Changes to Holland Avenue bike detour will be made after all

After initially ruling out changes to the Holland Avenue bike detour this year, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has now announced plans to alter the bike lane after cyclists complained about its dangers.

Proposed changes announced Thursday include new 1.5-metre-wide cycling lanes

The Harmer Avenue bridge detour currently uses these 'super-sharrows' to direct cyclists to take the lane along the detour route on Holland Avenue. The city will now be making changes to the route. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

After initially ruling out changes to the Holland Avenue bike detour this year, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has now announced plans to alter the bike lane after cyclists complained about its dangers.

The announcement comes a week after Watson declared no changes would be made this year to the route along Holland — a detour for cyclists who used the now-closed Harmer Avenue bridge to bypass Highway 417.

Cyclists are currently guided along the route by "super-sharrows" — green road markings with a bicycle and two chevrons set in the middle of the road.

The idea was to encourage cyclists to "take the lane" by riding on top of the sharrows, with drivers expected to follow in single file.

2-year timeline to replace Harmer Avenue bridge

5 years ago
Duration 0:41
The upgraded bridge and ramps are expected to be in place by 2020, according to Alain Gonthier, the City of Ottawa's director of infrastructure services.

Plans for new detour 

In a memo posted on social media by Watson Thursday, the proposed changes to the detour include a painted continuous 1.5-metre-wide cycling lane on each side of Holland from Kenilworth to Tyndall streets.

Approximately 14 parking spots will be temporarily removed on the west side of Holland (there are normally 26 spots in total), along with six spots on the east side (there are normally 19 in total), according to the memo by Alain Gonthier, the city's director of infrastructure services.

The city's original proposed detour — rejected after residents along Holland complained — would have eliminated more parking spaces. But OC Transpo agreed to spike a dedicated northbound bus lane, allowing the city to implement dedicated painted bicycle lanes while maintaining about half the on-street parking, the memo states.

"The revised detour is scheduled to be implemented prior to the start of school in September," the memo continues.

"The work will consist of removing the super-sharrows from the pavement surface, making minor adjustments to some traffic [lights] at intersections, creating a dedicated left-turn lane to provide access to the school, and line painting."

A biker's-eye view of the cycling changes on Holland Avenue

5 years ago
Duration 0:46
This is what it's like for cyclists to share the road with drivers along Holland Avenue. Recent changes mean cyclists are now forced to weave in and out of traffic.

Andrew Berube, who lives on Holland Avenue, said he's reasonably satisfied since the new plan retains some of the parking on the street.

"The issue that I had was the loss of all the parking. I think it's reasonable to expect that a detour would drop some aspects of the parking," he said. 

"There are a lot of reasonable uses [for those spots] from deliveries, parents visiting, there are a lot of elderly residents on the street."

Andrew Berube, a Holland Avenue resident, says he hopes the debate about the two-blocks of the street can lead to more productive discussion beyond pitting cyclists against motorists. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He would also have liked to see more consultation with both residents and cyclists before the proposal was presented to avoid the later changes. He said he is happy that children will be able to safely get to school.

Jordan Moffatt, who has used Holland Avenue for his bike commute since the detour, said he is happy with the changes. 

"I think hopefully that's the lesson is that everybody can be accommodated safely. It's too bad that parking was being considered to be more important than cyclists' safety. That mistake's been corrected," he said.

Jordan Moffatt, a cyclist who participated in the campaign for bike lanes on Holland Avenue, says the new solution will keep commuters safer by separating car and bike traffic. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

With files from Marc-André Cossette and Matthew Kupfer