New Raised Bike Tracks on Byron Ave

there is a new bike track and a new side walk running from the photographer into the distance along a road. An overlay text says: Visiting the new bike tracks on Byron Ave.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Part of Byron Ave in Ottawa recently went through an integrated road, sewer and watermain upgrade. The city used that as an opportunity to upgrade the road with separate bike infrastructure. Rebuilding a road with proper infrastructure for everyone doesn’t cost much extra when the whole road has been pulled up anyway. Let’s have a look.

Preliminary images

A paved intersection shows several concrete islands that together form a protected intersection. the paint is not appleid yet.
The nearly finished Kirkwood-Byron protected intersection, looking SE. The new midrise is behind me. This is a panorama shot, which makes it look somewhat wider than it really is

The work is not completely finished yet, but as it is past mid November already, I didn’t want to risk that a snowfall is going to spoil my photos. I jumped on the bike last week (yes, in November) to take some pictures of the new raised bike tracks. It might be striped (road paint) by the time you read this, but if the weather turns, the final striping and bike signals at the protected intersection at Kirkwood may not happen until spring.

a technical drawing showing the intersection of Byron and Kirkwood
For the engineers among my readers, here is a screenshot of the technical drawings. Note the many concrete islands. I am not sure if all of them survive the snowplows (Byron runs east-west)

Where on Byron Ave are the tracks?

a map that shows in red line the new Byron Ave bike tracks
In red the new Byron Ave bike tracks, note the protected intersection at Kirkwood

Going west to east, the separate bike tracks start a block east from Churchill, itself the first street in Ottawa with permanent separate raised bike tracks back in 2014 as far as I know. I wrote about the Churchill raised bike tracks in November of that year:

From just east of Churchill, the track runs nearly continously until Hilson, a block east of Kirkwood.

The road received a complete overhaul with new 1.80 metre/6 ft wide bike tracks and 1.8 metre wide side walks for a total of approximately 650 meters on each side. The road has two speed humps built in. From what I remember there are two signalised pedestrian crossings.

A break at Byron Ave at Tweetsmuir

a technical drawing showing the raised bike tracks stop at Tweetsmuir and continue again after the intersection.
The bike tracks stop before Tweedsmuir and continue after the intersection. The only reason I can think of is the hydro pole that is in the way across the intersection

Oddly, and I am not entirely sure why, at Tweedsmuir, the bike tracks veer back into the ‘car’ lanes and after the intersection and the pedestrian crossing, they start again as separate bike tracks. I don’t think the intersection is different from the other side street intersections though.

In fact, the road widens but where pedestrians cross you should narrow the road in my opinion, not widen it, so I am really puzzled here. You’ll find a raised asphalt crosswalk at Tweedsmuir, crossing Byron. I have asked the project manager for more insight in this unsafe oddity on November 16. 2023 and will update with an answer here.

A technical drawing shows where everything has to go on Byron
Where Byron meets Tweedsmuir, the bike tracks are interrupted
This is what NACTO recommends, Byron has the opposite

Churchill Ave intersection at Byron Ave

I am sure the City will build a proper connection to the Churchill intersection eventually, but it was not part of the sewer replacement and therefore not part of the project. We’ll have to find another budget to cover that (hello, red light camera income).

three yellow signs on a hydro pole. the top one shows two children walking, the middle one shows an arrow pointing up and the bottom one shows a cross with a dotted line on the right and a bike above it.
The bottom sign is new to me. I am guessing it means that cyclists can use the crosswalk

A nice improvement is the new protected intersection at Kirkwood. As you already saw, the final touches still have to be done. Despite the new intersection, Kirkwood north of the Queensway is not a nice place to bike though.

My usual route is Laperriere and then south on Roosevelt or some variation. Only when I saw the mid rise building built in the back of the Great Canadian Superstore parking lot on Richmond, I realised I hadn’t been here for several years as this was the first time I saw the 6-7 storey midrise.

Resisting a sidewalk off Byron Ave

in the left of the photo is a newly poured side walk visible. The road has single family homes on both sides from about 80 years ago
Athlone Ave got a new sidewalk to the chagrain of some residents

The project file shows that not everyone was happy with a planned sidewalk on Athlone Ave. Athlone is a dead end street for motorized traffic that continues north as a path through a park towards Clare St. The questions section shows some residents wondered if it isn’t safer to have cars, pedestrians and cyclists to mix on the road rather than separate them. They fear that separation will increase speeding. In a way they are talking about a woonerf, without talking about a woonerf.

Ignored desire line

There is a desire line underneath the hydro lines that crosses Byron towards the Superstore. Unfortunately, the road design doesn’t accommodate this desire line, and I already saw someone crossing there anyway. I also saw a person cycling the wrong direction on the one way bike tracks, because that is simply much shorter than going to the next light and then backtrack. I don’t think it is something to lie awake about though.

Why do people break (by) laws: coming from the Superstore at the top to go east and you want to use bike infra, you’d have to follow the red line, walk your bike following the green line or hop off the curb and cross the road. A raised crossing or curb cuts would have made it easier.
A small ramp on Byron indicates the start of the bike tracks
The somewhat crummy start of the bike tracks at the east end near Island Park. Note the PXO. It looks like the city raised the intersection ever so slightly

The raised tracks are stand alone. They are not connected to other separate cycling infrastructure, although at the Churchill end it is only a block away. But it might serve a neighbourhood purpose. Let me know if and how you would plan to use the raised bike tracks on Byron. Or will you keep riding on the road?

Interested in how Ottawa -Gatineau’s cycling infrastructure looks like? you may want to take a peek here on Ottawa Cycling Maps, with an overview and several maps.

Previous Cycling in Ottawa blogs

  • More new cycling infrastructure in Ottawa – part 2/2
    Reading Time: 7 minutes Last week I showed a number of new bicycle infrastructure improvements in Ottawa. This week we’ll look at several more new bike infrastructure projects in the city.
  • Cycling infra updates in Ottawa in 2023 – part 1/2
    Reading Time: 8 minutes As 2023 comes to an end, I made an overview of the cycling projects that are (nearly) finished in Ottawa this year. Here is part 1 of 2 posts.
  • New Raised Bike Tracks on Byron Ave
    Reading Time: 5 minutes Part of Byron Ave in Ottawa recently went through an integrated road, sewer and watermain upgrade. The city used that as an opportunity to upgrade the road with separate bike infrastructure. Let’s have a look!
  • Time for a new helmet: shall I go urban?
    Reading Time: 7 minutes It was time for me to start looking for a new bicycle helmet. And just like that someone called me and we discussed the Melon helmet this spring and I ended up trying one out. One of the most contentious debates in the world of urban cycling is to wear or not to wear a helmet. While the vast majority of the Dutch absolutely despise the idea, actually can’t even imagine wearing one, the Danes are kind of split about the idea. In Canada it’s generally accepted that you wear a helmet while out on a bike, although there are [Read more…]
  • Retracing the First Train into Ottawa: the Bytown & Prescott Railway
    Reading Time: 10 minutes Mr. Walter Shanly (1817-1899), a civil engineer, touched the ground to inspect the land underneath his snow shoes. He was on a mission: recently he, and a group of investors, had agreed on building the first railway track into Bytown (now Ottawa), all the way from Prescott on the St. Lawrence river, to connect the lumbertown on the Ottawa River with the ports in Prescott. A distance of about 50 miles (80 km). Not everyone was excited about their plans though and it had taken time to get the funds together. Thomas McKay, who built Rideau Hall, put forward money [Read more…]
  • Prince of Wales Bridge Reopens as Active Transportation Bridge with New Name
    Reading Time: 8 minutes A large piece of new active transportation infrastructure finally opened yesterday. Here is all the background you want to read about the historic Prince of Wales bridge, now the Chief William Commanda bridge, connecting Ottawa with Gatineau and an easier gateway to Gatineau Park.

4 Comments

  1. Great post. I think the design at tweedsmuir has to do forcing cyclists on the bike track to also respect the pedestrian right of way at that crossing. At all other crossings, all three lanes are equal and thru traffic has right of way to any turning traffic. At tweedsnuir, pedestrians turning the cross have right of way and the other two lanes (bike and car) have to cede.

    One problem I notice already on the south side, where the houses are, is that the total width of the sidewalk, bike track and small grass section now allows some homes to park a second car there. Even if only briefly, it still forces pedestrians and cyclists to go around sometimes even stepping down on the road to pass. In that sense, the old narrows sidewalk was better for safety because it was so narrow that it did not allow for people to park a second car, so it stay unimpeded.

  2. Even when cycle tracks and new sidewalks are installed, the primary driving force of the design is…car drivers. There is no recognition of the desire line behind loblaws as it isn’t a permitted car movement, there no other mode of travel needs to be considered.

    I suspect the odd design of interrupted intersection at tweedsmuir has to do with the lack of traffic signals for cars.

    The sign showing an intersection with cycle crossing to the right is subject to various mis interpretations.

  3. I ride in the area frequently but I am not fond of the Byron (especially Tweedsmuir) design. I have been sticking to the old path on the north side of the road. Maybe with some extensions, improvements and time I will change my mind. I feel very vulnerable on those raised tracks (Churchill) when I approach an intersection, I don’t trust impatient, inattentive drivers and I worry that I will be right hooked.

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