Can a LeBreton Flats Pathway become the Shortcut to Downtown?

new Ottawa library on albert
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As the new pathways on LeBreton are now open, it is worth looking into how they can accomodate cycling (skiing?) into the downtown core. The area near the new to be built Ādisōke library offers an opportunity to get the connections right.

Up the Escarpment

What is not obvious when you look on a map is that there is an escarpment at the east end of LeBreton. You can cycle around it heading east by staying along the river, but eventually you have to climb up either behind Parliament Hill or at the Ottawa locks.

Another option is to stay on Albert St, cross Albert St. close to Bronson and then connect to the Laurier bike lane via the ‘Tech wall dog park’ area on Slater.

Library north and west side. Far left is the pumping station that takes the water in from the aqueduct (Image: Inspire 555)

Chief William Commanda bridge

A really nice future connection will be when you arrive from Gatineau via the Chief William Commanda bridge or from Ottawa’s west end along the Ottawa river, cycle across LeBreton Flats, cycle underneath Pimisi Station and then cycle towards the new library.

At the new library on Albert, new crossrides are designed together with many other modifications such as Slater peeling off Albert later and further east then today (as in: 2022).

Note that Slater will be reconfigured. I’ll meet you at the ‘retaining wall with integrated seating’, facing away from the library. Let’s hope those existing rows of trees can be saved and moved to a new place. (Image: city of Ottawa and Google).

Lining up the lanes at the library

My concern though is that the pathways will not line up properly at the new Ādisōke library. In the current designs, there are several pathways at the library’s west side, a square with fountains, some structure that looks like an amphitheatre around the square and pathways going up from the flats towards the library (See the gray-ish area below)

It is not clear to me if that angular path directly west of the library is intended to serve pedestrians only or if it is more of a MUP. It looks narrow. Or it might just be an artist impression.

So we have Albert St.’s future bike lanes in front of the library, the pathway coming from Pimisi and LeBreton Flats, the downtown Albert and Slater bike lanes, the Laurier bike lane (indirectly) and public space west of the new library.

Another concern is that the area where those 6 sedans are parked is one way westbound only, where as the path eastbound until Empress is bidirectional. It means you’d have to cross Albert twice to get to the library: first at Empress and then back closer to the library. Are you still with me?

So how does that all connect?

Commissioner Street connection

The north side the library, with a pathway running between Pimisi Station and Commissioner St. (image: Inspire 555)

The designed solution is to incorporate Commissioners St. by connecting the pathway from Pimisi to Commissioner St. (see above). From the Albert St. and Commissioner St. intersection, you will be able to go north and south on Bronson via protected Dutch style intersections.

Bronson? Dutch style intersections? Yes, Bronson.

For a short stretch, Bronson will get raised bike tracks. A lot of thought went into designing this area with citizens input (Thank you Nelson), and it looks very promising with raised bike tracks and Dutch style protected intersections and short stretches with bidirectional MUPs.

Bronson (north – south) and Albert (east – west) (Image: city of Ottawa)
Bronson (north – south) and Slater (east – west) (Image: city of Ottawa)

Shortcut via Ādisōke library

I expect though that many eastbound cyclists will choose a route that might not be intended. You could bike from Pimisi towards the library, pass the library at the west side and cross Albert St. in front of the library in order to connect to Slater St.

In the current designed configuration, this requires a bit of cycling against bike traffic coming downhill from the escarpment. Not ideal, but it is shorter and saves one traffic signal if you are heading towards Slater or Percy. No pesky ‘walk your bike’ sign will stop people from taking that route, so the City might as well design that properly.

Empress St cross ride

Unless a connection will be built from the pathway from Pimisi to the intersection at Albert and Empress. The cross rides there will get you to Bronson uninterrupted and more directly.

“But wait, there is an LRT in the way!”, the attentive reader says.

The good news is that you will be able to cross where the tracks dip underground, around the ‘extraction shaft’ and that means you can backtrack 50 meters to get to Empress.

“But”’, the attentive reader slams their fist on the table: “the NCC is selling off that land to a developer, no good comes from that”. (From what I understand, the NCC is asking $30 million for the lot)

The key NCC connection

There will be a road from an NCC parcel connecting to Albert, but will there be a connection to the path? Have I some news for you. There should be, as is described in the RFP for the NCC parcel next to the library where buildings will go up:

“A north-south multi-use pathway connection shall also be included in the proponent’s development concept to connect pedestrians and cyclists from the new Empress Street and Albert Street intersection to the multi-use pathway network located to the back of the Subject Site.”

The NCC land to be developed next between the library (north east corner) and Booth St (Pimisi station). (image: NCC)
You’d cycle north (!) of Pimisi underneath Booth, cross the tracks closer towards the library and backtrack towards the Albert/Empress intersection, cross Albert and then head further east. (image: NCC)
Update January 20, 2022: The NCC has chosen a proposal from Dream Properties: 601 new rental housing units, of which 31% will be accessible, and 41% will be affordable housing. It will be the largest residential zero-carbon project in Canada. Also: “a new multi-use pathway from the lower level of Pimisi station to the site, and toward Ādisōke”.
Above is an idea how you will bike from the bridge and the NCC pathways across LeBreton Flats, past Pimisi, over the LRT tracks (where the tunnel starts), cross Albert, follow Slater towards Laurier and Percy.
Above is a route you could take from Sparks/Queens St and Albert (blue arrows) westbound

That other directional issue

There is still that other issue though. If you cycle eastbound on Albert towards the library, the bike track becomes one way after the Albert and Empress intersection. You will have to cross Albert and 100 meters further cross back in order to get to the library. The NCC block will allow you to bypass that and approach the library along the LRT tracks.

I am guesing all this will probably be another five years away before we actually cycle on this connection. But it looks promising.

Here is an idea how all the directions will look like for cycling (image: city of Ottawa). Note the 5 protected intersections. The pathway behind the library towards and from Commissioner St is not in here, nor is the connection off Empress NB towards the pathway (Image: city of Ottawa)

Read here my post about the new pathways across LeBreton Flats and have a look how the library in Halifax looks like.


NCC: Building LeBreton Flats winning proposal

Click to access Library-Parcel-RFQ-and-Addenda.pdf

Click to access albertstreet_boards_en.pdf

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