Is Parkdale's Median Curb Cut Sufficient?

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The new bike infrastructure at the very north end of Parkdale Ave in Ottawa.
The new bike infrastructure at the very north end of Parkdale Ave in Ottawa.

As it was finished late last year, this bit of bike infrastructure dropped off the radar screen somewhat. At the very north end of Parkdale, it is a bit of a pain in the neck to get to the Ottawa River Pathway/Trans Canada Trail. The northbound stretch on the east end of the Tunney’s Pasture buildings is usually OK to cycle ( I am never there during rush hour though), but then you get this onramp after the Indonesian Embassy to the SJAM Parkway eastbound (towards Downtown and Gatineau) and the off ramp coming from the parkway. This whole area is clearly designed for car traffic with no infrastructure for residents on the bike.

Cyclists who moved towards the median and crossed.
Cyclists who moved towards the median and crossed.

Cycling northbound, you had to cross Parkdale more or less before the ramps in order to get to the pathways. That wasn’t ideal. Last Fall (2014) the city made an interesting change. Cycling northbound, you can now keep cycling until you are underneath the Parkway. Once you are (nearly) there, you can either stay on the right and wait in a dedicated place (cut out) or you can move from the right curb to the median and set yourself up in the median to cross. The choice is yours.

You can move towards the median and cross, or ...
You can move towards the median and cross, or … can wait in the cut out on your right hand.
…you can wait in the cut out on your right hand.

As I was there on Bike Sundays (Ottawa’s Cyclovia, every Sunday between mid May and early September since 1970), the road was closed so I couldn’t see how fast motorized traffic is.

When I was taking the pictures, someone who recognised me stopped (“Hey Hans”) (or was he nervous about that middle aged man lurking with a camera underneath the bridge) and he mentioned he thinks the traffic goes too fast to safely cross there as Parkdale dips there a bit. He (with his two little kids) still prefers to move over earlier before the on ramp behind the Indonesian embassy so he is away from motorised traffic earlier.

The drawing below shows in RED the new suggested crossing of Parkdale and in GREEN, the route the father with the two kids decided to keep using.

Red is the new option, Green the route several people took (northbound)  when I was taking pictures.
Red is the new option, Green the route several people took (northbound) when I was taking pictures. (route not exactly to scale)

On and of ramps are a major deterrent for residents who need to cycle there and these ones are not even that bad. A better -albeit more expensive- alternative would have been an earlier cross ride across to the west side, and continue a multi-use pathway northbound as I show below. At the off ramp, you’ll build a proper 90 degree angle cross ride with yield signs and then you connect to the existing path. Only the bottom part of the orange line needs to be built, about 60 meters north towards Goldenrod, the rest is already there but could be improved for another -hold your breath- 40 meters. See map below.

This could have been a better and safer option. Drivers don't have to stop at the entrance and exits of the ramps, so it makes it an easy sell.
This could have been a better and safer option.
Here is another look at the newly built cut through.
Here is another look at the newly built cut through. It is not very clear but there is a curb cut on this side.

I am not convinced the cut is used much. Road dust, leaves and garbage are usually signs a certain spot is not used much. All of it was there. I am a bit confused with the paint too. It is definitely not the epoxy/acrylic material that is used on Laurier Ave. It doesn’t really scream “Use me!”

Have you used the new set up? Did you happen to use it during rush hour? Let me know.


  1. I was cycling in the area so checked it out and I am quite happy with the result. First: After providing a zillion reserved left-turn lanes for vehicles at intersections, the city finally introduced a (structurally) reserved left-turn lane for bikes — actually two, when you include the cut out. Surely this is the first one in Ottawa (the green zones are reserved, but are not physically sheltered from vehicles) and we should be applauding the creative thinking. And the cut out might be considered overkill, but provides a safe place for nervous riders to safely wait, so I think the planners were well conscious of what they were trying to do. Second: I hardly ride regularly in the area, but if the traffic is too heavy there in rush hour, then it is also too heavy a short distance south, where the alternate crossing is proposed. (At the south location you are also dealing with traffic exiting the eastbound parkway in addition to traffic from the westbound parkway.) At least here you can wait in a protected spot and you only have to deal with the oncoming lane of traffic, not traffic in both directions further to the south (since to the south you are either waiting at the east curb to cross, having to deal with both traffic in both directions, or you are waiting on the left side of the northbound lane, unprotected from cars driving behind you – note reference above to nervous riders). Third: the sightlines at the turn lane are excellent, and I think that is why it is located where it is. Vehicles approaching are making a long 270-degree turn from the parkway, so are hardly speeding, and you can see a very long way into the curve toward the start of the exit ramp so you can make plans to cross. Fourth: With the alternate plan you still have to cross in front of southbound Parkdale traffic, then you also have to separately cross in front of traffic on the eastbound parkway traffic. Overall I think the new feature is an excellent solution, and far more effective than the alternatives suggested.

  2. I saw this the other day and I was confused as what it was attempting achieve. I think it’s enough, if the paint was Green like Laurier St. I’ve driven down that area a few times and its really not clear.

  3. I live nearby and cycle that route to get to the pathway multiple times a week. It is definitely too busy to use the new cutaway during rush hour. Even when it’s not rush hour, I don’t think motorists expect to see a cyclist crossing over to the left side there, so I’m always quite cautious. I’m glad something has been done, but I don’t think it is ideal.

  4. The best option of all would be to extend the 2-way bike path all the way along the West side of Parkdale to connect with the E-W bike path Scott. The West side side of Parkdale is all Tunney’s Pasture parking lots, and the intersection at Scott is being rebuilt over the next 2-5 years post-LRT.

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