Ottawa

Cyclists protest after council hits brakes on Bank Street closure

Some Ottawa cyclists protested in the Glebe Saturday afternoon out of frustration with Mayor Jim Watson's sudden stifling of a plan to partially close Bank Street to drivers.

About 12 bikes took over paid parking spots in the Glebe Saturday

Cyclists line up their bikes on Bank Street Saturday in a show of frustration after Mayor Jim Watson stifled a plan to reserve part of the Glebe thoroughfare for pedestrians and bike riders. (Supplied by Alex deVries)

Some Ottawa cyclists protested in the Glebe Saturday afternoon out of frustration with Mayor Jim Watson's sudden stifling of a plan to partially close Bank Street to drivers.

Bike riders took over a stretch of the busy commercial strip between First and Third avenues, paying for street parking and stashing their bicycles in the parking spots.

"The object is to show people that we can use the space we have more efficiently," said Alex deVries, a Glebe resident, bike advocate and the event's organizer. 

Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard had been working with city staff for weeks to reserve three blocks of the west curbside lane of Bank Street between Glebe and Third avenues for pedestrians and cyclists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But during a marathon council meeting earlier this week, Watson introduced a motion requiring any street closures be dependent on the approval of two-thirds of affected businesses. 

The mayor gave no prior notice of his motion. It passed, 15 votes to seven.

Businesses voiced opposition

Menard's plan, which some local businesses opposed, would have taken up 19 parking spots. Businesses said the partial closure would also have meant less space for curbside pickup orders.

"We have a lot of space for parking," deVries said Saturday morning, before the protest. 

"As an example, in the Glebe, there's a parking lot that has 140 spaces in it. And it's just around the corner from where we're going to set up today."

Other streets in Ottawa, like Byron Avenue in Westboro and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway along the Rideau Canal, have been partially closed during the pandemic to give people more space to enjoy the outdoors while obeying physical distancing rules.

In addition to showing how the city can better use its space, deVries said Saturday's protest also provided room for other cyclists looking to safely bike on Bank Street. 

Approximately 12 bikes were set up during the protest, he said.

With files from Kimberley Molina

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