Ottawa

No bikes on LRT during peak hours, staff report recommends

Ottawa cyclists will be welcome to bring their bikes aboard the city's new light rail trains, as long as they're not travelling during rush hour.

Report to transit commission also lays out rules for pets, buskers

A report to the city's transit commission recommends against allowing bikes on Ottawa's new LRT trains during peak hours. (The Canadian Press)

Ottawa cyclists will be welcome to bring their bikes aboard the city's new light rail trains, as long as they're not travelling during rush hour.

According to a staff report to the city's transit commission next Wednesday, bicycles wouldn't be allowed on trains between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m., and 3 and 6 p.m. According to staff, such restrictions are common among North American transit systems.

I'm afraid that transit is just not going to work for my commute, and that's disappointing.- Alex deVries, Bike Ottawa

Ottawa's proposed rules would generally mirror those in Calgary, Montreal and Washington, D.C.

But some cyclists complain it's the wrong approach for a city trying to encourage biking as a viable mode of transportation.

"It might decrease [the number of] cyclists using the LRT," said Meika Ellis. "You see a lot of cyclists commuting between the hours of 7 and 9:30 a.m." 

Cyclist Meika Ellis says if forced to choose between commuting by bike and LRT, she'll continue to cycle. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco/CBC)

Designated area for bikes

During periods when bikes are allowed on trains, the report recommends cyclists walk their bikes onto a designated car at the front of the train. If that area becomes full, cyclists must wait for the next train.

"If I come at the wrong time and I have to wait for the next one to come along, that could really severely impact my life," said cyclist Jason Shortt. "If I'm having to wait around all the time, [I'm] kind of treated like a bit of a second class person."

Each LRT station will have bicycle parking for cyclists who prefer to leave their bikes behind.

According to staff, the recommendations "are being made to balance the needs of all transit customers and to ensure that travelling on transit is a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience."

Some cycling advocates said they understand the delicate balancing act, but believe the recommendations will backfire.
Alex deVries ofBike Ottawa argues limiting bikes to off-peak hours will decrease overall ridership. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco/CBC)

"If we make it possible to be able to take your bike on the LRT during rush hour, it will massively increase the number of people who take the LRT and the number of people who bike there," said Alex deVries, speaking for the advocacy group Bike Ottawa.

"Certainly in my bike commute it means transit will never be practical for me. Biking will always be faster unless they make it easier to bike to and from LRT," he said.

"I'm afraid that transit is just not going to work for my commute, and that's disappointing."

Pets, buskers welcome

The staff report also recommends allowing small pets in carriers that can fit on the owner's lap on trains and buses. No pets are currently allowed, with the exception of service animals.

"This recommendation will remove an existing barrier to transit travel for some customers," the report states. "People who are taking their pets to the veterinarian and who do not have a car may not have an economical way of making the trip."

The report is also in favour of allowing buskers on transit property, as long as they register with the city to perform at certain locations and times.

Buskers would not be charged a fee under the proposal.

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