Painted bicycle lanes are a thing of the past and Ottawa is on the right track for the future by starting to build a network of segregated bike lanes, according to local delegates who attended the Velo-City cycling conference in Vancouver last month.
The delegates brought that message back to Ottawa during a port-mortem session on Aug. 9 organized by Citizens for Safe Cycling.
Five panelists – cycling advocates and city staffers from Ottawa – shared their thoughts after attending the conference, which is the largest cycling planning conference in the world.
A main theme that emerged was the need for cities to create a network of separated bicycle lanes, said Jamie Stuckless, an active transportation planner who works with Green Communities Canada in Ottawa.
“The first one that I heard repeated over and over again was the need to create a network of segregated bike lanes that actually get people where they want to go,” Stuckless said.
Stuckless said she was surprised by the number of city officials from around the world who spoke to say that painted bike lanes are a thing of the past and they are no longer investing money in that type of infrastructure.
“I thought, that’s true,” Stuckless said. “That sharrow on the road might help me because I’m already cycling, but it certainly doesn’t get my mom on the road and it doesn’t get my friend and her two-year-old son on the road.”
A sharrow is a paint marking indicating that cyclists and motorists have enough room to share the lane.
“Painted lines just aren’t getting new people (cyclists) on the road,” she said. “They were really talking about how if you want to make actual increases in your cycling rate … you need to look at connected networks of segregated bike lanes.”
City transportation planner Robert Grimwood agreed. He said the conference re-affirmed for him that infrastructure is key to promoting cycling.
But Grimwood said he also heard a message throughout the conference that cities need to move into the next phase of cycling infrastructure if they really want to make a shift in how citizens are travelling and that next phase is segregated bike lane like the city is studying on Laurier Avenue.
“The stuff that we’re doing now helps people who are already on bikes … it doesn’t give us that uptick (in cycling) we’re looking for,” Grimwood said.
The last edition of Ottawa’s cycling plan in 2004 set a goal of increasing bicycle trips from 4,500 in 2001 to 12,000 in 2021. That plan is currently being updated.
Another city transportation planner, Colin Simpson, said he learned that the city needs to reverse its thinking. Ottawa currently sees segregated lanes as a nice extra perk, while things like painted lanes, cycling maps and bike parking are “must-haves.”
In the future, segregated lanes need to become the “must-haves,” while everything else should be “nice to have,” Simpson said.
Another major message coming out of the conference was the huge improvement in cyclist safety that can result from a reduced speed limit.
Stuckless pointed out an interesting statistic she discovered at the conference: if a cyclist is hit by a vehicle travelling at 50 kilometres per hour, there is an 80 per cent chance the cyclist will be killed; however, if the vehicle is travelling at 30 kilometres per hour, that risk of death goes down to just 10 per cent.
The safety benefits are great, Stuckless said, but lowering the speed limits in urban cores would also create a more enjoyable atmosphere for cycling, which would make more people want to hop on a bike.
Grimwood also said it was very clear to him that reducing the speed limit is the best thing a city can do to make roads safer for cyclists and all road users.
The conference re-affirmed that Ottawa is heading in a “good direction” and is emerging as a leader for cycling in Canada, he said.
Moor also announced the speakers for Citizens for Safe Cycling’s annual general meeting on Oct. 16.
Trinity-Spadina NDP MP Olivia Chow, wife of the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton, will speak about her private member’s bill pushing for transport truck side guards to protect cyclists from being pulled under trucks.
A professor from the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria Center, Ralph Buehler, will also speak. Buehler is an active transportation expert whose research focuses one comparing land-use planning and transportation policies in Europe and North America.
The meeting will begin with a 6 p.m. meet and greet at the Tom Brown Arena in Mechanicsville. The meeting itself will being at 7 p.m. with a re-cap of the year’s activities and achievements.