Active transportation in our City

I have worked extensively for more than 10 years to advance investments in active transportation in our City, including in our community of Lowertown, Sandy Hill, and Vanier. 

Our office values safe transportation for all road users throughout our City. Notably, in our community, we have been working to reduce the number of missing links for sidewalks and cycling infrastructure, resolve standards issues as our area is one of the oldest in Ottawa, and reduce safety issues by improving overall accessibility. 

On May 5th, we hosted an active transportation town hall in collaboration with Councillor King’s team. Rideau-Vanier, our community, and Rideau-Rockcliffe, our neighbouring community, share many of the same challenges regarding missing links and desirable connections.

Many organizations supported the forum and helped us with the organization of this discussion by bringing forward ideas and identifying key issues. The organizations that support this forum’s success include: Bike Ottawa, Walkable Ottawa, the Ottawa Disability Coalition, Ecology Ottawa, and the City. Participants from our communities were able to pre-submit feedback and participate in the session. The meeting began with a short presentation by the City, including team members from the transportation planning, active transportation planning, and traffic services teams. Participants were then split up into breakouts led by the event partners and City staff to discuss missing links, safety concerns, and key priorities to improve accessibility, walk, and cycle. The event wrapped up with each group reporting on their discussion and priority areas, followed by an open discussion to conclude the engagement session.

Partner organizations brought meaningful context and facilitated this critical forum. Councillor King and I’s offices will continue to work together, including with our respective community associations, to see through immediate improvements as opportunities allow and ensure this effort builds on the foundational elements to shape the City’s Transportation Masterplan review.

Since my first Council term, we continually work on immediate and policy improvements to build positive shifts in our City. In coordination with the community, this work has continued to grow and add over the years. 

We have seen several significant projects in our City’s core that shape the opportunities to meaningfully transform the transportation network and make active transportation a choice for residents. The list of projects is endless; they show that targeted investments make a difference and bring safer options, increasing pedestrian and cycling use. The Adawe bridge comes to mind with that reflection. The bridge serves as a highway for pedestrians and cyclers coming from near U Ottawa/Centretown and making their way to or from communities east of the Rideau River. The Laurier bike lane has set the tone for the types of street transformation that can bring safe cycling through the urban road network. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) sets the ground for all sidewalk, crossing, and traffic signals to elevate all new infrastructure investments to meet those accessibility objectives. 

Like the AODA, one of the most important decisions by the City Council was the approval of the Complete Streets Policy, which ensures safe experiences for all when streets are redone (pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and vehicles). This fundamental policy now sets an essential baseline for all infrastructure investments. Several main streets have benefited from a street narrowing, which has improved safety, increased pride, and diversified transportation options, including Beechwood, Somerset E, Rideau, McArthur, and now Montreal Road. Additional and unexpected investments to bring a winter maintained and lite MUP along with the LRT phase 1 have shown a tremendous opportunity for alternative active transportation corridors. The City must strive for continued improvements for these public investments into our infrastructure. We must also reset expectations regarding winter maintenance and sidewalk standards, to name a few.

Engagement: Ideas and Feedback

Feedback collected through the online survey form, through the event’s Zoom chat function, and the breakout room summaries have been collected in the appendices attached to this report.

Key Takeaways and Priorities

  • Sidewalk accessibility: several years ago, the City had moved from standards of 1.5m width to 1.8m width for sidewalks. Over the last number of years, several priorities have emerged to ensure broader and safer sidewalks, including considerations for grades, hydro poles, retaining walls, frequency of driveways, etc. The City is currently engaging with residents to review its standards to meet the renewed increase in expectations
  • Winter maintenance standards: currently, the street priority level (main street, schools, buses) have matching maintenance and cleaning standards for their sidewalk. We know that sidewalk classifications need reprioritization with high-volume residential sidewalks connecting to transit, schools, parks, employment nodes, etc. As the City recognizes and prioritizes the desirable residential sidewalks and bike lanes that can offer safe options for winter active transportation uses, the City is currently re-evaluating the classification of roads and sidewalks to reset the approach for the winter pedestrian and cycling networks.
  • Residential Streets: All residential streets in the community to 30km have been newly approved (safer, slower traffic). This will help enforcement improve the livability of residential areas in our community. It allows for more traffic-calming measures (seasonal) and gives all new residential street rebuilding projects the right policy environment to see through those community objectives.
  • Signalization: Advanced pedestrian lights, cycling signals, no rights on reds, automate pedestrian lights, and new pedestrian crosswalks (PXO) are all unique opportunities to improve safety and rebalance for active transportation uses. A review is underway to reconsider the red-light reverse signal and reduce pedestrians’ requirement to beg for the light (aka beg buttons).
  • Safe cycling: Safe pedestrian options from Sandy Hill to Lowertown, from Lowertown into the Byward Market, and Sandy Hill to the ByWard Market need to be solidified. Attractive opportunities exist along Cumberland, Nelson, Chapel, Beausoleil and York, to name a few.
  • Somerset Street East: This segment needs to be rebuilt to meet the active transportation highway aspirations along this corridor that has become a vital segment for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • McArthur Ave: Major design investments are needed to make MacArthur a complete main street. The traffic calming has helped, and the cycling infrastructure has been a fundamental transformation for this main street.
  • Beechwood Ave: the renewal of Beechwood into a complete street is much awaited. The recent redevelopment has drawn attention to the potential of this corridor to be improved with modern pedestrian and cycling spaces. 
  • Vanier Parkway: the TMP review needs to advance a much-improved transportation design for the Vanier Parkway. Long has been the old parkway flow. With all of its newer intersection and residential properties, the Vanier parkway needs a fundamental relook to ensure modern and safe network connections for all road users.
  • Cummings Bridge: we have recently been able to ensure that the National Capital Commission adds the Cumming’s Bridge NCC MUP connection to its pathway missing link elements. We will also continue to pursue this missing link through the City’s TMP with a desire to see a below-grade MUP connection. The City is currently conducting a study to look at the feasibility of this below-grade option.
  • Rideau Bike connection LRT: the recent improvements along Rideau Street (between Sussex and Dalhousie) set the course for vital and much-needed connections. We are connecting Centretown to the Byward Market/Rideau (Centre & LRT). The western segment needs to tie safely to the Canal MUP and continue to the Northside of the street’s bi-directional lane and Wellington. The southern connection shows a vital promise to connect along Nicholas to meet the Laurier East-West bikeway and the LRT MUP connection. 
  • Vanier Residential Streets: Vanier was built as a suburb. Vanier does have a unique character with a non-grid transportation network. One of the essential elements in Vanier is to modernize its infrastructure and provide adequate sidewalks. There is a unique opportunity to renew many residential streets to provide newer pedestrian options to get to and from home to transit, parks, and schools. An example that is often brought up is for residents living north of Montfort who have few options to find a sidewalk to access the transit service in Vanier. New sidewalks are needed on streets like Ste Anne and Bradley to ensure safe and urban residential sidewalk connections.

It is paramount that we continue to clarify priorities and expectations relating to transportation improvements to, from, and throughout our community ahead of the transportation masterplan consultations and review. This forum was a unique opportunity to look at local, community-wide and core-wide missing links, safety concerns, and priority investments.

Next Steps

This report is meant to advance local needs, reflect current situations, and promote those needed investments in our community. We will continue to work with each community leadership group, including Ecology Ottawa, Bike Ottawa, the Ottawa Disability Coalition, and Walkable Ottawa to advance these needs. 

We will be sharing this report directly with City staff to influence priority projects for the City’s transportation master plan. For neighbourhood-specific concerns, we will continue to engage with our community associations. 

Overall, this report is not meant to reflect everything that was said during the active transportation town hall. There were several conversations during the session by over 80 participants. The full notes are available in the appendices. We are ensuring all ideas and feedback are captured and shared with the City. We have extended that conversation already in a key area with City staff. We will continue to discuss these priorities with our community to see through the much-needed infrastructure improvements.

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