Here are the traffic impacts of this weekend's Ottawa rally

Police and city officials say vehicles in a weekend rally are not allowed in northern Centretown or the southern ByWard Market while assuring everyone else they'll be able to get in — though not necessarily to park.

'Exclusion zone' rules, closures start Thursday at 8 p.m.

The city and police plan to keep protesting vehicles out of the shaded areas on the map as of Thursday at 8 p.m. Everywhere affected except the ByWard Market streets shaded in yellow is a no-stopping zone. (City of Ottawa)

Police and city officials say vehicles in a weekend rally won't be allowed in northern Centretown or the southern ByWard Market as of Thursday night while assuring everyone else they'll be able to get in — though not necessarily to park.

The "Rolling Thunder" rally has events scheduled in the downtown area Friday evening through Saturday. Ottawa's interim police chief said Wednesday organizers have said they will leave after a Sunday morning church service in Vanier.

 The presence of vehicles and some messaging and participants has raised concerns it could resemble the disruptive, weeks-long "Freedom Convoy" protest-turned-occupation in January and February.

While allowing people their right to lawful, peaceful demonstrations, the City of Ottawa says it will set up a "motor vehicle exclusion zone" starting Thursday at 8 p.m. where "no motor vehicles involved in any event (rally, protest, demonstration) are permitted."

At the same time, it says other vehicles — including public transit — pedestrians and cyclists will be allowed in. 

Parking and stopping will not be allowed on Centretown streets near Parliament Hill, according to a Thursday afternoon news release from the city. It will be allowed in the market and in garages and lots, though City Hall and its underground parking garage close Thursday at 5 p.m.

A car on Laurier Avenue passes the edge of an "exclusion zone" near Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 28, 2022. Protest vehicles are not allowed in the area and no passenger vehicles of any kind are allowed to pull off and stop in most of it. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The exclusion zone's borders are, in general:

  • Bronson Avenue to the west, along with Wellington Street starting at the Portage Bridge.
  • Wellington and Murray Streets to the north.
  • Waller Street and King Edward Avenue to the east.
  • To the south, Laurier Avenue until Nicholas Street, where the border becomes Rideau Street.

Police set up lane closures on the southbound Portage Bridge toward Ottawa Friday morning.

The city had said earlier the zone would be in place Friday and Saturday but has not given an updated end time.

The city recommends taking public transit for travel to the core and isn't planning any transit changes. It said to check online for traffic updates and is reminding people of closures Sunday for the CN Cycle for CHEO fundraiser.

Saturday morning downtown ride

Police did single out a Saturday morning Rolling Thunder ride that takes riders from Coventry Road starting around 11 a.m., down Rideau and Elgin streets and will leave using Nicholas Street to get to Highway 417.

This is the route that the Rolling Thunder Ottawa motorcycle rally is expected to follow on Saturday, April 30, according to Ottawa police. (CBC)

Ottawa police say they will receive help from other police forces and plan to use physical barriers and "quick response teams" as part of their strategy to control access.

In comparison, police and the city told everyone to avoid downtown when the convoy began in late January. Then as it emptied in mid-to-late February, police set up checkpoints to only allow certain people into the downtown core.

More parking restrictions

The plan to handle this weekend's rally has been criticized by some city councillors including Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose Somerset ward includes Centretown, because protest vehicles will still be allowed on the same residential streets that were affected by the winter convoy.

On its website one of Rolling Thunder's three "partners" has encouraged people to park along some of those streets and walk to a Saturday morning rally at the National War Memorial.

Ottawa's bylaw department tweeted Thursday that special no-parking zones are being set up in the Sandy Hill and Vanier neighbourhoods just east of this area. This enforcement begins at 7 a.m. Friday.