Fear On Both Sides Of Bike Lane Issue


Your agent just had this story related to him by phone.

A person who parks his car under his apartment says he is “terrified” trying to drive out of his parking lot to cross two lanes of bike traffic and make it safely into O’Connor Street traffic.

You see fear is not confined to cyclists. Any right-thinking person driving a car does not want to come into collision with a bike or another car.

Hitting a cyclist is indeed terrifying because the cyclist has very little protection.

There is fear on both sides of this issue.

This is the same fear your agent had when leaving the city hall parking lot at rush hour one afternoon.

Laurier Avenue was jammed with traffic. Cars were just creeping so there was no break in the traffic.

The only way you could get into traffic was by crossing the bike lanes and blocking it until the traffic moved.

You couldn’t get into the traffic because the bike lane was packed.

So your agent was stranded in the driveway with other cars behind him impatiently waiting for your agent to take the plunge.

I don’t want to hurt anyone.



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13 thoughts on “Fear On Both Sides Of Bike Lane Issue

  1. Ken,

    Your example of the Laurier Avenue problem of a car exiting the city hall parking lot is a perfect example of what I mean by the need for smart planning.

    Smart planning of bicycle routes means that some roads might be limited to cars or bicycles, or even banned altogether. Thus, in this case, I would not permit bikes on Laurier from Elgin to Waller (n.b. the Laurier Bridge is also too narrow for proper bike passage). People can dismount their bike and walk this route on the sidewalk, or take two alternate bike routes, namely: Slater to the Mackenzie Bridge and then into Sandy Hill (yes, I would make Slater, not Laurier, the bike lane for west-east bike traffic; and Albert the bike lane for east-west bike traffic). Or, Slater to Elgin to Somerset, then over the Corktown Bridge and onward to Sandy Hill.

    City Council has to start recognizing that there are smarter ways of organizing bike routes which involve compromises by both cyclists and car drivers. Maybe some streets will have to sacrifice a car lane to bikes, or remove car parking on a street. Likewise, bikes will not be permitted on some streets. There can be no shortcuts (e.g. the O’Connor bi-directional bike lane) as safety should be the priority.

    As someone recently stated: “this is not rocket science.” However, it does nonetheless require at least an ounce of intelligence on the part of city hall planners.

    1. Sheridan:

      Finally … some good comment.

      I still wonder about all this money on cycling infrastructure when much of this lies fallow in the winter for the most part and in summer … well that’s a low-traffic period because many people are on holidays.

      Somehow we need a cost-benefit analysis before we start pouring millions into bike infrastructure (and as of now, doing it quite poorly).



  2. Ken,
    I have looked at the issue as being one of terror for the car driver (blind spots, crossing moving traffic). A car driver can quite easily be in an accident with a bike and the horror of that would make me want to never turn right at a driveway.

    The poor guy in this example has to cross.

    I think some of the bike riders took the search for a safe solution as being anti-bike lane. I understand the bike lane concept and I understand you are questioning the safety of the design. There is a lack of safety created with the quick fix solution that makes cars cross paths with bikes at each driveway along the route.

    Traffic control or no crossing paths are the only solutions I can come up with.

  3. Ken,

    I would challenge you on your summer comment for two reasons: 1) most people split up their vacation time, and more and more people are taking the bulk of that time off in the winter — with cheap southern flights and sunny holiday packages, or ski trips and such; 2) the population of the Ottawa-Gatineau region has grown so much to the point that rush-hour traffic is basically the same all year round.

    But you are right about studying the issue for cost, sensible routes and whether keeping bike lanes open in the winter months is economically feasible.

    What is happening right now is that we are undergoing a safety audit on the Laurier Avenue bike lanes. My opinion is that this audit is just going to end up with recommendations that are little more than putting lipstick on a pig. I would much rather the city have hired an outside bike-lane design expert (maybe from Denmark) to evaluate the best bike route system for Ottawa. Such an expert might recommend removing car parking on some streets, confining large trucks to certain routes or hours of the day they can travel on particular roads, cancelling left-hand turns on certain streets, introducing lower speeds in certain districts, forcing cyclists to walk their bikes on various streets, imposing stiff fines on cyclists who ride on the sidewalk, etc. Also, new bike lanes that work with the public transit routes or old rail ROWs would no doubt be recommended.

    What would the total cost be? My guess is tens of millions of dollars for a comprehensive system. The positive aspect of this is that bicycle infrastructure is economical to maintain, i.e. once built, it will age well, especially if closed during the winter months (I would nominate the beginning of December to the end of March).

    Such changes cannot be done overnight, but let us be clear about the goal and the financial costs involved so that we can properly plan, build and budget for an efficient and safe bicycle infrastructure system for Ottawa.

    1. Sheridan:

      I believe only Finland has the expertise to deal with biking issues in Ottawa.

      I think our adamant biking community would be surprised that you could come up with ideas on cycling without exploring Finland.

      In all seriousness, you’re right about traffic … it’s bad all year ’round. However I think most people take holidays in summer. The reason I say that is because Bulldog readership in the summer declines but is most vibrant in winter.

      As for bike lanes, I think we have to separate them from car traffic. My idea of a surface light-rail, pedestrian and biking corridor through downtown would have worked but that issue is over.

      Perhaps we have to declare some streets bike-only except for local and delivery traffic. But then listen to local business howl, as well they should.

      So what I believe is that bikes and cars don’t mix but I don’t know how to separate them through the core.



      1. Ken,

        Because we have buried the LRT under ground, that is all the more reason for surface downtown bike lanes to be successful, i.e. more space from the 2018 removal of most downtown buses. Sparks Street was turned into a pedestrian mall, so why can’t Slater and Albert dedicate one full lane over to the bicycle?

        It seems to me that this just takes political will and a proper budget to connect routes to Slater and Albert. North-south is more difficult but not impossible. Why not experiment with various streets? Maybe Elgin would have been a better choice than O’Connor, as it could easily connect to the Rideau Canal bike pathway (n.b. the Clegg Street bridge will be built in a few years). Why not another pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River to connect Clegg to Hurdman Station and then a bike path along the Transitway to connect to Walkley Road (and its existing bike path leading to Hunt Club)?

        There is a lot that can be accomplished with some imagination, intelligent design and a proper budget — alas, those elements are completely missing from this city council.

        1. Sheridan:

          For what it is worth, and it is probably impossible, I would devote one of Slater or Albert completely to biking east and west.

          That would eliminate the right and left hooks by vehicles injuring cyclists.

          As I said, probably impossible. The downtown merchants fought surface light rail so hard that taxpayers were forced to opt for a tunnel. The merchants wanted their parking on-street.

          For bikes down one of Slater or Albert, the merchants would put up a terrible fight. They would believe, perhaps rightly, that they were fighting for their business success.

          Bikes together, I hope are safe. Cars together are reasonably safe. However a mix is deadly.

          Maybe you have a better idea for east-west. If so, I’m all ears.



    2. Sheridan,
      I feel and it indeed seems that city hall may have an over-abundance of lipstick and little else.

      A project once prioritized moves onto implementation. Short term fix or lasting long term investment gets oft overlooked.

  4. Making decisions about where to spend limited resources is complicated oft too often by expedience, politics and emotion.

    I would fund zero rinks, arenas, libraries, pools and bike lanes until every person had decent food, shelter and clothing.

    I would fund zero space ships until all leprosy, TB, malaria cases etc. on the planet were addressed.

    I would fund zero fireworks displays or sodded bridges or tea parties until polluted water was directed away from the river that I get my drinking water from.

    Each person will have their own priorities but one thing that cannot be done is decide to do something that is a half-measure just because a full solution is quick, easier and cheap.

  5. I wonder if anyone would design a road with a bike lane on the left side of a two-way car traffic road.

    Picture a north-bound bike that wants to turn east into a driveway first by crossing in front of south-bound cars then across the north-bound lane of cars. The bike would have no blind spots to contend with. Would that be a good design?

    If a bike had to come out of a parking lot and cross the path of cars coming from the left and then cars coming from the right in order to get to to the bike lane. would that be a good design?

    Wouldn’t there be a traffic light put in to give the bike a safe crossing ?

    1. Chaz:

      What I find discouraging is that the bike lanes are designed in such a way that the madhatter himself would reject them.

      Then a driver hits a cyclist and the driver is charged with failing to yield.

      Perhaps the designer of the bike lane should be charged with careless designing. Instead the cyclist and the driver are paying the price for that misdeed.


      1. Ken,
        It is the fear of hurting a bike rider that would scare the s**t out of me. The bike ain’t gonna do more than dent my car and maybe I’d get a ticket. Then I’d have to live with the horror of the hurt or dead bike rider. The only one that can get hurt is the bike rider and that is unacceptable. I am not sure that the bike riders understand that you are worried about them and not yourself.

        Reckless and stupid designing.

        I guess the new charge will be J-driving. The difference being , the J-walker has a choice to go to a controlled intersection and here the driver is being FORCED to J-drive.


  6. My wife just said that the car crossing the bi-directional bike lanes is being forced to do a manoeuvre that would be called J-walking if the car were a pedestrian. Pedestrians are given controlled intersections to prevent the danger of J-walking.


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