Harmer Bridge Replacement: Lack of Clear Policy

Thank you note on Harmer Ave bridge
Thank you note on Harmer Ave bridge
Reading Time: 5 minutes

For 55 years, the Harmer bridge over the Queensway served walking and cycling citizens on both sides of the Queensway, but this month it will be closed and removed in order to build a new bridge. The old bridge over the Queensway will be removed overnight and the new one eventually put in place overnight. The replacement will take two years though, ‘because two new ramps need to be build’. (The 12 km LRT, partly underground, will take just under six years)

No alternative to Harmer Bridge

Unfortunately, there is no close safe alternative to cross the Queensway. The initial idea was to put in a temporary bike lane on Holland Ave mostly for schoolchildren who take the bike to their schools. With the promotion of cycling and walking high on Ottawa’s lists, it made sense that the city would install temporary bike lanes. So yeah, everyone was cool with that.

The south side of the bridge
The south side of the bridge

Quote from the CBC:

The detour includes temporary segregated bike lanes running north and south on either side of Holland Avenue between Kenilworth Street and Byron Avenue.

Kitchessippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said he hopes the temporary bike lanes won’t just be used by people detouring around the construction. “It will be interesting to have the discussion with the city at the end of construction as to whether or not those cycling lanes come out,” he said.  source: CBC

Losing parking: petition!

Wouldn’t you know that someone went out to collect signatures to stop the temporary bike lanes from being installed?  118 people signed the petition, some on the same address. They feared for their free on street parking. And some signed the petition even though they don’t live on Holland Ave.

A counter petition by *avid* cyclist Érinn Cunningham gathered over 118 250 500 750 805 signatures. The city now installed green ‘super sharrows’ and flexiposts this week combined with a 30 km/h speed limit. I doubt people will stick to this speed and I hope there will be a speed camera up soon combined with stiff fines. However, I prefer a solution where collisions can’t happen in the first place.

Chris Taggart: Friday 3:45 pm Holland Ave
Chris Taggart: Friday 3:45 pm Holland Ave

See another short clip of the new situation here.

Bike lanes after all?

Now, I learned, there is a plan to install bike lanes after all, but only in 2019. See Érinn’s response to the mayor here. (Google Docs)

This CBC clip perhaps explains it all in 45 seconds this am. Note the Canada Post vehicle’s manoeuvre. All in the name of free parking.

Preston: Trillium pathway blocked

A similar detour situation was discussed on Preston, where the Trillium pathway will be closed for a number of years in order to replace the Queensway overpass over the Trillium line. There, the Province’s MTO was surprised that there was resistance against closing a pathway for years.

The ramp on the south side
The ramp on the south side

The province’s response:”Can they not simply go back to their old route or take Rochester?” Insert eye roll. Fortunately, we will see a modification of Preston to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists to bypass the construction site. (FYI: The counter counted just over 100,000 bike movements on the Trillium pathway near Gladstone in Q3 2017 alone)

Ottawa River pathway blocked

Just two weeks ago, the path along the Ottawa River behind the war museum was closed all of a sudden. Until today it is not clear to me how that happened. This path regularly counts 4000 bike movements a day. The next day, Bluesfest mentioned that pedestrians and cyclists were allowed to go through. It being a MUP, I don’t know what other types of traffic can enter in the first place.

Mooney’s Bay pathway blocked

Last Sunday, Karen and I were cycling towards Mooney’s Bay Park. A few hundred meters in, there is a large fence and a sign: “Path closed, cycle around” or something similar.

Ahhh, Hope Volleyball skinfest.

We attempted to cycle around it, through a parking lot but we eventually had to chose between cycling on Riverside or on the Riverside sidewalk. None of them ideal choices. “But Hans, they serve alcohol at Mooney’s Bay and therefore we needed to put a fence up“, could be a response, if I had asked, but does alcohol trump cycling safety? It would not have been hard to put an alternative in place, even if it means taking a lane away from Riverside for the weekend.

Jacques Cartier Park pathway blocked

Another example, in Quebec though, but I think on NCC land, is the closed path behind Jaques Cartier Park’s MosaïCulture. The path is closed and instead you are dumped on Laurier without a cross walk to cross and go south on the new bike lanes. Very awkward.

Real issue: policy

The real issue here is a lack of policy: why bike lanes on Preston and not on Holland? How can events simply close bicycle routes without a proper and safe detour? Why is there not a policy describing that there shall always be a safe low level of stress alternative for active transportation created if a route is temporarily closed? There is a requirement for construction companies to put in a detour, but not for events I believe. Correct me if I am wrong.

With tens of thousands of cyclists (and growing) in this city, I am going to suggest to our new city council a more robust safe active transportation policy for these situations, free from the current randomness. It will create clarity and politicians can make a decision based on staff recommendations.

New Harmer Bridge

The new Harmer bridge will be similar to the Max Keeping bridge over the Queensway near the VIA station, which looks like this:

The Max Keeping bridge over the Queensway in Ottawa

Ottawa Citizen’s Bruce Deachman wrote a nice human interest story about the people on the bridge, which you can read here.

To top it off, here is a short clip I made recently, while cycling across the Harmer bridge. For sentimental value and a record for future cyclists (raises cane): When I was young, we had to cycle through a chicken coop

Update: eventually after a lot of protesting, Holland Ave was reconfigured and now has parking in several places as well as bike lanes underneath the bridge and just before and after it.

Holland Ave underpass, now with bike lanes
Holland Ave underpass, now with bike lanes. Note the speed board on the right and the abundant unused parking on the right

1 Comment

  1. I recently cycled on Fisher during resurfacing of the street. City crews stored all tbe pylons, barrels, and big signs on top of the west side pathway. Where motorists had to go over a 2 inch bump between tbe old pavement and the ground off portion, they smoothed out the bump with a slope of temporary asphalt. Cyclists and pedestrians were left with a 12 inch vertical cut !! And no way to get around the signs. And then soft gravel surface. The cop directing traffic looked at me like i was some sort of alien for wanting to cycle home. Only the road contractor lady holding the slow/stop sign acknowledged me, asking “sir, would you like to cross here?” To access cow lane thru the farm. Pedestrians and cyclists are subhuman when it comes to road works like these.

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