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