A freshly painted loading zone that crosses the sidewalk in front of a hotel in downtown Ottawa is drawing the ire of some pedestrians.

Last week, the Alt Hotel at 185 Slater St. painted a swath of the sidewalk bright purple to indicate where vehicles can cross over to park temporarily in front of the building's main entrance.

While the sidewalk is particularly wide along this section of Slater Street, cars parked in front of the hotel occupy almost half of the space that was previously available for pedestrians.

Alt hotel Slater sidewalk

Taxis and hotel guests can legally park in the two spots painted on the sidewalk in front of the Alt Hotel. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

The arrangement has actually existed since the hotel opened in April 2016, but the crossing became much more visible last week when the hotel painted it bright purple. 

'An infringement on the rights of pedestrians'

Many pedestrians walking past the hotel Tuesday morning expressed frustration.

"I think it's a bit of an infringement on the rights of pedestrians," said Simon Stickland. "Sidewalks should be for pedestrians. I don't think it works for a city." 

Mary Villeneuve, who uses crutches, said she walks past the hotel every day and has witnessed several conflicts between drivers and pedestrians.

Jean-Philip Dupré

Jean-Philip Dupré, general manager of the Alt Hotel on Slater Street, said his hotel painted the parking spots to help clear up confusion between drivers and pedestrians. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

"If [vehicles] stay on the purple, then I don't really see a problem," said Villeneuve. "But I'm not sure for a busy downtown street, with a lot of pedestrian traffic, I don't think it was the best idea." 

The City of Ottawa did create an on-street loading zone in front of the hotel, but use of that zone is limited to off-peak hours.

'It is a temporary situation. We're working with the circumstances that the city gave us.' - Jean-Philip Dupré, Alt Hotel

While he acknowledged it's not an ideal situation, Alt Hotel's general manager said Tuesday his company consulted with the city before painting the sidewalk.

"It is a temporary situation. We're working with the circumstances that the city gave us," said Jean-Philip Dupré.

Dupré said the long-term goal is to create a proper loading zone on Slater Street when the street is redesigned and rebuilt. 

Both Albert and Slater streets are slated for redesigns once the city's light rail system gets going and OC Transpo buses bound for the transitway are removed from the downtown. 

Colin Simpson, a program manager with the city's transportation engineering branch, called the parking spots "a bit of a pilot."

"Every time we make changes on the public roadway it takes a bit of time for the people to figure it out," Simpson said. "We'll see how it works. We're monitoring it, we're working with the hotel operator and the developer as well, and if it doesn't work out, we'll remove it."

No complaints

Dupré said he hasn't received a single complaint about the painted lane.

"It's working great. There was a little bit of confusion before, which is why we went ahead and did that colourful painting, but there hasn't been any issue so far."

Most taxi drivers interviewed Tuesday morning agreed.

"It's better and clearer now that it's painted," said Rafael Abreha.

"It's a good option to stay

[in the sidewalk loading zone] during rush hour," Tsegaye Dessalegn, another taxi driver. "I think there is enough space for both. We have to learn to co-exist — bike lanes, pedestrians and cars. That's the future for sure."
alt Hotel Ottawa

A loading zone also exists on the the street in front of the Alt Hotel, but drivers are not allowed to use it during rush hour. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)