Laurier Avenue stop lines shifted in wake of cyclist's death

The City of Ottawa has moved some stop lines on Laurier Avenue to increase the space between bikes and cars, nearly three weeks after a cyclist using the segregated cycling lane died in a collision with a dump truck making a turn.

Distance between vehicles, bikes increased where right turns allowed

Stop lines have been moved about 5 metres back for cars, and about 50 centimetres forward for bikes at Laurier Avenue intersections where right turns are allowed. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Nearly three weeks after a cyclist using the Laurier Avenue bike lane died in a collision with a dump truck making a right turn, the City of Ottawa has moved some stop lines to increase the space between bikes and cars.

Crews painted new stop lines approximately 5 metres short of the old ones, creating more space between vehicles and bikes at red lights.

The new stop lines were painted overnight Tuesday between Elgin Street and Bronson Avenue, a stretch of Laurier encompassing nine intersections. The changes were made wherever drivers are permitted to turn right.

It's a great start. I don't know if it's enough. Time will tell.-Elise Adler, cyclist

In some spots, stop lines for bikes in the segregated cycling lanes were shifted forward by between 30 and 50 centimetres.

Where right turns are allowed on Laurier, the stop lines for motorists and cyclists have always been staggered since the segregated bike lanes were installed in 2011, but now the space between them has increased from about 1 metre to about 5 metres. 

Book 18 of Ontario's traffic manual suggests staggering the lines "to allow cyclists to position themselves ahead of motorists during a red signal indication, which makes them more visible to right turning motorists."

Changes follow cyclist's death

The repositioned stop lines follow the Sept. 1 death of Nusrat Jahan. The 23-year-old student was cycling eastbound in the Laurier segregated bike lane when she was struck by a construction truck and pinned under its back wheels.

It appears Jahan was heading straight through the intersection, while the truck was turning right onto Lyon Street.

Following Jahan's death, many cyclists called on the city to improve safety along the Laurier bike lane, especially at spots where cyclists risk being "right-hooked" by vehicles making right turns.
The space between stop lines for bikes and cars has been increased to about 5 metres.

Phil Landry, the city's manager of traffic services, said in a written response Wednesday that the city is relocating the stop bars to improve how well motorists can see cyclists in the segregated bike lanes. The move also makes the "yield to cyclist" signage more visible to motorists, said Landry.

Landry added that the change was made thanks to a working group initiated by Mayor Jim Watson, transportation committee chair Keith Elgi, transportation services general manager John Manconi and representatives of cycling groups.

The working group met six days after Jahan's death to explore ways to improve safety on the Laurier bike lane.

'A great start'

Cyclists riding along the reconfigured Laurier bike lane on Wednesday seemed to appreciate the repositioning of the stop lines. 

"I've had people turning into you when you're coming down the bike lane," said Elise Adler. "It's a great start. I don't know if it's enough. Time will tell."

Steve Ginley also favours the new stop lines.

"The hardest thing about biking is not knowing what everyone else is seeing," said Ginley. "Sometimes you're a lot lower than other people, so to have this kind of set up where the cars can see everything, or at least they can see me, that definitely makes me feel safer."

Mayor Jim Watson has also promised the city would hire an outside firm to conduct a safety audit of Laurier Avenue.