellation of half the O’Connor bike lane project was reported during the time the Transportation Committee was meeting, but it wasn’t actually given at the committee meeting. It was, apparently, merely a press release. All the arguments still stand, but I will edit the post for clarity in the near future.]

The city has been planning some new bike lanes. In the immediate future, they plan to build a north-south route along O’Connor. This would stretch from the core through the Glebe (I wrote about it here).

Sorry, wait, wait. That was silly. Let’s start over again.

The city has been planning some new bike lanes. In the immediate future, they had planned to build a North-South route along O’Connor. This would stretch from the core through the Glebe (I wrote about it here), but of course the city is looking to scrap parts of it.

Yes, that’s right, the city planned to do the least possible to help cyclists get in and out of the core, and they’re scrapping it. Reports have varied; they’re either scrapping it from Strathcona to Glebe or Strathcona to Fifth. I’m sure everyone can guess the reason for this change of tune, parking.

The process to build this lane was flawed from the outset. City planners accurately identified a need for new bike infrastructure. We have the Laurier Bike Lane going through (sort of) downtown from east to west, but we had no good bike infrastructure running north-south (and if you mention Percy and Lyon, you’re high; that’s bad bike infrastructure).

The next logical step after identifying the need for a bike lane would be to determine a location; obviously, it’s going to run along an existing street. There’s nowhere in the core of the Glebe to create a brand new bikeway. There was only one logical choice, Bank Street.

Bank Street is our main street. It’s the main north-south route for commuting. It connects to Old Ottawa South, Alta Vista, South Keys and beyond. It has lots of destinations–shops, restaurants, churches. It will even take you to the city’s shiny new development, Lansdowne. It is, in many ways, the place to be.

And it is quite easy to tell that it is the place to be. It has the highest bike, car and foot traffic downtown and in the Glebe. Cyclists are all over the street. It’s the location for one of the city’s bike corrals. And it’s dangerous. If you’re on your bike, you’re dodging cars and buses. You’re worrying about doorings and navigating parked cars. Do you filter? Do you take the lane? The Bank Street Bridge and Billings Bridge are unfit for safe traffic.

Further, the sidewalks are unreasonably narrow. There’s little room. On the Bank Street Bridge, pedestrians can be forced onto the road…a road that cars endlessly speed down. A bike lane offers a buffer to pedestrians, keeping them even further away for the scofflaw death machines. Our planners need to remember, bike infrastructure makes walking safer.

It’s easy enough to say that bikes can just pop over to O’Connor, but that’s ridiculous. Bank Street is right in the middle of downtown. We don’t need (as much) a route on the east side of downtown. Sure, if you’re right in the core, O’Connor is only one block east of Bank, but at Fifth Avenue, O’Connor is approximately four blocks east of downtown. Why would I take that route if I just had to get back to Bank Street (or worse, Kent) at the end of my trip?

So city planners screwed up. It’s not really on them. There’s no political will to make Bank Street anything close to a safe street. Planners had their hands tied. They went with the second-best choice, O’Connor. I can’t really blame them.

A lot of work went into this plan; it wasn’t some idea just thrown out off the top of someone’s head. There was a lot of work. There were consultations with the public and stakeholders. This showed dedication. It showed that maybe, maybe, the city was actually taking things seriously.

Then a business complained, and some residents complained. There were about twelve complaints. People were worried about all the parking that would be lost. The business, a pediatrician for heaven’s sake, worried that their clients wouldn’t be able to park (because apparently they couldn’t park on any of the other streets around there). Because of this, cyclists shouldn’t be given proper infrastructure.

So at the Transportation Committee, we were all blindsided. There had been no mention of any concerns before, but at committee, the planners decided to recommend scrapping half the plan. As a resident, you should be outraged that the process can be so hi-jacked and safety so compromised. As a taxpayer, you should be outraged that city planners wasted all this time and money.

I rode down O’Connor the other day, from Pretoria to Fifth, and here’s what I found out. There’s hardly any parking there, at all. There are maybe five or ten spots between Strathcona and First. You have bulb outs and bus stops. An embassy and a school. An overpass over Patterson Creek. You also probably have room to create the bike lanes and still save some parking.

(Oh, and the sidewalk is pretty narrow. There’s barely room to walk side-by-side going over the creek. This is problematic when walking with children or people with mobility issues, as someone can be force to walk on the road in a bus route. Again, bike lanes would provide a bit of a buffer; it’d be much better to be forced into a bike lane than into an oncoming bus.)

From First to Fifth, there’s a healthy amount of parking, but only on the east side of the road. The west side is all No Parking. But more than that, it’s a ridiculously wide road…which can lead to speeding, which is all the more reason to have bike lanes. In fact, the street is so wide that you could easily have bike lanes on both sides of the road and maintain all the existing parking.

There is a severe level of cowardice and dishonesty going on here. The concerns for parking are pretty unfounded. The whole thing might–might–cost five spots, but city planners are willing to cancel the project to placate the parking lobby (of twelve whole people). When the issue of parking was presented, the planners should have been able to demonstrate that the concerns were unfounded. They should have told the complainers that hardly any parking would be lost whatsoever.

But…cowardice. Or they never really believed in the project to begin with.

Further, the city has once again played residents against each other. Yes, there has to be some give-and-take, but building this bike route will take away so little parking, that there’s barely any cost to it, but city officials–planners and politicians–won’t play that conciliatory game. No, bike infrastructure harms everyone else (even though it will help pedestrians!), so we have to scrap it.

Those complaining were, ignorant, at best, maliciously dishonest at worst. Their concerns where unfounded, yet they had to complain, anyway. It would seem they had done no research into what parking (if any) would actually be lost; the response was just so reflexively anti-bike that it demonstrates the city’s politics of division works.

Or, they’re just liars. Maybe they know that there are no legitimate concerns, but they just hate the thought of (more) bikes going (safely) down the street that they made up this lie, assuming (correctly) that it would work.

All is not lost…technically. Council still gets the final say on this. The issue is to come up today at full council. It’d take a near miracle for council to overrule planners and the recommendation of the cowardly Transportation Committee, but it is possible.

I’m not holding my breath.

Glebe [Hearts] Mexican?

A couple of new developments are happening in the Glebe. Two storefronts on Bank (one just south of Fifth, the other just south of Second) are seeing new restaurants coming.

First, at Fifth, we have Glebe Taqueria/Encino Taco (I don’t actually know the official name; both are on the signage, but don’t totally make sense as a name; I imagine the former is more a descriptor, the latter the name). It’s going in what used to be a candy bouquet store, before becoming a temporary office for Whole Foods. It’s an interesting space, with an open loft at the back. And there’s a noticeable chandelier hanging. That’s about all you can see.

At Second, we have Burrito Shack. This is a little more interesting. It’s going in at Second beside Marble Slab, and kitty-corner from Feleena’s, the only current Mexican joint in the Glebe. I don’t think there’ll be a ton of competition, though, as they look to be tackling different markets, Burrito Shack seeming more relaxed with a faux-exposed faux-brick faux-motif* going on.

Both the Shack and the Taqueria will be licensed (assuming all goes according to plan). I have no idea how successful they’ll be, but it’s nice to get some of these empty storefronts filled.

*As you can probably guess, this look isn’t really my jam.

Why does the Glebe want more cars?

852 Bank Street Rendering.PNG_img-250x250-INNER-852 Bank Street RenderingI don’t get it.

Listening to reports from the media and from local councillor David Chernushenko, apparently all my neighbours want more cars driving through our community. At least, that’s I how I interpret this story.

For those not paying attention to minor neighbourhood squabbles (hey, I get that), the lot at the Southwest corner of Bank and Fifth has been, essentially, vacant for quite some time now. There is a defunct service centre, but mostly it’s just used for parking. Finally, we have a proposal for a new development. It’s two storeys with a part of the second storey being a patio. It’s not perfect (I would like a bigger setback, personally), but it’s good, and we’re never going to get “perfect”, anyway.

Outgoing councillor Peter Hume criticized it for not being tall enough. He wondered why we wouldn’t have a building go up to four storeys there. It’s a valid question. The land is zoned for more than two storeys. The rest of the block is two storeys, so going a bit higher wouldn’t be a drastic change, and it would add a bit more density without adding a monstrous tower. In the end, though, it was a compromise. The developer isn’t providing any parking spaces, and it was felt that a higher building would require more parking.

This is a wonderful compromise. We block out less sky and we don’t waste prime land on a parking lot. Kudos, developer people.

But residents aren’t happy. They want parking spots on that lot.

I get their worry; they don’t want all the surrounding streets getting jammed up with cars, but creating an incentive for more people to drive to the area is not going to help that. As it stands, we will have this new development, but there will be a clear statement (just like with Lansdowne and the most of the rest of the shops on Bank Street). Don’t drive. We don’t want to create a neighbourhood to which people are regularly inclined to drive rather than bus, walk or bike. We should be removing car infrastructure rather than adding to it.

And, let’s not forget, there is not a shortage of parking in the Glebe. Bank Street is never completely full. Rarely is an entire block even full. Add to that all the side streets, and you’ll see that we already give way too much space for cars (and, don’t forget, we’re planning to build a four storey parking garage at Bank and Second).

This new development is within a block or so from my home. I’m glad the lot will finally be used for something other than a monument to urban decay. And I am very thankful that we won’t be wasting the space housing cars. We do enough of that already.

Furyous Drivers

I have a few quick notes about Lansdowne transportation that I haven’t yet mentioned. I’m doing this bullet-style because it would just be too many words about this top, otherwise. Here you go:

  • After the second RedBlacks home game, Bank Street was a little more congested. It wasn’t really bad, and it didn’t last too long, but traffic did not flow as smoothly for this game. I don’t know if it had to do with the additional parking or what, but it’s interesting.
  • The first Fury game was pretty bad for congestion. A lot more people were driving and Bank didn’t seem to be able to handle to post-soccer traffic (as well as the normal traffic and parking). It cleared out fairly quickly, but, again, interesting.
  • Saturday’s Fury game seemed to have no such problem. I imagine attendance might be down a bit from the opener, and traffic might flow smoother on a Saturday night rather than a Sunday evening.

That’s it. I don’t know if I’ll ever write about this stuff again*.

*I probably will.

Re-re-visiting Lansdowne: Credit to OSEG

The transportation plan for the first RedBlacks game went off quite smoothly (at least in the Glebe), which is why it was so absurd when an OSEG representative said that, based on the previous success, they were thinking of opening up more streets for on-street parking.

It seems they may have reconsidered, as this morning city workers were out putting up No Parking signs along Bank Street (no parking between 3:30 to 11:30, the brunch crowd is still safe). This is good news. I haven’t finished my morning coffee, yet, so I haven’t been out and I don’t know if I they have restricted parking on any other streets.

Re-visiting Lansdowne

It’s been two weeks since the inaugural RedBlacks home game, and with the second home game coming up tomorrow, I thought I’d go through my impressions of transit to and from the game. I had planned to give an elegant little review, but that never happened, so let’s just go through this bullet-point style. And to warn you, this will be focused the Glebe, since that’s where I live.

Pre-Game:

  • Things worked well. Bank Street wasn’t plugged up, and cars, vehicles and bikes were able to move along pretty freely. I got home form work around 5:00 pm, taking Fifth Avenue to Bank (and then quickly turning left off of Bank). It was easy to turn onto Bank, change lanes and turn at left without the aid of stop light.
  • Buses were running smoothly. They didn’t seem to be blocking other traffic at all.
  • This is primarily because there was no parking, so no need to make non-stop lane changes. Sadly, it seems like we’ll be saddled with parking tomorrow.
  • It was loud, but not too loud along Bank, though the KISS FM tent was obnoxiously loud. Pedestrians moved along quickly, and generally didn’t get in the way.
  • Some pedestrians would cross the street willy-nilly without looking or caring that they were cutting people off.
  • It really was a marvelous carnival atmosphere. This is the sort of thing we need to do more of in the city.
  • Bank Street emptied quickly right before kick-off. There was no mad rush, honking or anything. All of a sudden, there just wasn’t anyone there. This would be a testament to the planning of OSEG.
  • Apparently, they ticketed 51 cars and towed 8. I only saw one person get a ticket, it was around 8:00 and she had popped into Kardish to pick up a few things.
  • There bike cops everywhere, seemingly.

Post-Game:

  • After the game, I quickly headed to a local bar. Lansdowne emptied relatively quickly, and for a brief while it got a little loud. Still, it wasn’t that bad. Really, it was about what you’d expect for a central neighbourhood during a special event.
  • Within about 20 to 40 minutes, everyone seemed to have left or arrived at their destination, as Bank became relatively empty again (though bars were quite busy).
  • The bike cops were still patrolling.
  • There was an ice cream truck that parked illegally (with some irritating music playing). The cops told him to move. He got huffy, but moved anyway… to another illegal spot. They made him move again and he seemed to just give up and leave.
  • I didn’t see a ton of trash on the streets. There was some, sure, but again, downtown event; what would you expect?

So that’s about it. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. It’s a weekend, so that may altar travel patterns. It might rain, so that might put a damper on things. The biggest worry, though, is the parking situation. The city and OSEG admitted there was ample parking for the game, but, still, they want more for tomorrow. If enough people hear that and think it means oh, I can drive to this game, they’ll have screwed themselves and the neighbourhood.

This is why we can’t have nice streets

I’ve been meaning to write about the inaugural RedBlacks game at Lansdowne. As prep, I’ve been reading a number of different reports to try to get as complete a picture as I can. Reading this report in the Ottawa Citizen, I was just floored by this passage:

OSEG’s plan calls for 2,500 vehicles to park and walk, representing 6,200 “person trips.” Landry said while there were many cars parked around Lansdowne, there was lots of availability further north and east of Bank, as well as south of the stadium. That means the heavy no-parking restrictions the city introduced on various streets in the Glebe for Friday’s game might be relaxed in the future.

Greg Best, chair of the Glebe BIA, had similar findings. “I didn’t get the sense people were circling around trying to find spots,” he said. “I looked at Glebe, First, Second, I looked at them all. … The traffic wasn’t really an issue. I was surprised.”

This is just mindboggling. The traffic plan worked. The parking restrictions allowed for an easy flow of buses, bikes and pedestrians. People really listened to OSEG and left their cars at home. Some people drove and parked, but so few that even with a lot of parking restrictions there was still “lots of availability” for parking. Which mean, we don’t need more parking capacity!

There may be no better representation of the myopic idiocy of car-centric urban planning than to look at a successful transportation plan with ample excess parking and respond, “More parking!”

For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with the positive reports about transportation (speaking, at least, for the north side of Lansdowne), but part of what made the whole experience so great was the lack of parked cars (and drivers looking to park) gumming up the major streets, Bank and First.