Cyclists frustrated, perplexed by hydro pole in middle of bike lane

A roughly three-storey utility pole that's been christened 'Joel lePole' currently sits right in the middle of a new cycle track being installed along Booth Street near the Chaudière Bridge — and it could be there until December.

Utility pole will be removed, but possibly not until December

A hydro pole christened 'Joel lePole" sits in the middle of a cycling track on Booth Street in Ottawa, just south of the Chaudière Bridge, on Oct. 15, 2020. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

There's a new big name in Ottawa's cycling community, and anyone who bikes down Booth Street could bump into them — possibly, quite literally.

A roughly three-storey utility pole christened "Joel lePole" currently sits in the middle of a new cycle track being installed along Booth Street just south of the Chaudière Bridge.

The curious alignment gained a degree of attention this week when photos and videos of the pole appeared online.

"It's counterintuitive to most people," said Erinn Cunningham, a board member with advocacy group Bike Ottawa. "We're kind of left wondering ... how you get through the design and review process, and construction, before someone realizes that maybe a utility pole shouldn't be in the middle of a cycle track."

"Either no one caught it, or no one said anything, unfortunately," he added.

Utility pole in the middle of Ottawa bike lane proves frustrating for cyclists

3 years ago
Duration 0:41
Erinn Cunningham, a member of the board of directors of Bike Ottawa, says the presence of a utility pole in the middle of a new bike lane doesn’t send a good message to the city’s cyclists and pedestrians.

Not the 1st time

The bike track is being installed at the same time the nearby $1.5-billion, 15-hectare Zibi riverfront development continues to take shape.

The track project was initiated by Zibi, but it also involves the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, the National Capital Commission and the federal government.

A Zibi spokesperson said the pole was part of the existing infrastructure in the area and would be moved once new utility connections are completed — likely in December.

The City of Ottawa confirmed that December timeline, noting the pole would be relocated once a new transformer is installed by Hydro Ottawa. 

It's not the first time, however, that a questionably placed piece of infrastructure on Booth Street has garnered attention.

A pole installed on a southbound bike lane on Booth Street in Ottawa on Oct. 15, 2020. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

'Basic physics'

In 2016, when the Booth Street bridge opened, a fire hydrant was mistakenly installed on one of the sidewalks — something Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents the area, called a "shocking" error.

Too-narrow bike lanes installed that same year — which may not have actually been bike lanes, depending on one's definition — also caused an outcry from cycling advocates.

Cunningham said he hoped any consternation over the improperly placed pole would spur the City of Ottawa and its contractors to think more carefully about how bike riders and pedestrians get around.

"I don't think you have to be a cyclist to catch that. I think that's basic physics," he said. "It shouldn't take cyclists to point out that there shouldn't be a hydro pole in the middle of a cycle track."

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