Ottawa mulls bike path tunnel over Bixi expansion

Money originally earmarked to help launch a bike-sharing system in Ottawa this summer should be moved to improve cycling infrastructure instead, the city's transportation committee recommended.
The City of Ottawa selected Montreal's Public Bike System Company in 2009 as its preferred bike-sharing service to adopt. (Corinne Smith)

Money originally earmarked to help launch a bike-sharing system in Ottawa this summer should be moved to improve cycling infrastructure instead, the city's transportation committee recommended.

Two years ago, The City of Ottawa set aside $500,000 towards launching a public bike-sharing system  like the one in use in Montreal and had, along with the National Capital Commission and the City of Gatineau, put out a request for proposals for the project.

Montreal’s Public Bike System Company's service, which runs Montreal's Bixi bike-sharing program, was selected as the preferred submission, but the total cost of rolling out 50 stations and 500 bicycles across the National Capital Region would have cost the city an extra $1.3 million.

With the price too steep, both Ottawa and Gatineau delayed implementing the program this summer, though the NCC agreed to a five-year deal to roll out a smaller version of the original plan: 10 stations with a total of 100 Capital BIXI bicycles in downtown Ottawa and Gatineau.

As a result, Ottawa's transportation committee said the money planned to implement the bike-sharing program should go instead towards the cost of building a bicycle pathway tunnel  under Somerset Street and just west of the city's core.

The Somerset Tunnel is part of the city's larger plan to develop a bike corridor alongside the O-Train path, one that would connect the Ottawa River Parkway pathways to the Rideau Canal Pathways.

The total cost of the tunnel underneath Somerset Street west of Preston Street is about $1.2 million and under the recommendation would be funded using the earmarked bike-sharing funds and cycling infrastructure money left over after the city completes the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lane project.

Eric Darwin, the president of the Dalhousie Community Association, said the community group members prefer the tunnel plan to the bike-rental project.

"You take what opportunities as they present themselves," said Darwin.

"Sometimes they're big and high-profile things like bicycle rentals for tourists in the downtown and sometimes they're the nitty, gritty ones like putting a path through a west-side neighbourhood that suddenly connects a bunch of links," he said.

The NCC has said it still expects both Ottawa and Gatineau to join the bike-sharing plan and expand to 500 bikes at 50 stations at a later date.