Ramping up the Ramps

The Hartwell Locks 9 and 10 in the Rideau Canal near Carleton University are notoriously bicycle unfriendly.
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The Hartwell Locks 9 and 10 in the Rideau Canal near Carleton University are notoriously bicycle unfriendly. Ontario's building code doesn't allow ramps.

Ottawa City council gets input from several advisory groups (soon to be abandoned apparently) on specific issues. One of those groups is called the Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee aka RCAC. RCAC has 9 members at large and 3 representatives from the cycling community, amongst others the Ottawa Bicycle Club and Citizens for Safe Cycling. This is a valuable channel for citizens to stay in touch with decision makers. The City of Ottawa’s website says the following about RCAC:

The mandate of the Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee is to provide advice and guidance to Ottawa City Council and its Departments, on issues, policies and programs, which reflect the City’s commitment to a variety of travel modes, and that achieve the appropriate balance in a way that contributes to our City’s overall quality of life, and that have an impact on a citizen’s ability to travel in Ottawa.

The goal of the Committee is to give advice to provide a liveable and environmentally friendly city that is accessible and safe to commute by bicycle, motor vehicle and other methods of road transportation, and where such means is an integral part of a publicly supported and balanced transportation system. The Committee will specifically advise on transportation issues related to cycling, traffic-safety (including education, area and neighbourhood traffic management including traffic-calming) and other transportation-related policies and programs. (see below for the link to the site).

Hartwell Locks

One of my pet peeves is the lack of a trough -or ramp- for bicycles at the Hartwell Locks near Carleton University. I have been asking several people to take a closer look over the last few years, as it is one of these really simple solutions that will make a lot of people happy. You’d think you load a U shaped bar on a truck, bold it down and you’re done in two hours, but it is not that easy. It is apparently a very difficult situation as several parties are involved.

Missing Links

Now before you write me that you can easily take your bike on your shoulder, you have to realise that there are many older people who cycle, who don’t feel comfortable -or stable- enough to take a bike on their shoulders and either walk down a flight of stairs or a muddy slope. With an ageing population, that will cycle in the retirement years as a way to stay ‘fit and flexible’, we need to make more provisions to keep cycling safe for everyone. Ramps are also good for strollers and most ramps I have seen are a combination of bike and stroller concepts. There are very few ramps in Ottawa but with the increased popularity of cycling, these are small solutions for the missing links in our bike network.

Haarlem's ramps leading into the 5000 spots bike parking garage underneath the square at the train station.

Light Rail Stations

Unfortunately, it is not possible in Ottawa’s new yet to be built Light Rail Stations. Why? It doesn’t conform to the building code. Here is the answer RCAC received recently after they informed the Light Rail folks that a motion was passed on March 19th regarding incorporating textured troughs along stairs in the new OLRT stations:

Thank you for providing the motion from the March 19, 2012, Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee (RCAC) meeting recommending that the OLRT stations be designed to have textured troughs or ramps alongside stairs to accommodate bicycles. We also received a similar request from one of the RCAC members at the March 19, 2012 OLRT Public Information Centre.

The building code consultant from the OLRT preliminary engineering team, in consultation with staff of the City’s Building Services Branch, have previously reviewed the potential to add bike ramps integrated with stairs and have advised that the design of a bike ramp integrated with a stair will not conform to the dimensional, guard and/or handrail requirements of the Ontario Building Code.

Since the OLRT Public Information Centre, the Rail Implementation Office has identified a Toronto Transit Commission pilot project that was proposed to be implemented in 2011 to add bike stair channels at the Pape and Dufferin Stations. The Rail Implementation Office and its consultants are currently in the process of contacting the TTC to obtain available drawings of the bike stair channels, and will further review the ability to provide bike troughs, ramps or channels in compliance with the Ontario Building Code.

If approved by building code requirements, among others, this design feature may be implemented by staff – it does not require committee or council approval.

We hope that this information is helpful in addressing your concerns.

The Light Rail Team

It makes you roll your eyes sometimes. Although the stations will be deep underground and it will be a bit of a challenge perhaps, there will stairs and if there are stairs there can be ramps.

I invite the Light Rail Team to look at the following pictures, they are likely not all up to the Ontario building code, but at least these places in the Netherlands (above) Austria (Zell am See in the Alps no less) and Sweden (Stockholm) have them. Three countries that are known for their comparable safety standards. A few of them were obviously put in after the steps were built, the one in Hammarby and Haarlem were integrated with the steps when they were built from what I  guess.

Access to railings

But what about access to a railing, you may ask. Often the ramps are on one side only so you can use the railing at the other side. Or  build the ramp against the wall, underneath the railing and cyclists hold their bike in a 60 degree angle in the trough. It is all being done in other places. Like I wrote in my previous blog, there is a solution for everything, as long as you are a bit creative. And how many people use a railing anyway: the vast majority doesn’t use them, because they don’t need them or for reasons of hosophobia. And there will be elevators too for those who have difficulty walking.

Train station in Linkoeping, Sweden.
Zell am See, Austria
Zell am See, Austria at the other side
Sweden, I forgot where, but possibly Stockholm
Stockholm again, at the famous Hammarby neighbourhood
Wooden ramps at a train station at Saltsjoebaden, just outside Stockholm at the Grand hotel Saltsjoebaden.
Kyrkogardsgrand - the entrance to church garden of the Katarina Kirka on the Soedermalm island - Google Street view


Pictures: Urban Commuter Ottawa except Katarina Kirka (Google)



  1. Thanks for this post!

    Over the years I have had to take those very stairs with a child in a bicycle seat. When you have a young child and you have to carry the bike, it’s a very tricky spot because it’s hard to carry the bike and the child at the same time. And it’s not very safe to leave a little one at the top of a flight of stairs or beside the locks while you carry your bike.
    It’s also tricky when the child is having a nice sleep in the bicycle seat, you’re having a nice quiet bike ride and then you have to wake the child up in order to get up the stairs.

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