Last month, Ottawa’s Bay Street’s northern most 400 meters were finally finished. It now includes separate raised cycling infrastructure between Wellington St and Laurier bike lane. Bay had already a bike lane going north. It was also legally allowed to cycle on the side walk southbound, but that was far from ideal.
Storm and Sewer replacement
Besides building the cycling tracks, a storm and sanitary replacement at Bay and Queen and at Bay and Albert was needed. Bay at Albert also saw a watermain replacement. There have been delays, and delays again, but finally, somewhere in August/September 2021, 2 years after the work commenced, we can bike on this new piece of infrastructure. The budget for the project was CAD 6.2 million.
Let’s first fly over this section of Bay Street before the raised bike lanes and new intersections were built to get a better idea of the environment. There was already a bike lane painted going north up to the large building at the end, Library and Archives Canada:
Dutch style intersections
Last Saturday I went out to ride the lanes a couple of times. Yes, that is nerdy. If you bike on Bay now, the first thing you will notice is the many Dutch style intersections plus the variations on that theme. Northbound, the raised bike lane veers a bit away from car traffic in order to be more visible when a driver turns right. As it is a one way road, those provisions were not necessary southbound, however you’ll notice it at Bay and Laurier anyway.
At the south east corner of Slater and Bay, you’ll notice an odd concrete ‘rumble skirt’ (for lack of a better word). You will start to see that more often: it allows large vehicles to turn the corner, while making the corner look tighter at the same time. I am not sure if it is useful. The images I took from the OC Transpo bus shows why it is there. I converted the three images into a GIF.
Novelty: near bike signals
Cyclists in European bike friendly countries often have a ‘near’ light at about 4 feet high. We don’t have that in Ottawa or perhaps even in North America yet. Bike signals here are across the intersection above the bike lane. New in Ottawa (I think, as I have not seen them anywhere else yet) are bike signals that are placed before the intersection. However, you won’t see them at eye level, but way up high and therefore easy to miss as I have experienced.
I am guessing that the signals on the near side of the intersection are an experiment but that the lower placed small signals on a post like in Europe didn’t make the cut yet. It makes sense though as I think it would be clearer where you have to stop at the light, rather than bike up to the curb at the intersection. (Edit, I talked to city staff later and they told me that smaller lights at eye level are allowed, but extremely hard to get a hold of)
But why does the city want you to do that?
You are supposed to wait before the intersection (where the near traffic signal is), but somewhat naturally, one tends to ride all the way up to the curb. This is not a good idea as you will block other cycling traffic cycling perpendicular behind you.
I really hope this is the prelude to getting much lower bike signals mounted on a post at 4 feet high near the cyclist. They would be much more in a cyclist’s field of vision too.
It is nice to see several benches placed, built to resist a nuclear war and snow plows. The concrete will soon be damaged by the latter ones I fear.
If you want to go fast on Bay, you’re probably better off to take the lane on the road (northbound only, southbound you’ll have to take Lyon if you want to bike on the road). But many others will definitely like this new facility. It is now up to Tobi Nussbaum to build a safer Wellington towards Portage vice versa.
Drawings: large PDF (18 MB): https://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents/files/bay_wel_lau_en.pdf (this doesn’t look exactly the same as the final build in real life though)
Images: Hans on the Bike
Also read: Top ten position for Ottawa – Gatineau cycling