Pedestrians abandon 'atrocious' sidewalks, use bike lanes instead

In downtown Ottawa, the O'Connor Street bike lane has become the de facto sidewalk for many commuters.

Snow banks on O'Connor Street removed last night to improve walking conditions, city says

Bryce Dymond pushes his daughter in a stroller on the O'Connor Street bike lane because the sidewalks are 'pretty atrocious.' (Chloé Fedio/CBC)

The O'Connor Street bike lane has become a de facto wintertime sidewalk for many commuters in downtown Ottawa as piles of snow, thick layers of ice and slushy puddles obstruct their traditional walkway.

Bryce Dymond said the O'Connor Street bike lane has been "the path of least resistance" through the slush and snow for the past week or so, especially when he is pushing his young daughter along in a stroller.

"It's easier than walking on the sidewalk," he said, adding that he'd like to see the City of Ottawa spend more funds clearing paths for pedestrians. "The sidewalks are pretty atrocious."

The "mess" on the sidewalks has also led Tanner Trepanier to take the bike lane during his daily commute through the downtown core on foot.

"It's always clear on the bike lane," he said, adding that some cyclists have been "pretty upset" about pedestrians in the bike lane.

"It would be nice to get two paths going instead of having to be on the road," Trepanier said.

Cyclists cautious of pedestrians 

Nicolas Thibodeau said he is 'really careful' cycling in the winter as he see pedestrians in the bike lane daily. (Chloé Fedio/CBC)

Nicolas Thibodeau said he sees pedestrians walking in bike lanes daily in the winter due to messy sidewalks, forcing him and other cyclists to slow down, especially on foggy days when visibility is low.

"You see people just at the last minute so you have to be really careful and slow down. That's the reality of things," he said. "It's symptomatic of bad sidewalks. If sidewalks were done properly, then I'm sure pedestrians would use the sidewalk."

Melting snow coupled with ice-covered catch basins has flooded many other Ottawa sidewalks, leading pedestrians to walk on the relatively clear roads, instead.

Snow banks on O'Connor removed last night

In the past three days, the City of Ottawa has received 25 calls for service to clear sidewalks of ice and snow, or to remove snow banks — including one complaint that pedestrians were walking on the road — but none related to pedestrians walking in bike lanes, according to Luc Gagné, the city's director of road services.

The complaints pointed to problems areas between Rideau Canal and Island Park Drive, including in Centretown, the Glebe, Chinatown, Wellington Village and Old Ottawa South. He said the snow banks on O'Connor Street were removed last night to improve drainage and walking conditions.

"Staff have been working on scraping sidewalks and applying abrasive materials to improve conditions for pedestrians," he said in an email, adding that fluctuating temperatures have created icy conditions.

A man prepares to navigate a sidewalk puddle as a woman takes the clearer path: the O'Connor Street bike lane. (Chloé Fedio/CBC)

"Supervisors monitor these conditions and deploy equipment to apply abrasives as required," he said.

"With the onset of warmer weather earlier this week, operators were also focusing on opening up catch basins to promote drainage.  With upwards of 60,000 catch basins city-wide, resources were focused on known problem areas."

The city aims to deal with complaints about icy conditions within four to 16 hours, and to open up catch basins as soon as soon as possible, he said.

"Residents can submit a service request online or contact 311 should they notice any particular icy areas or drainage concerns that have not yet been addressed," he said.