City Hall Oblivious To Cycling Dangers


Target practice has begun on the O’Connor Street cycling lanes.

Hours after the lanes were opened this week, a cyclist and car came into collision when an auto made a left turn on O’Connor. The cyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Opening the O’Connor bike lanes while cyclists and motorists are running into each other (one fatally) on a similar Laurier Avenue example (and while an independent safety audit has not been completed) is wildly irresponsible. Here are politicians praising the advent of the O’Connor lanes knowing full well that the Laurier lanes are dangerous. It is arrogant, reckless and incompetent.

Video above: The cyclist taking the video has four close-calls in a few seconds on O’Connor.

But then this corresponds to the city response to the deadly OC Transpo-Via Rail train crash north of Barrhaven. The response? Almost no changes while the problem is studied to death at city hall.

Why are things moving so slowly on the bus crash? Because overpasses can cost about $100 million a pop so the city has no budget wiggle-room given that its capital budget is overwhelmed by light rail.

The danger with bike lanes is that cyclists have the right-of-way when standing vehicles make a right turn. The car moves slowly to turn right from a stop. Cyclists approach very quickly with the right-of-way smack in the driver’s blind spot. That right-hooks the cyclist. And that’s one reason a safety audit is underway on the Laurier lane.

The O’Connor lanes are even more dangerous than the Laurier example because cyclists travel two ways on one lane. Motorists are accustomed to one-way bike lanes. In the video above, you’ll see that on O’Connor vehicles can left-hook cyclists. It’s dangerous as the accident this week there illustrates.


Mayor Jim Watson’s tweet just before the cycling accident on O’Connor Street.



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11 thoughts on “City Hall Oblivious To Cycling Dangers

  1. Add pedestrian education to the agenda for police, cycling groups and the city! What kind of nutbar steps onto the road in mid-block without looking? Is this a new form of Darwin Award-seeking?


  2. Tragedies occur when two or more hazards meet.

    Let’s examine the configuration and use of the bicycle lanes in this context:
    – bicyclists in a line, travelling at different speeds, while approaching a similar configuration, in a narrow space, beside a road, with limited space for evasive actions to take place;
    – vehicles are permitted to turn across those bike lanes, setting up the potential for right hook/left hook combinations, exacerbated by bicyclists going in both directions;
    – pedestrians crossing the bicycle lanes and roadways, at intersections or between them, with limited space for bicyclists to take evasive action;
    – earphones in place on bicyclists and pedestrians, and car stereos turned up loud, thus blocking out the sound of anemic bicycle bells.

    Potentially four hazards, in a tight space at the same time. So, councillors, what is the most likely outcome? Hint: look at the first word in this comment.


    1. Ron:

      I understand there is a great commitment to bicycling at Ottawa City Hall.

      But at what cost? Cars and bicycles in a downtown setting don’t mix.

      We need to separate cars and bikes downtown before more people are hurt or killed.

      Still the city just plows ahead with cycling lanes in the face of mounting evidence that in a downtown setting they are too dangerous.

      We need some creative thinking at city hall to solve this problem … not just do the same thing over and over again.




      1. Ken,

        I agree with your analyses as to why segregated bikeways are inherently dangerous. They do not lower the level of cycling skills needed to safely ride them but rather raise it. Likewise for motorists, who now bear additional responsibility of navigating complicated intersections that violate well established rules of traffic flow. The result is that novice and other cyclists are offered a false sense of security and all road users are inconvenienced.

        As for the solution, it is incorrect to say that cars and bikes don’t mix since even in the cycling paradises of Denmark and the Netherlands cyclists have to ride in mixed traffic and do so competently. As in other European countries (that don’t have similar bike infrastructure), this competence is gained as soon as kids start school where they are taught the rules of the road and other essential elements of staying safe on a bike. The problem in Ottawa is that city hall doesn’t even acknowledge we have a cycling competency issue and the activists they pander to just want more butts on bikes regardless of cost. So the need for “Cyclist Ed” is granted lip service and that’s about all.

        The 2012 Ontario coroner’s report on cyclists fatalities found 73 per cent of cyclists contributed wholly or partly to their own misfortune. What better evidence is needed to show where the responsibility for one’s survival lies first?


        1. Avery Burdett:

          We have a driving problem as well.

          I was almost sideswiped by a guy in a Mercedes on Tuesday on the Macdonald Parkway.

          The driver appeared to be drunk and swerved into my lane.

          So drivers and cyclists no doubt need some brushing up on their skills. And we’ve all made mistakes.

          That said, a well-constructed comment.




  3. The problem here is motorists, not cyclists or Ottawa City Hall. Downtown drivers need to understand that they are not the only ones using these roads anymore.
    Ken, do you commute by bicycle? Do any of your commenters?


    1. Mr. or Ms. Anonymous:

      I work from my home office so I neither commute by bike nor car. Sorry to disappoint.

      I don’t know if that meets the standards of the bike lobby (which participates in the one-sided argument at city hall on how we use our roads. Maybe someone should create the League of Ottawa Motorists).

      As for do the commenters on this site commute by bike, how do you expect me to find an answer for that?

      I’m not against bike commuting by any stretch of the imagination. My concern is that the lanes as configured now are dangerous.

      Had we not put the LRT underground, I backed light rail on a downtown street and, accordingly, establishing a train, cycling and pedestrian corridor east-west through the core.

      It would have been safer and most efficient for cyclists and would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars on light rail.

      As for the problem is motorists, I don’t want to get into a bone-headed discussion on that topic. There are lots of poor cyclists and motorists to go around. Just as there are lots of good ones as well. No one is on the side of the angels on that issue.




    2. Anonymous, last week I attended an event in downtown Ottawa. As I came to a full and complete stop at a stop sign on Queen Elizabeth Driveway, near the underpass at Laurier, I saw a man on a bicycle ride heading south on QED, past the stop sign without stopping. At the same time, a woman on a bicycle, heading east on the Laurier “off ramp”, rode past the stop sign. They collided, at low speed, and no one appeared to be injured beyond a scrape or a bruise. I noted an animated discussion over which of the two were more at fault in my rear-view mirror, along with a wry smile.

      In short, the problem is not just motorists, nor is it just bicyclists. Add pedestrians into the mix as well. The problem is that when motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians share close quarters, problems can arise. It requires a higher degree of attention to the rules of the road, and a greater degree of courtesy among all three actors than is often present these days, else the play will be a tragedy.


  4. Drove down O’Connor the other day and couldn’t understand the new signs. Also don’t understand the need for bike lanes in our climate.

    I used to ride my bike downtown when with government. Was careful. Looked both ways.

    Still was hit by a pickup truck. Lightly hurt, few hours in the hospital, bike a write off. Never rode in full winter. Too dangerous.

    Another impulsive move by Ottawa City Hall to match many earlier politically correct “green” initiatives.


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