Proposed Laurier Street bike lane worries BIA

The City of Ottawa hopes to build a segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue.
An image of the proposed Laurier Street segregated bike lane from a draft proposal scheduled to go before council in January 2011. ((City of Ottawa))

The City of Ottawa hopes to build a segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue, a plan welcomed by cyclists but scorned by businesses near the downtown street.

A draft of the pilot project was presented to about 100 members of the public Thursday evening. The plan calls for east and westbound bike lanes that will be shielded from traffic by using curbs, delineations or other street treatments to be installed along 1.3 kilometres of Laurier Street from Bronson to Elgin Street.

Alex deVries, vice-president of Citizens for Safe Cycling and administrator of the website, said the plan is a good start to building a more bike-friendly city.

"This is Ottawa's first big cycling project," deVries said, adding it shows "an improved attitude on the part of the City of Ottawa for building cycling infrastructure."

There are still problematic spots for cyclists — specifically at intersections where cyclists get into the lane — but deVries said it's a "bold" step forward.

Somerset was the initial favourite amongst both cyclists and city planners, but it was ruled out due to truck and bus traffic on the route and complaints from business owners. The Laurier Street proposal is also facing criticism from groups like the Bank Street Business Improvement Area.

"It is absurd," said Gerry LePage, the BIA's executive director.

"This situation is the classic 10-pound sausage in a five-pound casing. It just is not workable."

Proposed bike lanes would run east and west along Laurier Street. ((Google))

LePage said the proposed bike lanes would reduce Laurier Street to one lane each way and snarl rush hour traffic. He also pointed out the many loading docks and entrances to underground parking that currently exist on Laurier pose serious hazards for cyclists.

The city issued flyers to businesses informing them of the bike lane plans, but LePage said that's not enough. He said bike lanes proposed for Toronto streets have been repeatedly thwarted by businesses, and hopes the same will happen in Ottawa.

"It's not that business has anything against cycling, it's just that there's nobody that knows business like the owners and operators," LePage said.

"I think that it requires a rethink."

Plan to go before council in early 2011

Mona Abouhenidy, Ottawa's program manager of transportation planning, said there will "probably" be more car traffic as a result of the plan, but "the only impact is going to be during the peak period."

Abouhenidy did not say how many riders the city expected would use the Laurier Street lanes, nor how many it hoped to attract, but said the pilot program would keep track of the numbers.

The proposed bike lanes still need approval from city council and Ottawa's transportation committee. The pilot project is scheduled to be presented to council in January 2011, with the hope of beginning construction by spring.