Ottawa

Motorists mistakenly using new Donald Street bike lane

Several vehicles travelling east on Donald Street in Ottawa have been seen using a new segregated bike lane to turn south onto St. Laurent Boulevard.

City has since installed new flex posts to end the confusion

Those three cars are driving through a segregated zone for cyclists and pedestrians. Unlike the bicycle crossing, it is not painted green. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/CBC)

Latest

  • Flexible posts were installed Tuesday to better identify the bike lanes.
  • The city says it's considering other measures in the future, such as green paint.

A new $1.2-million intersection designed to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Ottawa appears to be confusing some drivers.

Several vehicles travelling east on Donald Street have been seen using a new segregated bike lane to turn south onto St. Laurent Boulevard.

"It [happens] every day. Every day," said Ismael Awaleh, vice-president of the Overbrook Community Association.

The city's 2017 Road Safety Report ranked the intersection of Donald and St. Laurent the sixth worst in Ottawa for the number of collisions. That year there were 32, which left 12 people injured.

Flexible posts were put in place at the intersection after CBC's initial story. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/CBC)

In order to make it safer, the city redesigned the intersection starting last year, creating what it calls a "protected intersection."

Concrete islands were added to separate cyclists and pedestrians from cars and trucks, and bicycle crossings were painted green.

In addition, slip lanes between Donald Street and St. Laurent Boulevard in all four directions were narrowed and transformed into turning lanes for bikes.

The new cycling lanes are barely wide enough for an average car, but many drivers are still using at least one of them, on the southwest corner, as a slip lane.

That bike lane is not painted green.

During lunch hour on Monday, CBC witnessed four cars driving through the segregated area. Black marks, which appear to be from tires, are visible on the curb.

New design safer, but needs improvement, advocate says

Felicity Borgal — who volunteers at Bike Ottawa, an advocacy group for safe cycling — said there's no doubt the new layout makes the intersection safer for cyclists and pedestrians. The new concrete islands are supposed to force drivers to make a wider right-hand turn so they can better see other road users.

The city could add road markings, she said, to better identify the segregated zones, such as painting them green, the way other bike lanes in the city are painted.

Felicity Borgal of Bike Ottawa says it needs to be made more clear that the new slip lanes at St. Laurent Boulevard and Donald Street are for cyclists and not cars. 1:08

She also noted that there is no real bike path near the intersection. There are some markings for bikes, but only for short distances before and after the intersection.

"This particular intersection has no [cycling] infrastructure that connects to it," Borgal said. "If there were bike paths that lead into these turning lanes, then a driver wouldn't be attempting to use it as a turning lane for them because it would be very obvious, 'OK. This is a bike path. This leads into the turning lane.'"

Felicity Borgal is the events co-ordinator for Bike Ottawa. She says the intersection is already much safer than before, but there's still room for improvement. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/CBC)

Councillor aware of issue

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King said his office has been closely monitoring issues with the Donald and St. Laurent intersection.

He, too, said the new intersection layout is safer despite a few hiccups, and added that the city is planning to build several more protected intersections.

Coun. Rawlson King says the new intersection layout already makes it much safer. (Raphaël Tremblay/CBC)

He said there are existing pavement markings that should help drivers navigate the intersection.

"It will take a bit of education to understand how the intersection really operates," King said.

It's meant to be a turning lane for cyclists only. But some drivers didn't get the memo. Coun. Rawlson King explains why the redesign of an intersection is causing confusion. 9:17

As for additional measures, such as painting the segregated zones, King said he would need to consult city experts.

In the meantime, Awaleh said the city should consider putting up a sign informing drivers of the new intersection configuration.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.