Ottawa

Motorists driving through bike lanes after flex posts removed for winter

Drivers are once again misuing a segregated bike lane to turn at the intersection of St. Laurent Boulevard and Donald Street, less than six months after flexible posts were installed to halt the same problems.

'Blatant disregard' for cyclists and rules of the road 'both disappointing and unacceptable,' police say

A car merges and turns using the bike lane that's only supposed to be for cyclists. (Radio-Canada)

Drivers are once again misuing a segregated bike lane to turn at the intersection of St. Laurent Boulevard and Donald Street, less than six months after flexible posts were installed to halt the same problems.

Last summer, vehicles were using the bike lane to merge and turn, even after the City of Ottawa spent $1.2 million to create the "protected intersection." 

The problem appeared to have been resolved for a few months after the city installed flex posts which closed the bike path to vehicles, but the visual cues were removed in preparation for winter road maintenance.

Posts have to be removed during the winter for road maintenance. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/CBC)

"I find it very confusing actually. I'm a cyclist and a driver," said Jason Komendat, owner of the Retro-Rides bicycle shop. "This whole intersection really doesn't make a lot of sense and it's not consistent on the four corners either, which I think is really confusing for people."

"I don't know what the solution is, but something needs to be done," he said.

It is a question of education because most intersections are not like this.- Rideau-Rockliffe Coun. Rawlson King

Rideau-Rockliffe Coun. Rawlson King said it could take time for drivers to understand how the intersection has changed.

The city has already put up signage to signal the lane is only for cyclists, he said. 

City Coun. Rawlson King says it may take time to learn how to use new protected intersections. Behind him, a vehicle misuses a bike lane to turn. (Radio-Canada)

"It is a question of education because most intersections are not like this. You typically do have a merge lane in many intersections at major thoroughfares," said King. 

He said drivers can cause damage to their vehicles and city infrastructure if they go through bike lanes. 

"This is the challenge, because people have been used to using this intersection in a certain way… it's almost like instinct that you see a lane, you think it's a merge lane, and you want to use it."

'Complex intersection' 

King believes the intersection is safe when used properly, but he said drivers need to be more cautious and look at the rules of the road and signs. He expects to see more protected intersections in Ottawa. 

But cycling advocates say the intersection needs improvement.

"It's a complex intersection, you need more than just one thing to fix the problem," said Florence Lehmann, a member of the board of directors for Bike Ottawa.

She said bike lanes should be started a block before these types of intersections so drivers have a visual cue there is a bike lane there and that the intersection should have better signage with written instructions.

Florence Lehmann with Bike Ottawa says there's a number of ways the intersection at St. Laurent Boulevard and Donald Street can be improved. (Radio-Canada)

"Enforcement can be an important component as well because people will get away with what they can," she said.

King said Ottawa police will be watching out for drivers at protected intersections in the coming weeks — issuing tickets and fines to those who use the bike lanes.

On Monday, the Ottawa police traffic division said in a series of tweets its officers would be stepping up enforcement of motorists encroaching on dedicated bike lanes.

"OPS Traffic Services have assigned officers to enforce illegal bicycle lane usage in the area," read one of the tweets. "This sort of blatant disregard for cyclists and the rules of the road is both disappointing and unacceptable."

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

with files from Radio-Canada's Jean-François Poudrier