For the two wards with the some of the highest bike modal shares in the city (Kitchissippi / Somerset), the safe cycling linkages between them are few. No, less than few. There are none.
I always knew the Somerset-Wellington corridor wasn’t great for biking, but the new school to work to after-care routine came as a nasty wake-up call. It is awful. Especially in the afternoon rush hour.
Sharrows? WHAT SHARROWS? There are 8 kajillion cars lined up on them.
In my new routine I need to get from downtown to Hintonburg on Wellington St. West for after school care pick-up. I take the Laurier Bike Lane across Bronson and enter Somerst at Arthur Street. From this point on, the commute is a total complete utter gong show on Somerset through Chinatown.
1. Somerset has sharrows for infrastruction AND allows street parking at rush hour.
Good call, planners.
So, now I am stuck in so much traffic that being on my bike is of ZERO benefit. To myself or to the city. I’m not reducing congestion, now I’m part of it. The first day I didn’t filter between the parked cars and the driving (albeit mostly parked) cars in the travel lane. I’m not riding my bike to be STUCK IN TRAFFIC.
I’m doing what the city has asked – choosing not to commute with a private vehicle and being punished for this choice. Stuck behind tailpipes. Risking being doored for filtering. It only takes a planner one bike ride to see how sharrows completely fail to serve as infrastructure to make cycling a comfortable and convenient choice here.
I didn’t think Somerset / Wellington West could get worse until the next day when it rained and there was EVEN MORE traffic. Stalled, congested, not moving traffic. It was so bad and I felt so unsafe being on the road that I got off my bike and walked several blocks. ON THE CITY’S DESIGNATED BIKE ROUTE.
I picked up my son and began the second tricky leg of the route home. Now, I’ll ‘take the lane’, filter and whatnot as needed but there’s no way I’ll be CAN-BIKE II-ing it with my kid on the back. Sorry. We are not here to be the city’s human shields for traffic calming. Go back to engineering school.
We would not be taking Wellington-Somerset home.
2. Detouring to Gladstone didn’t help either
I took a moderate detour using Fairmount, rode under the 417 to Young (wow, terrible intersection) and then took the O-train path to Gladstone. There was no way to avoid the last leg east on Gladstone. There is no other east-west route aside from Somerset.
You *could* try to wiggle your way on the sidestreets, but there are no traffic controls to help you get across Rochester or Booth. It would be impossible to cross these arterial roads at rush hour without a traffic light.
There was so much traffic on Gladstone (it had backed up to the O-train path) that I again, walked my bike. The road is too narrow to share with buses and vehicles.
There is no space to bike on this, again, CITY DESIGNATED BIKE ROUTE.
Oh – and it’s a bike route that connects 5 public schools (Connaught, Devonshire, Adult High, St. Anthony’s, Cambridge) and there’s no money for more crossing guards and they can’t be bothered to reduce the speed limit to 40km/h along the full school corridor stretch (Parkdale to Preston is still 50km/h). It’s not the parents’ or kids’ fault for not “choosing” to walk or bike. It has been designed as the most dangerous option.
3. Searching an alternative route? There is no choice.
I was so flustered when I got home that I pulled out the city cycling map and thought there MUST be a better way. There HAS to be a way to avoid this without a huge detour.
After dinner, Alden and I took the bike out to see if a long detour using Albert-Scott could provide a better experience (even if it meant cycling on the sidewalk down Bronson to Albert).
So, down the Bronson hill we went. There are no bike lanes because why connect the Albert MUP to the Laurier bike lane. That would make things FAR TOO CONVENIENT and people MIGHT cycle. We hopped on the Albert MUP, which isn’t awful, except where the city was too lazy to put down additional pavement around the bus shelters and installed ‘walk you bike’ signs. Signs which are promptly ignored. The city designed the conflict. They can un-design it with some pavement.
After the 3rd ‘walk you bike sign’, we hit the LRT detour that took us off the weeks-old paved MUP and onto gravel. UGH. A short detour, but very rocky. We got back on the paved MUP and approached the Scott St. bridge where we ran into the 4th ‘walk you bike’ sign.
Again, I am not taking my kid biking in soon-to-be 2500 buses a day lane to cross the bridge. We rode on the sidewalk and did not dismount. There were no pedestrians.
We bypassed the traffic lights at Bayview (too early) and continued on. Turns out, there’s not signalled crossing of Scott until much further along Scott at Carruthers (past our destination on Wellington). This route would still require biking on Wellington for four blocks.
It was pretty clear that this route was no better than either Somerset or Gladstone. In fact, it was probably the worst of the three.
4. Conclusion – final route choice
For my solo leg from work to after-care, I’m just going to have to suck up the nastiness of Somerset-Wellington. It SURE doesn’t give me a lot of incentive to frequent the businesses/BIAs that push for their vehicle access and parking at the expense of safety. Everyday is a reminder that my safety is not as important as parking. I have yet to run into Jim Watson cycling to his new campaign office on Somerset. (I wonder why – he’s so proud of this council’s record cycling investment.)
It’s important for planners and BIAs to realize that these routes aren’t just for bringing customers to your door. They are our routes as local residents to get to schools, to services like daycare and other day-to-day chores. More and more, it’s hard for me to support business areas where my not-always-a-consumer transportation needs are ignored. You have a business in a community NOT just ‘on a street’.
We have six more years of this route. Or as many years until I am eventually doored or hit. Whichever comes first.
Go Ottawa! Gold Medal Cycling City!