Bike Lane at US Embassy Open 1/2: Concrete Barriers Removed

Doug went out and did the measurements. The bike gives you an idea of the size. This photo looks south bound.
Doug went out and did the measurements. The bike gives you an idea of the size. This photo looks south bound. Photo: Doug van den Ham.
The concrete barrier at Mackenzie Ave at the main entrance, which is hardly being used now.
The concrete barrier at Mackenzie Ave at the main entrance, which is hardly being used now.   Google Streetview

Today, the bi-directional bike lane on Mackenzie Ave in front of the US Embassy will officially open. It is probably the safest one in the world, with bollards anchored in two meters of underground concrete. Why is that? To protect the embassy.

Soon after the attacks on 9/11 the American embassy in Ottawa became even more fortified as it already was. On the west side of the embassy in the Byward market, Clarence street was slightly reconfigured so that truck bombers couldn’t drive straight into the embassy.

Clarence street at Sussex. No change for high speed truck suicide bombers
Clarence street at Sussex. No chance for high speed truck suicide bombers

The road got a wave built in, to stop high speed attacks; an island was built just before the intersection and a second island in the shape of a triangle was designed to divert traffic towards the entrance to the right or the left. A concrete barrier was added along Sussex Drive which was removed again around 2009. The area was fixed up around that time and it looks like a third traffic lane was permanently taken away (and later an unrelated bike lane was added), and replaced by a wider sidewalk on Sussex.

A triangle shaped traffic island to divert those with bad ideas
A triangle shaped traffic island to divert those who are late for work and want to park at embassy property.

Bike lane on Mackenzie Ave

On the west side, along Mackenzie Ave, a concrete barrier was added, taking the third lane away from traffic. This barrier was an eye sore on the nation’s capital’s boulevard and ambassador Bruce Heyman (“Citizen- enjoying all the privileges and embracing all the responsibilities that come with this title. Former US Ambassador to Canada”) was determined to change that. So it was proposed to convert the empty barricaded lane into a bike lane. In the fall of 2016, announcements were made and construction workers started to build the new bike lane.

Concrete foundation

Last year the metal structure went in to protect the sides from caving in.
Last year the metal structure went in to protect the sides from caving in. Google Streetview

First a temporary structure of H-bars was put into place (the rusty bars sticking out of the trench) to protect the workers from the sides caving in. Then a heavy concrete foundation was poured to secure the bollards. At the entrance, it looks like a series of bollards was built that can be lowered. To give you an idea of the size, note the red machine in the trench. The trench was filled with gravel and paved over.

Some of the bollards at the entrance can be lowered and raised.
Some of the bollards at the entrance can be lowered and raised. Photo: Hansonthebike.com

Configuration

Bollard anchored in lots of concrete in front of the US embassy photo: HansontheBike.com
Bollard anchored in lots of concrete in front of the US embassy photo: HansontheBike.com

I am very interested how this lane will be used. I don’t go there very often and it would be interesting to see the cycling traffic patterns. I haven’t seen the final configuration at the south end at Rideau street, which I think will be crucial for the success of the lane. The north end is diagonally configured with bollards (see image above) and not overly inviting to bother crossing the road. Doug Van den Ham observes on Twitter: So, the spacing between bollards is ~1250mm . . . on the diagonal. That makes for more like ~850mm straight on. . . “. 

There are some questions if the space between the ‘angled’ bollards allow for a bike with a trailer or a cargo bike maneuver. But we have to remember that the first purpose of the bollards is the protection of the embassy (the US actually paid for the part of construction I understand and the province chipped in too). Everything else is a bonus.

Doug went out and did the measurements. The bike gives you an idea of the size. This photo loooks south bound.
Doug went out and did the measurements. The bike gives you an idea of the size. This photo looks south bound. On the left the embassy, on the far right, the iconic Chateau Laurier. Photo: Doug van den Ham.

Today, Friday May 19, at 9:30 am the bike lanes will be opened officially. Watch for the NCC/City of Ottawa/US embassy/Mathieu Fleury photo opps on social media. I will add a few pics later today of the ceremony and photos of the bike lane.

Happy to hear your experiences. Read about the opening here plus see a collection of detailed photos.

2 Comments

  1. Isn’t it ironic that cyclists and pedestrians have had years of only semi-successful lobbying and complaining for a larger share of the public space and increased safety. But it took the need for increased security for embassies and soon, increased security against rampaging automobiles/terrorists in cars/trucks against public gathering spaces and festivals, to make the opportunities to calm traffic and increase pedestrian and cyclist safety. As a cyclist and pedestrian, I’ll take whatever leverage it takes reduce auto domination of our public spaces.

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