3 examples of poor bike infrastructure design

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Recently, a number of new design proposals came out for cycling related infrastructure in Ottawa. Nine years after Laurier Bike Lane was installed, I am disappointed with several of the designs that the city and consultants are bringing to the table.

Hit and Miss

I don’t understand why there is still such reluctance to build quality cycling infrastructure sometimes. I specifically choose the word ‘sometimes‘ as there are also some great recent examples of good design, such as Dynes Rd and the ongoing improvements near the War Museum on Booth north of the S-JAM Parkway, Rideau St, the Adawe bridge, the Flora Footbridge and the Billings Bridge underpass. While the trend in my opinion is definitely one of improvement, avoidable errors keep popping up. Why does design come across as so random?

Here are three examples where things went wrong but were fortunately partly rescued in time by the public.

1 Bronson and Carleton U

Councillor Menard tweeted out an image of a modified intersection at Bronson, the Carleton University Drive exit and Sunnyside. Carleton U wants to spill more motorised traffic on Bronson (after the NCC refused another exit on Colonel By fortunately).

It appears that Carleton U has been very much in a car culture mindset, I suspect because they can collect parking fees from the vast space they have on the property. I hope the proposed ped bridge over the Rideau River will change that.

Screenshot of a screenshot by Councillor Menard

Someone came up with a really, really bad ‘design’: green lines crossing two slip lanes East-West for bike traffic from and to the Glebe. Not eliminating the slip lanes. It was so bad that I had to write a blog about it.

The good news is not that the slip lanes will be removed, because they won’t, but at least that the new design includes a modified Dutch style intersection. This is still not ideal, but I don’t understand how someone came up with such terrible design when we have so many great examples in the city by now.

Design for intersection at Bronson and Carleton U
The vastly improved new design

For reference, a proper intersection should look like this. Bike lanes on the inside such as on Fisher and Dynes. Not sometimes inside then outside again. This is inconsistent.

source: bicycleDutch

2 Woodroffe MUP bike infrastructure

Image of Woodroffe map from above
The stretch along Woodroffe

Recently a proposal was sent around to build a MUP along a short section of Woodroffe. While a better option is to build a single lane on each side, in this case a MUP makes some sense as there is tons of space on the west side, unlike at the east side. It will connect with the future Algonquin LRT station and the Pinecrest Creek pathway, which are on the west side of Woodroffe anyway.

Original suggestion to channel bike and walk traffic into separate areas
That irresistible desire to channel everyone into a box

Tallwood intersection

However, the intersection with Tallwood will look like the ones on Albert and Scott St, where the pathway veers towards the intersection. And then that ‘walk your bike’ sign. I commented that best practice is that the MUP should veer away somewhat to create better eye contact between a turning driver and a cyclist but the answer was more or less -wait for it- “No money, but don’t worry, we will put up ‘walk your bike’ signs”. Does the city think residents will walk their bikes. No they don’t, I heard recently from a city staffer who is involved in the east end connectivity with LRT phase 2. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I also suggested to create more space between the bus shelter and the MUP, near the Peter D Clarke long term care home, to create a space to wait for a passing cyclist if needed, and the answer was -wait for it- “We’ll try to make more space but else we’ll put up signs”. I am literally asking for an extra square meter or two. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Another remark I made was the convoluted design at a traffic light at Norice where people come from different directions. Luckily this will now turn into more of a shared space ‘plaza’. I am not entirely sure what is going to happen on the east side at Norice and Woodroffe.

PPlan of a plaza near traffic light on Woodroffe
I suggested something like this instead, and I am sure I wasn’t the only one. By the way, there is a bus stop just outside the image on the right and I suggested to extend the path to the bus stop. They will consider it.

Tons of Feedback

The project manager mentioned he got tons of feedback. I am not surprised as the original design basically includes all the classic mistakes you can possibly make in this very simple MUP design.

The bottom line in this project is that a limited budget deliberately creates dangerous situations. But does a safe design really cost that much more?

3 Slater Street at Elgin

Slater street is getting a makeover. One of the issues is the connection at Elgin wth the MacKenzie King Bridge. The city wants to have three lanes going straight across Elgin, one of them also being a south turning lane, which will be crossing a bike lane. (“But, green paint”). The reason for this odd configuration is that the southern most lane needs to feed the NAC parking garage.

Not a good example of bike lane design, especially since across the street a cyclist was killed in a similar style set up.

This design is somewhat similar to the design on Laurier 100 meters away where a cyclist was killed. Who even puts such a design in? I can already see drivers moving to the SB lane without looking over their shoulder or deciding at the last moment they are in the wrong lane (the middle one) and crossing the bike lane on Elgin to get into the garage. I would give this design the ‘Designed to fail” stamp if I had one.

The better solution would be to eliminate that SB turning lane altogether and keep a raised bike lane on the right. “But I can’t turn right in my car!” “That’s right, you can’t”. Unless you design the light cycle so there is never a driver in the intersection when the bike signal is green.

Bike Infrastructure Not Rocket Science

Designing bicycle infrastructure is not rocket science, and I keep being surprised about some of the designs coming out, only to be adjusted after a public outcry. That is not what building a safe city is about. Does the city go for the lowest bidder, competent or not? Do consultants not do their homework and see how cycling traffic moves? Do consultants actually check where potential conflict zones are? Do they bike themselves?

More examples of poor bike infrastructure

There are more examples of poor bike infrastructure design such as the way one will have to cross an onramp to the 417. You might also want to read about several dangerous design proposals on my blog on the Maitland overpass.

Looking for safe routes? Check out the Multi Use Pathway map.


  1. You have made an assumption about the ‘car culture mindset’ at Carleton University which I would like you to reconsider. Carleton has actually actively engaged in reducing car traffic on its campus grounds which three approaches. They spearheaded the revival of light rail service and spent significant money on making the Otrain station a primary and central point of entry for the campus. They have closed two cross-streets to vehicles and migrated parking to the edges. Carleton has added significant cycling lanes at each end of their campus petitioning the city for two other cycling intersections at each end of Carleton crossing over Bronson. Carleton has also applied to build a cycling/pedestrian bridge over the Rideau in order to connect the campus to the south side of the Rideau cycling network.

    • There are many good initiatives here. I probably should have written that Carleton hasn’t really adopted cycling. My observations were based on the large car infrastructure and the lack of clear and well designed bicycle routes on campus. Trying to go from west to east is a mish mash of sidewalk cycling, curbs, a pedestrian tunnel and a bit of road cycling. It works but it doesn’t scream ‘we embrace cycling’. The new initial suggestions for the intersection at Sunnyside were very discouraging.

    • I would like to add that Carleton recently added a new car entrance and exit to their parking lot that was the most poorly designed addition I have seen yet. I cycle through that intersection daily and am almost hit daily when people fail to even slow down for the stop sign and then park in the middle of the bike lane.

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