A Closer Look at the Bronson Improvements

There is no cross ride marked on the pavement, as it would turn it into an intersection, which opens another regulatory can of worms. the angle is good, there is a 90 degree angle with the on coming driver, which allows better eye contact
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The city got a lot of flak for the Booth Bridge Boondoggle and rightly so, as the design goes against all the modern road design principles. Big intersections, 4 lanes, no bike infrastructure, despite the connection to Quebec, the Zibi developments, the future Senators stadium and the Ottawa river pathways, even though there have been dire warnings from different sides years (!) before it was built. Once the opening came closer, the general public woke up and started to ask questions. The city scrambled a team together and a temporary provision for cycling was made. All you can do is roll your eyes. Informed citizens? Such a nuisance sometimes.

But this isn’t always the case. Which makes the city so unpredictable sometimes.

Capture Bronson new infra
The most important upgrades (screenshot Google)
When in October 2012, 27 year old Krista Johnson was killed on her bike on Bronson, councillor Chernushenko started to push for better infrastructure at this awful 1960’s road design built with the philosophy in mind that motorised traffic should flow at all cost. 

Years before Krista’s collision, a student in a wheelchair crossing Bronson was killed 100 meters further south. At that time, city staff was still of the opinion that drivers keep to the maximum posted speed. In discussions about the Booth bridge recently it appeared that opinion has changed. 

It appeared that Krista cycled northbound in a southbound floating bike lane, i.e. a lane that runs between to car lanes, one of the lanes being a high speed exit lane. Why she chose that lane will always be a mystery, but likely she came from the gravel path from Carleton U, which ends at Bronson. From there, there was no where to go northbound. Cyclists apparently crossed Bronson to get to the other end (northbound), but Krista didn’t. There is a led crossing further south, but when you take that gravel path, the intersection is out of the way.

The point now is not who was at fault, but why people chose this fatal path and how to avoid future collisions. If proper ped and bike infrastructure is missing, people will chose an alternative based on a risk analysis. An wide road might be crossed on a quiet Sunday morning illegally but fairly safely, but the same person might not even consider crossing the same intersection during the Monday morning rush hour. Perhaps Krista thought the road was quiet and she could risk cycling against traffic. Perhaps she had been doing it for years. We will not know. But well designed infrastructure doesn’t require a risk analysis, people will simply follow that desire line that has been made safe for them.


Councillor Chernushenko with support of Citizens for Safe Cycling (@BikeOttawa on Twitter), the community association and city staff came up with good alternatives:

  1. Crosswalk/cross ride at the end of the Carleton U gravel path
  2. Replace the wide on and off ramps with sharper angled turns
  3. Add segregated bike infra

The screen shot shows you the improvements. Google Earth stills shows you the old on and off ramps (I have put a red dot on it), but also the new (a newer data set) ramps in a transparent overlay.

I added the most important changes in text boxes over the Google Map screenshot above.

Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 03
A new signalized cross walk was added crossing Bronson. There are lights for bicycles too, so you don’t have to do the mostly disregarded ‘walk your bike’
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 04
Sensors detect if cyclists stay at the light or have turned right onto Bronson. If there is no body detected, the light will revert to red for peds and cyclists. So don’t jump the light, stay until it turns green.
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 05
There is no cross ride marked on the pavement. The angle is good, there is a 90 degree angle sight line with the driver who approaches from behind, which allows for better eye contact. Peds and cyclists have right of way, but I wouldn’t assume it.
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 06
Further northbound is a bus stop. On Main street and Churchill, there is ‘warning paint’ for cyclists that they are approaching a bus stop, but not here. I think it is pretty obvious anyway, but I have also learned in life that not everyone is as observant.
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 07
The city used lots of paint and flexiposts to create this bike lane which eventually peters out at the other side of the bridge where you can leave Bronson.
Angled SB
Here you can see that the original on and off ramps are now much less of a smooth loop. You need to stop your vehicle before you enter Bronson and take a fairly sharp right turn when you leave Bronson. The bike lane could have been a bit further west to create better eye contact. It is too much next to the turning lane still.
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 02
Instructional signage was added
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 09
A new cut in the median in the on and off ramp on the east side allows for easier access from the neighbourhood.
Bronson Ave upgrade - Hans Moor 08
The desire line short cut to the bus stop as seen on the map at the top of this post.
These were all very good improvements. Of course, there was protest from the more southern suburbs who value a 2 minute faster drive into town over a human life. But Bronson is basically a freeway that completely disconnects Carleton University from the community. When all was paved, painted and installed Google drove by and showed why cyclists can get so upset sometimes: a great place to park your truck!

Capture water truck Bronson
There is no better place to park your truck then a bike lane on Bronson. (Google capture)

The lanes stops and continues as a floating lane between two car lanes, one of my biggest pet peeves. It is some HTA thing.

Is it ideal? Perhaps not completely, as the lane stops after the bridge going northbound and becomes a floating lane a bit further north. Once again, some traffic manual likely sits in the way of common sense safety. I think the lane would’ve more visible if at least green paint was used where cars cross the bike route. But given the previous situation, it is a major improvement and I think the city learned a lot from this project. That is why it is so sad that the city missed the boat so enormously with the Booth bridge design. Incomprehensible really. 


  1. Carleton University was actively engaged in these changes. The gravel cycling path was added and not made into a paved cycling path because of environmental sensitivity. This section of the campus is directly across the canal from the Arboretum’s nature section.

  2. I use this every day and it is somewhat better I guess. But the two pinch points at the mouth of Bronson going both north and south need to be addressed. I usually have to hop on the sidewalk going south before I get to the bridge (which I agree is not good) because there is just no room for me to feel like I will get my metre of space. This pinch point is where car drivers get to punch their gas pedal to 70 kph for the first time after creeping south from Carling during rush hour.
    I know car drivers hate their miserable commutes. I feel for them and wish they could feel the freedom of biking to work. They could join the one percent who bike to work.

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