Cyclists want city to plow bike lane by U.S. Embassy

Cyclists who use the Mackenzie Avenue bike lane are being forced into the street and onto the sidewalk because the stretch in front of the U.S. Embassy is not being plowed.

Lane on Mackenzie Avenue opened May 19, incorporating embassy security bollards

Marie-Claude Lacombe is calling for the city to plow the two-way cycle track on Mackenzie Avenue in front of the U.S. Embassy. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Cyclists who use the Mackenzie Avenue bike lane are being forced into the street and onto the sidewalk because the stretch in front of the U.S. Embassy is not being plowed.

In a half-hour period during the Tuesday evening rush hour, more than a half dozen cyclists detoured around the bollard-lined bike lane which is blanketed in several centimetres of snow, while the track leading up to it was recently plowed.

Marie-Claude Lacombe uses the two-way cycle track for her daily commute from Elmvale Acres to her workplace in Gatineau.

"We saw somebody coming the opposite way of traffic. He couldn't go on the road to continue once he got to the part that's blocked so he had to go to the sidewalk," she said.

"People don't like people cycling on the sidewalk."

Lacombe said the lane is an important link between Ottawa and Gatineau and should be plowed.

"In the winter especially, I want a safer route to get to places and that cycle track provided that for me," she said.

"But because it's not being plowed I can't use it. So this has become a less safe route."

No plans to plow, city says

The cycle track opened this May.

It runs on the east side of Mackenzie Avenue between Murray and Rideau streets, incorporating security bollards in front of the U.S. Embassy from Murray to the staircase that connects to York Street.

City staff say the $4-million route is not part of the winter maintained cycling network, so it won't be plowed.

The project was a partnership between the National Capital Commission, the Ontario government and included "logistical and financial co-operation of the U.S. Embassy."

The city says it won't be plowing the Mackenzie Avenue cycle track in front of the U.S. Embassy because it isn't part of the winter cycling maintenance network. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

In a statement, city transportation planning staff said the NCC and U.S. Embassy were not involved in deciding whether the lanes would be maintained in winter. 

It's not included "as it does not connect to the current winter maintained cycling network," the statement said.

'A missing link'

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, whose ward includes the lane, said the cycle track is a "missing link" now that winter is here.

When it's open it connects Ottawa to Gatineau via the Alexandra Bridge, also linking east-end communities to downtown and the Rideau Canal paths.

He said the lack of maintenance will undo the enforcement work meant to get cyclists on the path.

"Over the summer period, we were adamant for cyclists not to use the sidewalk along Major's Hill Park. There were a lot of fines that were given to cyclists using the sidewalk," he said.

"Now we're creating a behaviour change."

A cyclist resorts to using the sidewalk next to the snow-covered Mackenzie Avenue cycle track. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Fleury said he pushed for funding for winter maintenance on the cycle track in the 2018 budget.

He's also worried about possible security concerns for the U.S. Embassy from piling snow, though he dismisses the idea security bollards could make it harder to clear the path.   

"It's simply not an excuse, the plows can access the multi-use pathway lane on Mackenzie Avenue by entering by the sidewalk," he said.

Fleury said city staff should plan for year-round use for all new pieces of infrastructure.