Here is why Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper is in trouble in his ward.
It’s because residents are logical and his bike plan for Spencer Avenue is illogical. So illogical in fact that even Leiper has backed down from it at a public meeting.
Why? Let’s look at the cycling-lane infrastructure already available in Wellington Village.
The Macdonald Parkway has bike lanes separated from the road itself that stretch uninterrupted all the way to the Parliament Buildings. They are connected to the rest of Wellington Village/Westboro by the very useful bike lanes on Island Park Drive.
One major block south of the parkway has Scott Street with bike and pedestrian lanes separate from the road and just north of it. The south side of Scott Street has cycling lanes attached to it.
Photo above: Old west end residents fear for the future of their style of life.
Wellington Street West has been slowed to a crawl by building bulb outs from wide sidewalks (cutting the number of parking spaces) and pushing cyclists out into the two narrow lanes of traffic which they must share with cars. Unless one is shopping on Wellington, it is ridiculous to try to drive down that road..
South of Wellington is Byron Avenue which has had an odd configuration proposed for it called “advisory lanes” for bikes. This involves a broken line on either side of the road for cyclists. Unfortunately the two bike lanes don’t leave enough space for oncoming cars to pass so cars must swerve into the bike lane to do that or into the path of the oncoming lane. Pity the person from out-of-town, or indeed out-of-neighbourhood (or in-neighbourhood for that matter), who doesn’t understand those rules. Wouldn’t it just be easier on that well-constructed avenue to just leave the city-mandated metre between cyclists and autos? Byron works fine just the way it is. In fact it already has a multi-purpose path down the centre of the Byron linear park.
At the end of Scott going north-south is Ottawa’s first complete street with separate bike lanes that stretch from Carling to Scott.
That leaves Spencer Avenue as the only major east-west street without bike lanes. Does Wellington Village/Westboro need all of its major east-west streets with bike lanes? Couldn’t some other communities use bike lanes? Leiper’s neighbourhood has bike lanes coming out the wazoo.
And that’s why residents in Wellington Village/Westboro are furious with Leiper. A small vocal group of biking zealots of which Leiper is one is pushing its agenda down the throats of residents and city council. Pity the councillor who says no the cycling lobby. They suffer great abuse. But the fact of the matter is that most people in this community don’t give a damn about cycling which will come as news to the lobby which is all-consumed by the pursuit.
There is no need for bike lanes on Spencer … it’s a quiet street. Youngsters play street hockey and basketball on it. Why some even ride their bikes. In fact, those youngsters are forced to play in the street because the City of Ottawa has not left enough parks for them to use in their old west-end neighbourhoods.
But residents and businesses in this community have reached a breaking point on bike lanes and Leiper is feeling it now. They are happy to provide necessary bike lanes and pay for them, but putting lanes on Spencer is way over the complain threshold of Leiper’s voters and taxpayers.
Leiper has got caught up in his own preoccupation with biking to the extent that he has angered a great portion of Kitchissippi. Good intentions have gone wild.
Now Leiper is paying the price. Residents and Wellington Village businesses (who need the parking spots that would be eliminated on Spencer by the bike lanes) are tired of Leiper’s personal agenda being pushed down their throats and having to pay for it, too.
What’s next? Will Leiper demand bike lanes on homeowners’ driveways?
Leiper’s agenda is over the top. He was elected to stop the destruction of this traditional neighbourhood by condos and highrises. He was elected to put teeth back into community design plans and zoning.
He has failed in this.
Residents are not preoccupied by cycling and businesses need their parking spots. Residents are preoccupied by the threat of having 14- and 16-storey highrises built beside their homes. They are frightened of monster homes taking over their century-old streets. They are seeing what little heritage is left in the old west end being bulldozed. And residents wonder where green space and parks will be available for themselves and their children.
Maybe a few cycling zealots voted for Leiper for bike lanes but most people supported the councillor to preserve their home values and enjoyment from rampaging, out-of-control extremification. They want intensification to mean something beyond this beleaguered neighbourhood.
Now Leiper is facing the backlash. It is of his own making.
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