When MUP’s Run Along Parking Lots

parking lot Mill St brewery
Strewn barriers on NCC pathway
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s one of those design flaws that you don’t see coming. But once you know it, we should incorporate it in the manual for proper bike infrastructure: never run a bike path right next to parking. This is what you get: drivers rolling their car against the curb. Obviously drivers don’t realise what they are doing, so you have to design in a different way.

Do we?

poor parking design
An example of poor parking design: cars sticking into the bike and walk space at the 2015 MUP at Adawe bridge
Albert St. barriers can help if they are positioned properly and fixed into the road.

A few years ago, residents complained that the cars were sticking over the pathway in the half circle at the Mill Street Brewery in Ottawa. Especially bigger cars such as trucks, usually backed in. The NCC reacted promptly and put concrete barriers out, tied to the ground with metal bars. Or so we all thought.

The NCC put floating barriers in. They mostly worked. Although it is a bit of an eye sore this way.

But winter came, and 30 cm of snow and the snow plow contractors had likely no idea there were concrete barriers. By the time the winter was over, the barriers were not just all over the place, they made it impossible to use the path. Of course the parking lot was spotless. Below:

snow storage
The path is not maintained in the winter and is mostly used for snow storage for Mill Street Brewery’s parking. Note where the barriers went….The parking is clean, the snow in the bike path disappears slowly.
Zoom in at the pick up truck. Overhanging trucks trunks like it used to be before the barriers came in.

So residents called the NCC again. And the folks were out to reorganise the barriers again.

As seen from the other side. I hear you saying, “but you can’t bike there anyway”. Indeed, but a few days later you could, when the ice was gone.

Or do you feel the same?

Recently, I asked an NCC employee if we couldn’t get a more elegant and permanent solution. The answer needs three more blog posts but the bottom line is that the Mill street brewery leases the space. If the NCC makes modifications, the contract has to be re-opened (I think you could ad a one page addendum: The NCC shall improve the parking lot in exchange for a year’s supply of free beer at the NCC Urban lab – I need to talk to Stan). And of course, money is an issue at the NCC. As always.

This summer, these ladies came from the berm on the right and walked between the cars to the brewery.

But what we really need is a raised strip at pathway level of about 1 meter along the curb, filled with say sedum or some other low maintenance plant. It really doesn’t have to be granite pavers. More or less like at the other end of the parking lot.

paved strip
I was thinking along those lines: lob a meter off the parking and add a raised strip of pavers or green.

Even a pick up truck with four bikes on the back can park fairly safely. Note there are no barriers in the photo above as this is not a multi use pathway, but used as such anyway. It is the shortest way to beer on a warm day.

Did I ask too much, more than a lot?

I don’t think I am asking too much, just a minor tweak for one of the busiest bike routes in Canada. A bit further down the path is a bicycle counter, counting just short of 500,000 a year (483,647 to be exact). That is about 1750 rides a day in the 275 days or so that the route is snow free. My street with perhaps 100 cars a day (if that) is a lot better maintained.

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