O'Connor Street bike lane opening has some people celebrating, others worried

Cyclists in Ottawa are celebrating the opening of the O'Connor Street bike lane, but some drivers are concerned about the effect it will have on traffic flow downtown.

Designated two-way bike lane officially opened Thursday afternoon

A new protected cycling lane opened up on O'Connor street Thursday afternoon. (CBC)

Cyclists in Ottawa are celebrating the opening of the O'Connor Street bike lane, but some drivers are concerned about the effect it will have on traffic flow downtown.

"I think it's going to be a problem because I'm sure there's going to be some mishaps," said Harcharan Singh.

Singh, who has been driving a cab in Ottawa for 20 years, said he's worried about manoeuvring around cyclists.

"It's going to be a problem during the rush hour."

Cab driver Harcharan Singh says he's worried about potential problems with cyclists along O'Connor Street during rush hour. (CBC)

'Much more efficient'

But cycling advocates are applauding the designated space for city bikers.

"It makes it much easier, safer and comfortable for cyclists to bike downtown," said Citizens for Safe Cycling board member Alex DeVries.

"I think cyclists have always had a hard time going north [and] south into downtown. I think this makes a big difference."

DeVries also believes having a dedicated route will promote cycling and reduce the number of people who choose to drive.

"It's much more efficient to have people on bikes than in cars. Building things like this is just going to increase the number of people who bike," he said.

Alex DeVries says cyclists are part of traffic too and that it's important to get them to and from the downtown core safely. (CBC)

Navigating around city's main highway

Another challenge the O'Connor bike lane helps cyclists overcome is getting around highways like the 417, said DeVries.

"Any time there's a cycling route that goes under a highway, or needs to cross a highway, it's always very difficult because the tunnels are typically very narrow. Especially when you have one-way streets like we have downtown."

Having a protected lane with co-ordinated signals ensures bikers have an option to navigate them safely.

"I think we have a good way to get under the river that is the 417," he said.

Somerset Ward Coun. Catherine McKenney says having a designated bike lane makes O'Connor a safer roadway for cyclists and pedestrians. (CBC)

'I would never ride down O'Connor [before]'

Somerset Ward Coun. Catherine McKenney said she never rode down O'Connor Street because it was too dangerous.

"I've been riding my bike year-round forever and I would never ride down O'Connor. Ever. Like, it was just not an option," she said. "It was a highway running through our downtown."

Creating wider sidewalks, building dedicated bike lanes and narrowing traffic lanes have all helped to reduce vehicle speeds and make the roadway safer, she said.

"We're slowly starting to reclaim that space, reapportion that public space so that it's shared amongst all users. That road was built to accommodate peak period traffic 15 minutes a day. It makes no sense to give up that much public space, that much roadway, for people simply wanting to get out of the downtown quickly."

The O'Connor bike lane cost the city about $2.5 million and it will be maintained during the winter months, said McKenney.

"It's pretty exciting that we're here today. It will take some time for everyone to get used to it."