Will Woodroffe’s new MUP near Algonquin actually stay?

Woodroffe Ave, since the fall of last year, has a new MUP. It runs along the west side of this very busy road between just south of the Algonquin College Centre for Construction Excellence (ACCCE), crosses a street called Tallwood (the extension of Meadowlands) and ends at Norice St. (see red line in the image).

A new 700 meter stretch of multi use pathway along Woodroffe south of Algonquin

Woodroffe has on road bike lanes SB, but going NB the lane stops at Norice. You could chose to cycle in the bus lane, with eventually a right turning lane on your right though, or you can turn west towards Centrepointe Drive. I am guessing that the majority of people will not find cycling on Woodroffe an enjoyable experience. So the path is a good initiative.

The MUP starts just south of Algonquin, but is only for southbound bike traffic for part of it
Cycling northbound in the bus lane. Sharing a lane with a bus is a terrible solution. Plus, traffic turning right through that lane. With 6 lanes of traffic, very few people will cycle here. Hence the MUP. (image: Google streetview)

Surprise design along Woodroffe Ave

Slip lanes at the Tallwood intersection with Woodroffe

However, there is a surprise: the part of the MUP south of Tallwood is bidirectional for cyclists, but north of Tallwood cyclists are not allowed to use the MUP NB. Northbound cyclists who just entered the new pathway NB at Norice will have to turn west into Tallwood and find their way through the neighbourhood north, or cross Woodroffe again and continue on Woodroffe in the bus lane (Good luck with that!) as a sign suggests.

Why this inconsistency on Woodroffe?

If you bike north of Tallwood NB anyway, despite the several warnings, you will end up at a construction site for the LRT train station and you’d have to bike the wrong way in a bike lane. That shouldn’t happen and therefore the city doesn’t allow you to bike the stretch north of Tallwood.

Stage 3 LRT

It seems a bit odd to me that the city builds a pathway though in a place where later this decade construction of our Stage 3 LRT system to Barrhaven should start. I must admit I have not paid much attention to Stage 3 yet, but the plan for this area is to extend LRT eventually from Algonquin College to Barrhaven. It will run parallel to Woodroffe, passing the Nepean Sportsplex all the way to the VIA rail station on Fallowfield, and then veer southwest into Barrhaven. It won’t be cheap; CBC’s Kate Porter wrote in 2020 that “The Baseline (ie Algonquin) to Nepean Sportsplex section, along with the rail bridges, has been estimated to cost $2 billion, while the southern section to Barrhaven would cost another one billion dollars”.

The South end of the MUP at Norice with a connection westbound to Pinetrail cresent

Elevation

Part of the tracks will be elevated and part of that elevated stretch will be just south of Algonquin College where LRT will appear from underneath the Algonquin College property. The train has to climb from a tunnel underneath Algonquin to an elevated station in just 700 meters, shorter than the distance between Pimisi and Bayview stations.

Space

In order to build those elevated tracks, one needs space. And you guessed it, that will be a few meters west of where the new path was just built. So I am a bit puzzled by why that stretch of MUP was built now: it doesn’t serve many cyclists, other than between Tallwood and Norice (it does a somewhat better job for pedestrians though) and it will likely be removed (or at least closed) again by LRT construction in a few years.

Stage 3 LRT – will it happen?

Unless Stage 3 is not going to happen any time soon…With the government pondering work from home in some way, construction cost and interest going up, Stage 3 might not be built for a long time. Because who is going to wait at -20C in an open LRT station when traffic is light enough that you can easily drive into town in your own cozy, warm car? Future mayors promising low taxes and efficient LRT might not be too eager to spend that much money on three quarter empty LRT trains. The city might just leave BRT in place, who knows.

A pedestrian crossing from the Peter D. Clarke Centre. Note there is also a bike lane between the curb and the bus lane on Woodroffe itself
The bike lane on Woodroffe on the left of a turning lane into Tallwood

Long runway

From Kate’s 2020 article: “There’s an extremely long runway before the shovels are going to hit the ground,” said Coun. Keith Egli, who has been told any construction would be at least seven or eight years away”. That would mean a start at the earliest in 2027-2028 and running trains to Barrhaven around 2035 I suspect, if not 2040.

Stage 3: Looking southwest on Woodroffe. Note the extremely tight corner at the bottom of the station where the bike path ends and the path basically running underneath (!) the LRT. (Google screen grab and City of Ottawa rendering)

The odd north end of the pathway tells me that this situation is going to stay at least until the Algonquin station opens in 2025. Once that happens, the entire MUP will be open to northbound cycling towards Algonquin station too in 2025, just in time before it will be possibly ripped up to start building the elevated tracks from 2028 on. Then cyclists (and pedestrians) will be out of luck again for half a decade or more.

The Strava Heat map shows that the path is being used (see red arrows), but so are the on road bike lanes. Strava data probably do tilt a bit towards the racers who prefer to stay on the road due to their higher speeds (MUPs have a maximum speed of 20 kph). The east-west orangy shortcut through the woods near the bottom arrow shows people bike to and from Norice.
Shortcut from Pinetrail Cresent to Woodroffe and Norice
Left over concrete poured into the forest: out of sight…

I went back last week (July 2022) to see how the new pathway looked like with all the signs and the city didn’t disappoint me. (/s). More than a dozen signs were added, from ‘walk your bike’ signs to reroute signs to wayfinding signs to instruction signs. Never have I seen so many signs on a 700 meter stretch of pathway (and they are nearly all mounted way too high).

A myriad of signs. The wayfinding sign needs follow up at Tallwood and Woodroffe, but I don’t believe there is one.
Tired? Enjoy a rest with lovely views on backed up traffic and the Great Canadian Oil Change

So how is the ultimate infrastructure around Algonquin station going to look like? I’ll address it in a future blog post. In the meantime, check out some pleasant routes in the region.

Sources

(Kate Porter’s article): Barrhaven LRT extension pegged at $3B | CBC News

Stage 2 LRT Station Connectivity Enhancement Study | City of Ottawa

Barrhaven Light Rail Transit (Baseline Station to Barrhaven Town Centre) and Rail Grade-Separations Planning and Environmental Assessment Study | City of Ottawa

Barrhaven LRT and Rail Grade-Separations Planning and Environmental Assessment Study | Baseline Station to Nepean Sportsplex Preliminary Recommended Plan (ottawa.ca)

Barrhaven LRT and Rail Grade-Separations Planning and Environmental Assessment (EA) Study (ottawa.ca)

4 Comments

  1. Cycling the section of woodroffe from norice to Hunt Club in the bike lane is scary since there are so many busses and passing under the train bridge is a squeeze. Seems the sections south of the east west train track to hunt club are tough on greenbank, woodroffe or merivale.

  2. I have used this new MUP a few times now. South Bound towards Barrhaven it is an excellent addition as it takes out 700m of on-road cycling. However as you say the NB use makes no senses as I have to cross Woodroofe twice. I usually end up just cycling on the pavement to Algonquin college to connect to the transit way MUP. I’m hoping the city extend the pathway on the transitway arm that may retire once the LRT station opens.

  3. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry after reading this excellent post. Mostly cry: a friend recently had a close call in the painted bike lane on Woodroffe and your gloomy analysis of what’s coming next is sadly bang-on. Still, there’s hope that the Oct. 24 municipal election will help: lots of bike-friendly smart politicians like Laine Johnson in College ward and Sean Devine in Knoxdale-Merivale ward could help put us on the right path?

  4. Thanks for your analysis of the Woodroofe MUP. Seems like it was not well thought out by the City, or at least not very coordinated. Do the people who design these paths ride bikes?

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