Colonel By – A Missed Opportunity

Newly paved path on Colonel By.
Newly paved path on Colonel By.

Last week, I cycled along the renovated canal walls on Colonel By. The path there has been repaved after extensive work on the walls, but I was a bit disappointed that the path wasn’t made any wider now everything was open anyway.

 

Most of the multi use pathway is a fair bit away from the road, which makes it a much nicer cycling experience. Unfortunately, the stretch east-ish of the Bank Street bridge runs right next to the road, a stretch of about 400 metres. At the other side of the road there is an area that is really mostly serving no one.

Google Screen grab , Colonel By east of Bank Street bridge
Google Screen grab , Colonel By east of Bank Street bridge
Bird's eye view from the MUP along the water and the road behind it.
Bird’s eye view from the MUP along the water and the road next to it.

Narrower lanes for Colonel By

The road surface of Colonel By is about 30 feet wide, 15 feet or 5 meters each way. That is way too much, even for presidential rides into town. A ‘normal’ lane is at the most 3.50 mtr wide. If we’d cut the lane back to that size there, it would allow for 2 x 1.50 m or 3 meter extra to use as a grassy landscaped buffer between the path and the road.

This dirt stretch could accommodate a shift away from the canal.
This dirt stretch could accommodate a shift away from the canal. Photo taken on Bike Sundays.
To work on the canal, these two lanes had been moved to create extra space for loading and unloading along the canal (behind the Jersey barriers)
To work on the canal, these two lanes had been moved to create extra space for loading and unloading along the canal (behind the Jersey barriers). Photo taken during Sunday Bike Days, hence the cyclists taking the lane.

May 24, 2017, A five-year-old boy died after being struck by a vehicle on Lake Shore Boulevard in Toronto; he fell off a similar path into traffic. It was the third child to die in a road related ‘incident’ (quoting CTV- Toronto here) this year in Toronto.

Lakeshore Toronto where a 5 year old boy fell of his bike into traffic.
Lakeshore Toronto where a 5 year old boy fell of his bike into traffic. Photo: CTV

Separation

Bidirectional lanes running next to fast traffic should have some kind of separation. The Portage bridge bike lanes over the Ottawa river is another place waiting for a collision to happen.

This was a missed opportunity to move that part of the road a meter or two to the east now the path was open anyway, or simply narrow the road if we want to save money. I know, I know, it wasn’t part of the project and likely different land managers, but it would have been such a great opportunity.

Even a three feet band of pavers, such as is done across the canal along the stretch near Lansdowne would improve this. Also visually.

A better physical separation at the other side of the canal at Lansdowne Park. Photo: Denis Carriere from Mapillary.com
A better physical separation at the other side of the canal at Lansdowne Park. Photo: Denis Carriere from Mapillary.com

Hans

3 Comments

  1. Ideally, the more space between a bike track and motorized traffic, the better. I would say that everywhere where motorized traffic is allowed to go over 50 km (30 miles) per hour, you’d want separation. However, there are sometimes exceptions if you are retrofitting streets in tighter urban spaces. I guess if you have to choose between no separation because there is no ideal solution possible, or a less ideal design, then you have to make concessions. With a narrowed Main Street and a maximum speed of 50 kph you can probably get away with some areas where traffic is closer than you’d ideally like. Merivale Road may have some issues too, but Albert through the Flats should have lots of space to create proper separation. there comes a time that (gasp) we may have to reclaim a lane from motorized traffic such as at McKenzie and O’Connor.

  2. Hans, Certainly a good observation. That particular section of the bike trail is also prone to congestion at peak use times. On some days it essentially becomes a no passing zone because of too much oncoming bike or pedestrian traffic. Admittedly I have annoyed joggers on this route when trying to navigate slower moving cyclists. It would be interesting to know whether and why the NCC decided to do it the way that they did versus shaving into grass section on the opposing side of Colonel By. For now at a minimum no passing signage, reduced speed signage or even something to raise awareness of its nature as a shared path (some cyclists go side-by-side here as well as runners/walkers).

  3. Yesterday, you praised the Main Street cycle tracks. In some locations, they are flush with the curb, or sometimes 18″ back, with a narrow rumble strip. This is the model Ottawa will be following with already-approved next complete streets, like Merrivale North, and Albert thru the Flats, and the modification to the ill-designed Booth Freeway opened last year. Speed expectations and practice varies on all these streets, errr roads …. err mini-freeways, since our engineers seem incapable of not designing streets for speed. So is Colonel By wrong, or is the whole model wrong?

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