The Maitland Overpass: the cycling issue with on ramps and slip lanes

A complete separate pathway s the right solution for Maitland
A complete separate pathway is the right solution for Maitland

Last week I spent some time at the Maitland overpass open house at the most unknown arena in Ottawa, the J. Alph Dulude arena. When you Google his name, nothing but arena results come up, plus 48 restaurants ‘near JA Dulude arena’. So if you know more, let me know.

Update: Christopher send me this information when I put this blog out:

Clearly the appearance of slip lanes was a tough pill to swallow for avid cyclist Alex deVries. Avid cyclist Jeff Leiper on his left and avid cyclist Robert Grimwood on the right. All of them are avid winter cyclists too. I had a conversation with the lady next to Alex. I learned she isn’t an avid cyclist.

It was a small and quiet open house, with only a handful of panels. However, I did manage to talk to a few staff, councillor Jeff Leiper and Giacomo Panico (not in function, he stressed), as well as Alex deVries and Robert Grimwood (City of Ottawa). It was suggested that the sign in sheets should have my name already printed in the list, so I don’t have to sign in anymore.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the MTO/City of Ottawa has planned bike lanes on the bridge; this is a good thing. It often feels like the MTO is stonewalling any progress in terms of active transportation so this was a welcome change.

Current situation and proposed situation

The current situation on Maitland near the bridge has four lanes and a narrow side walk on each side. There are on and off ramps on the northwest and southeast side. This means there are a number of slip lanes connected to Maitland. These are dangerous places.

Old - Maitland Overpass looking south towards Nepan
Above: Old – Maitland Overpass looking south towards Nepean.
Bridge looking south towards Nepean
Above: proposed: Bridge looking south towards Nepean
Maitland looking north towards the Ottawa River
Above: Old: Maitland looking north towards the Ottawa River
Proposed: Maitland Overpass looking north towards Ottawa river
Above: Proposed: Maitland Overpass looking north towards Ottawa river. Note the offramp has a cross ride and cross walk, the onramp doesn’t.

The province is taking one slip lane away in the north west corner and is turning it into a wide radii type corner. Cross rides are planned that connect to bike infra; in turn this bike infra should eventually connect to city bike infra. This is all good.

Nothing really changes seriously in the southwest corner though. It will be the weak link in the network. The radii will be tighter I understand, but there will still be two slip lanes. That shouldn’t be in the design. Other than that, I don’t really understand who would cross Maitland at the foot of the overpass on a cross ride, it is not like you are coming from the 417 on your bike…

Dangerous situation

Why are sliplanes so dangerous? Two reasons: A) they are high speed on and offramps to and from highways and B) because the rules are very confusing. If there is no slip lane, drivers have to stop I was told. However, at slip lanes, the cyclist and pedestrian and the wheel chair don’t have the right of way, so you will have to wait for a gap in traffic. If there is a gap, you have to be pretty good in estimating the speed as drivers are starting to ramp up their speed in order to merge on the highway or on Maitland. You have to scurry across as fast as you can, but darn, your wheelchair breaks down. Next day your are in the newspaper: “He was a good man, always ready to help others, he proudly wore his Queen Elizabeth jubilee medal every day. Premier Ford sent thoughts and prayers”.

So why don’t we have yield or stop signs for drivers at all possible conflict points? Well, one of the staff told me that they are nervous that cars might back up on the Queensway (which is a daily occurance anyway) or on Maitland. It appears the province, the same province that is implementing a provincial cycling plan including a new cycling cirriculum, prefers dead pedestrians over a traffic back up. Blame it on the design manuals.

Not Sustainable Safety nor Vision Zero compliant

While I compliment the province with the addition of bike infra on the bridge, the situation is still a high level of stress for cycling and walking in a number of locations. The idea of Sustainable Safety or Vision Zero is that you design to avoid collisions. This is a descent start, but it needs improvements as these are still potentially high collision locations.

The real solution lies somewhere else. But where?

Maitland Out of the box

Look west. My idea of safe cycling in the area requires a bit of out of the box thinking and an early cooperation with the city to make it a true 8-80 bike connection between north and south. I have to be fair here first: city staff was at the meeting and confirmed there is a notion of connecting to the NCC MUP’s. I am concerned though there will be narrowish raised paths to and from the bridge along Maitland, which will be hard to implement as the houses are very close to the road already with a driveway at nearly every house.

House 904 Maitland will have a bike path across the front porch
House 904 Maitland might have a bike path across the front porch. And they thought they had a front yard…They could start a lemonade stand from the living room.

If we take a closer look to the left of the intersection though, you ‘ll notice two dead end streets on the north and the south: Riddell Ave South and Riddell Ave North. This clearly used to be one road before the age of Big Car.

The left tow north south line is Ridell Ave, the right one is Maitland in 1958. This is where the overpass is, covering a size of Parliament Hill. you can clearly see where the Queensway will go.
The left north south line is Riddell Ave, the right one is Maitland in 1958. This is where the overpass is, covering a size of Parliament Hill. You can clearly see where the Queensway will go.

It is not hard to connect the two for active transportation again and avoid crossing the on and off ramps all together.

Combination of NCC MUP, existing roads and MUP on the bridge.
Combination of NCC MUP, existing residential dead end roads and MUP on the bridge.

Multi use all ages and abilities Vision Zero 8-80 tunnel

How would that work? We’ll start at the NCC MUP, left of Maitland and turn north into Riddell Ave S. At the end we can swing around the houses towards an onramp. A 4 meter wide bidirectional path, protected by a 4 feet wall, can be built on the bridge. After we leave the bridge, the path swings to the left again, away from Maitland. Away from the bridge, it could cross the ramps underneath through a bicycle tunnel. And not a narrow precast one, but a serious well lit, wide tunnel, which then connects with Ridell Ave north. It would look something like this:

MUP onnection on the south end
MUP connection on the south end: starting at a residential road and connection to the base of the Maitland overpass
MUP connection at the north end: starting at the foot of the bridge, swinging towards the ramps and underneath towards Riddell Street North

This way, you avoid all the car traffic and create a very low stress situation where every cyclist, pedestrian and wheelchair is safe, never having to cross traffic lanes at grade. Who would say no to this? I don’t think it is a crazy plan. It is the safest I can come up with.

The MUP underneath the ramps could look very similar to this: an overpass for Dutch wildlife.

Read the Bike Ottawa blog too with an interesting photo of an exact similar situation in the Netherlands, but then done right. See the Tilburg solution.

Plus, please comment at the proposals here: Maitland proposals.


  1. This is a cool idea Hans. I think a potential problem is that there would not be enough room at the end of Riddell St North for the slope downward to the tunnel. The homes seem to be built right up to the noise wall which is at the same grade as the on-ramp.

    • Thanks Brad. I am not too worried about that. If we can drill tunnels through downtown underneath the canal and shoot Tesla‚Äôs into space, I am sure we can figure out a solution for a MUP.

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