The Great Glebe Sharrows (cycling?) Plan

I dragged my unhappy five-year old to the Glebe “cycling plan” open house since they were not able to send a copy of the Powerpoints in advance. I suppose it would spoil the “surprise!” effect at the open house. At any rate, the documents are finally online.

Initially, I was going to spend a fair amount of time reviewing these documents and writing a carefully worded response about the plan.  And then I read that due to the partnership agreement with OSEG, many things outside of the stadium (like the use of public streets) are off-limits.  One such casualty of the OSEG agreement is the ability to remove parking spots ANYWHERE in the Glebe.

How do you properly add cycling lanes without taking some parking away?  You don’t.

Which is why the plan is 99% sharrows and ‘advisory bike lanes’.   They propose parking lanes buffered by bike lanes.  And contraflows that end before connecting to anything.

Most of the slides look like someone got frisky with the clone tool in Photoshop and just copy and pasted sharrows everywhere.

And this is why it doesn’t matter what I say about the plan.  The P3 has this neighbourhood gripped by the “sharrows”.

Oh…  and they certainly hid the panel well that said you would need to walk your bike over the Bank Street Bridge on event days.

It’s also important to note that the road paint that the city uses is water soluable (oil paint is an environmental no-no – although, apparently oil-based pavement is not).  The sharrows will need to be repainted every year.  Or they’ll probably just not repaint them – like on Somerset and Wellington.

Cycling plan.  Gold medal city.

’nuff said.

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Biking on St. Patrick Street? Why settle for sharrows that won’t grow your bike share?

St. Patrick is a busy street… well, highway really… that connects Lowertown and Vanier. It’s two lanes in either direction and can be found in two states: heavy slow moving traffic or very fast traffic. When you see cyclists, you’ll probably notice that they are on the sidewalk as neither heavy or fast moving traffic makes for an appealing (or safe feeling) place to travel without a full set of airbags ready to deploy.

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A road too narrow

St. Patrick has been due for roadway resurfacing for several years.  A plan was drawn up to improve the roadway surface and at the same time, provide better cycling infrastructure.

The St. Patrick link was of such importance that Ottawa selected this as its nomination for the province’s Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative (MIII) funding.  (Each municipality can only nominate one project.)

But the project was not selected to receive provincial funding. So, it was decided that the roadway resurfacing part of the project would continue, but there would not be enough funds to implement the desired cycling infrastructure.

 

Make room for…. sharrows?

The parts of the project that would dedicate space to vulnerable road users and encourage travel through the core by means other than private vehicle (as per the objectives of the Transportation Master Plan) were the first to be cut (or severly delayed).

With cycling or pedestrian infrastructure, they can often turn from ‘need to haves’ in the planning phase to ‘nice to haves’ when it comes to funding.

The proposed solution, given the shortfall of money, was to add sharrows. A solution we too often rely upon as infrastructure where it doesn’t belong.

Can't we all just sharrow?

Nonetheless, road re-pavings provide an opportunity to make minor improvements with line painting until the time comes along in 10-50 years for a full road reconstruction. That is, if you catch them early enough in the project planning.

Vanier Cycles seized this re-paving opportunity to advocate painted bike lanes that would help better connect the east side of the river with major employment nodes on Sussex Drive and the commercial area of the Byward Market (currently bypassed when using the East-West Bikeway).

Although St. Patrick is a divided four-lane roadway, the current Ontario roadway design standards wouldn’t allow for a narrowing of the vehicle lanes given the design speed of the road that would provide enough room for a standard cycle lane. Engineers would not sign off on both sub-standard vehicle or cycling lanes.   In the end, they are liable.  (Yet, there are many collisions on “approved” roadways all over town each day and no one is suing… ah, legal culture.)

Hello sharrows

Sharrows are fine as wayfinding on low traffic streets or to mark that a bike lane crosses through an intersection, but they are no substitute for bike lanes on a busy and fast roadway. And they should absolutely not be counted in the city’s yearly total of ‘kilometres added to cycling infrastructure’.

Vanier Cycles (a sub-group under the Vanier Community Association), under the leadership of Sarah Patridge (recently awarded the city’s Bruce Timmerman award for cycling advocacy) has led the initiative to have a safer solution for the corridor. With the near-to-downtown neighbourhood experiencing a cycling boom, they simply cannot wait a decade for a better solution when they have immediate needs (and immediate concerns).

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Several BIAs and community associations have written the mayor and councillors to express their support. (Although, I have yet to see a letter from the Byward Market BIA. Curious. )
And you can express your opinion too. Even if you never use St. Patrick as part of your daily commute, you should still be concerned that sharrows were acceptable as cycling infrastructure on a busy arterial road.  The councillor is working with residents to find a solution (and the funding) that would improve this sad sharrow situation.

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You can help!  You can send an email to the mayor and transportation committee to voice your support for real solutions and not sharrows.  The more support a councillor has for an idea, the more weight their request carries.

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A safe solution makes good business and neighbourhood sense.

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Get off my bike! Getting kids off your bike and riding on their own.

Graduating from riding on the back of the bike is a big step for a kid.   It’s a step most kids are keen to take and these days they’re doing it even earlier since ‘scoot bikes’ became popular.  In our municipality of Ottawa (well, Ontario in general), we turn our head and pretend that kids won’t be interested in biking until they are 9 or 10.   You know, a “safe age” to start.  (Yes, we strap skate blades to their feet at age two, but that is normal.)

Ottawa bylaws aren’t very lenient when it comes to sidewalk cycling – not even children are supposed to ride their bikes on the walkway.  (Sure, Toronto amended their by-law to allow small-wheeled children’s bikes on the sidewalk, but Ottawa…  we like our vehicular cycling children.  Or better yet, none at all.)  Take the lane, Timmy!

So, how to you get your kid who weighs as much as 3 sacks of potatoes off your bike and riding their own bike in the city?  As we all know, not every street has a bike lane or low amounts of traffic.

Not too small to ride

You let them ride on the sidewalk.  Of course you do. Because kids like their bikes and they can only do loops so many times around the park or field before they want to “go somewhere” and “do something”.  Despite being short, they can quickly become good at cycling from point A to B and sometimes C (if there’s a treat).

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Find your nearest multi-use path

It’s easier to teach good riding skills in a low stress environment.  The segregated multi-use pathways are ideal for learning skills: staying to the right of the line, keeping a straight line, not mowing over pedestrians, and bell ringing.

Pathways often have stop and yield signs, so you can practice recognizing (and obeying) signs.

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But most of us can’t walk out of our house and ride on a separated pathway.  And the MTO recommends that no child under 10 ride in traffic.  So, maybe you decide to wait until Sunday and drive to an NCC parkway to enjoy Sunday Bike Days or maybe you just use the sidewalk in front of you.  (Shhh!)

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All about sidewalks

Sidewalk riding has its challenges.  The first being pedestrians – it’s their space.  So, being polite about sharing and passing slowly is key.

The second challenge is where should the parent ride.   If your kid is in the early stages of biking solo, you can easily keep up by using a scooter or using your own bike as a scooter.  How?  Just keep a foot on a pedal and push with your other leg.  Hop off and walk whenever you encounter someone walking.    Even though it’s easier to ride your bike on the sidewalk behind the child, most parents I see don’t like to break the rules.

Find streets that don’t have parking beside the sidewalk

If you can, ride on the road while the child rides on the sidewalk.  This works well if you have a stretch of roadway that has no parking.  Once you get a row of parked cars between you and the kid, it makes riding harder for the child and you lose the nice social feeling of biking together.

Harder for the kid, you say?  Smaller kids want to keep eye contact with you when riding, and once you’ve got parked cars between them and you, they tend to focus on seeing you rather than keeping their eyes ahead.  Also, it’s just plain awkward.

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One ways streets work well because it’s rare to have parking on both sides of the street.

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Be kind and be respectful of others

People in Ottawa try their best to follow the road rules in an environment not designed for all-ages travel.  The other week, I saw this super dad cycling with his kids to the multi-use pathway on Booth near the War Museum.  Booth is hard enough to cycle on when you’re by yourself.  The road surface is full of holes and the traffic can be intimidating.  But this super dad, navigated around the potholes and the two kids tooted along on the sidewalk.  Even though, there would have been plenty of space for him (or *cough* a proper cycletrack).

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He only nipped onto the sidewalk to help the kids push the buttons and cross the road (ahem..  5 lane highway).

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A bump in the road… err… sidewalk

Soon enough, you’ll find that while sidewalk cycling keeps your child off the road, the surface of the sidewalks (at least in my area of town) have their own challenges.  They’re lopsided, slopey and often have fairly large bumps where they meet the road at each corner.  Soon enough, you and the child both figure out that the road has a better surface with no driveway dips to contend with.

Breaking the MTO’s suggestions…  not the first time, probably not the last

If you’re confident in your child’s abilities to ride in a straight line and know when to stop, you’re probably ready to give riding on the road a try.  Find a quiet, residential street where you can ride side by side.  Sunday mornings work particularly well.   I find it easier to stay on the left of the child and sort of “sheepdog” herd them along.  This keeps them from drifting too far into the middle of the street.

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This photo is from our first try riding off-sidewalk.   Alden is five (clearly not age 10 as suggested by the MTO).  He was very proud to be able to use the street and the bike lane on our errand to the Glebe.

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The handbooks say that children lack certain abilities to quickly process the world around them, but I found Alden pretty quick to hop onto the sidewalk when he didn’t feel comfortable on the road even if there were no cars around.  Kids really are like canaries in the coal mine for safe streets.

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So, we made a little video about running some errands to the Glebe on our bikes.

All-ages, all abilities

Kids can become great at biking with practice, access to low traffic/low speed cycle friendly streets and segregated cycling infrastructure that supports a wide range of ages and abilities.  Too often, our bike infrastructure is designed for determined adult vehicular cyclists.

It’s time to realize that telling kids not to start biking until they’re 10 is foolish.  At our elementary school alone, even the junior area bike racks are full (kindergarten – grade 3).  The school board and health departments promote the idea of having kids to walk and bike to school, but instead of being supported with safe all-ages cycling routes, parents are left to make up their own rules for how best to travel safely from point A to B.

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I tweeted the above photo last week.  It got a lot of activity – including retweets by the school board and local provincial election candidates.  People love to the idea of kids being active and cycling.. until it comes to making space for them to do so.

And when infrastructure fails, pedestrians and cyclists work together to carve out safe spaces.  Those well-worn paths by schools and parks are carved out from the feet and wheels of residents and their future voters. Is our city designed to support them now or in the future?  I’m getting off topic.  It’s been a long week.

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Back to riding

Start with short distances, get to the park or splash pad.  Work your way up to a bike ride to school.  Attach a basket to your child’s bike and run an errand together.  They love carrying stuff on their bikes.

If you are lucky enough to have neighbours who bike their kids to school, time your departure and leave together.  Even a small group riding together will make your route feel safer.

Is it always easy?  No, not always.  Nothing about kids is ever very easy in the beginning.  Keep at it. The more you bike together, the easier it gets.  And some days…  walk or take the bus.  That’s ok too.

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Walk (and bike) Your City – Ottawa edition

Thanks to a not-so-micro grant from Awesome Ottawa, I was able to order a heap of signs from Walk [Your City]. (The lone project I’ve ever backed with Kickstarter!)

If you haven’t seen these signs online, it’s a guerilla wayfinding system for walking and biking that measures distance to places in time rather than highway mileage (or errr… kilometerage). Obviously, measuring in time units isn’t a perfect science as some will be speedier pedestrians or cyclists than others. But the purpose is to start thinking about directing people around a place using peoplepowered-units rather than vehicle-units.

Walk [Your City] offers colour-coded signs for institutions, commercial districts, public spaces and amuseument, but I stuck with the blue version to blend in with Ottawa’s official colours.

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With a rogue nameless sign-stealer running amok in Ottawa, I didn’t want him or well-meaning city-folk removing them, so I avoided placing signs in certain areas. For example, not on (or near) a stop sign, not blocking any sightlines, and not on private property (even if they have a city sign post in their yard). I wanted to make sure the investment in signs had as long a lifespan as possible.

On Sunday, I packed up my camera equipement, signs and zip ties and headed off! See if you can spot them around Hintonburg and Centretown.

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There are interesting things in Ottawa, but sometimes it’s hard to find them. For example, maybe you wouldn’t think that on the other side of this dirt path and row of dumpsters is one of Ottawa’s most popular bakeries (there’s now an art gallery and soon a micro-brewery). I’m hopeful that the property owner will throw down a bit of asphalt to make it a bit more welcoming.

(Tuesday update:  Well, less than two days later, the croissant sign has been removed.  Clearly by someone who hates croissants.)

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The pathways in Ottawa are one of the most popular places to walk and bike (just look at these statistics for biking), but there are almost no directions to get you from the pathway to nearby destinations.  The pathways were originally designed for recreation, but they’ve become the defacto spine network for traffic separated active-transportation across Ottawa. Lots of people use these pathways, especially familities cycling with children who aren’t old enough to “appreciate” sharrows. (Ah, sharrows!)

Given their popularity by locals (and being a top tourist activity flaunted in most of Ottawa’s official tourism promotional materials), you’d expect to find a little more information about nearby amenities than simply how many kilometres it is to Parliament Hill. Why? Because, you can’t get a croissant on Parliament Hill.

So, I made a little video about the signs.

Midway through the morning, I was feeling peckish and decided to take the most direct route back to Centretown using Wellington St. West. It was Sunday and there wasn’t much traffic – otherwise, I would normally take the sidestreets. But I’m glad that I did follow the worn out sharrows because Bread By Us was open! So I did a U-turn and parked outside their door.

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My hybrid croissant-cinnamon roll and coffee was just what I needed to finish up the sign task. I sat at this awkward bench to enjoy the first warm Sunday of spring. (Seriously, what an awkward bench. Mounted on a concrete platform so that your feet dangle off the edge.  It could use a bit of a sweep too.  Oh, and maybe some tables for maximum croissant-in-the-sun enjoyment!)

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When I’m in charge of signage, you’ll always know where to get pastries.

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The time consuming part of the project was documenting it all with photos and video. Not being much of an on-camera person, there were a lot of retakes. Hence, the blooper reel:

If you take part in the upcoming Janes Walk weekend (http://www.janeswalkottawa.ca) you may get to see some of these signs up close.

If you like what you see, why not ask your local BIA or city councillor about adding more people-centred directions to your area of town. Because there’s more to see in Ottawa than just Parliament Hill.

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Who sells what brands of step through bikes in Ottawa? A reference list.

BRAND SHOP
Bobbin Tall Trees
Linus Tall Trees, Cyclery
Brooklyn Bike Co. Joe Mamma
Simcoe Joe Mamma
Beater Joe Mamma
Norco Joe Mamma
Breezer Bikes Fosters
Opus Fosters
Stevens Fosters, Cyclery
Velorbis Fosters
Electra Fosters
Workcycles Urkaii (can deliver)
Viva MEC
Manhatten Euro-Sports
Kunstadt – Kanata Kunstadt
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What’s new in step through bikes – Joe Mamma edition

Last year, I had a lot of good response to my “Buying a step through” bike blog post.  And 2014 is looking even better if you’re thinking of buying a step through bike in Ottawa.  There are now more brands and colours (always important) to choose from.

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The hop-off stepthrough test.

Last week over my lunch hour, I rode to Joe Mamma on Bank Street to try their brand new Simcoe, Brooklyn and Beater bikes.

The Simcoe and Brooklyn Bike Co. bikes give you the upright feeling of a Dutch bike, but are significantly lighter (and less expensive).  As the owner of a heavy weighted Dutch bike, both of these bikes perform equally in the zippiness department.  And while they both offer the upright look, there are a few differences that will make each bike appeal to different people.

The biggest differences are: sit uppedness (technical term), shifters and components like the tires and saddles.

Introducing the Brooklyn Willow

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The Basil ‘bottle’ basket matches really well.

To me, the Brooklyn Willow is closest feeling to a Dutch Omafiets (granny bike).  Your seating position is the regal upright posture and the handlebars  are very swept back so that your arms naturally rest on them without needing to stretch.

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90 degree handlebars = maximum comfort

The saddle is plush and padded – great for bumpy Ottawa roads.

The shifting is done with a twist shifter.  It’s very easy, just twist the barrel up and down.

The 3-speed does not have an internal hub and that helps to keep the price down ($530).  You can also get the 7-speed internal hub version (which comes with a rear rack) for $799.  The 7-speed has the same ride quality but with a few more in-between gears should your biking take you over some hills.

You can also buy the Brooklyn Bike Co. branded wooden crates for these bikes for the artisnal advantage.

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Fancy.

For more Simcoe-in-action, check out Cassandra’s inaugural commute on her Simcoe.

I give it a hop-over rating of 4/5.  A great city bike.

 

Next up, the Simcoe Signature 3-speed

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If the colour of the bike doesn’t catch your attention, then the features definitely will.  Simcoe was born out of Toronto by some knowlegable bike shop owners/importers who have seen a lot of bikes pass through their doors and felt that they could design a superior city bike without the hassles and cost of importing European city bikes.

Right away, you will notice that the Simcoe comes with some flashy accessories – notably a Brooks leather saddle.  Below the saddle, you’ll find top quality Schwalbe tires.  These German tires are the bees knees in the bike world for durable long-lasting tires .  They are known to be super tough, resistant to punctures and feature a reflective strip on both sides of the tire walls to help you be seen after dark.  They are great tires.

They are also sitting in a double-walled rims, which I am told is something many other city bikes skimp on.  All in all – these make for a solidly built wheel.

The Simcoe has a full chaincover and rear rack to match the bike.  An important consideration for people (like me) who favour the matchy matchy look.

How does it ride?

It’s slightly less upright than the Brooklyn Bike.  The molded handlebar grips are comfortable, but you could always swap them out if you wanted leather grips to match the Brooks saddle.

Shifting is done with a thumb-shifter.  Some people like thumb-shifters better than barrel shifters.  They both work well, so it comes down to personal choice. If you are an overly sweaty-palmed person, the barrel shifter may be less comfortable to use.  But women don’t sweat, so let’s move on.

I’m used to having more weight on the front of my bike (I normally carry my purse in a front basket) and  I found the steering a bit jumpy.   Pop a front basket on it and a bag and I bet the twitch would disappear.

I also give it a hop-over rating of 4/5.

 

Finally, the Beater Bike
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This is a 3-speed internal geared no-nonsense learn to fix it yourself and take it out in the winter all-around bike.  It’s built to stand all of the abuse that Ottawa weather can throw at it (including winter).

It’s the heaviest of the three bikes (about 26 pounds), but a good budget-friendly option if you’re looking for something to get around town or if you’re looking for a second “winter bike” that you don’t mind coating in road salt.

Of the three bikes, it most closely resembles the Dutch Omafiets with its curvy frame.

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It comes with battery powered lights, a sturdy double kickstand and matching rear rack.  The coaster brakes will make you feel like you’re on your first bike again.  This year’s colour is “British Racing Green”.

I think it would be an excellent university student bike.    $450/4 year degree = Less than a U-Pass.

Although it doesn’t have the higher end components like the two other bikes, it delivers a comfortable ride and still gets high marks.

For being an easy-riding budget bike, I give it a hop-over rating of 4/5 too.

Really?  They’re all 4/5?

I’m not wishy washy with the marks, they’re just all good in different ways.  And none are bad options.  It just depends what  bike suits you (and your wallet) best.

Other new stuff: Accessories

While I was at the shop, I also got to see the new Basil bags.    I’ve used the Basil Shopper tote for a couple of years now both on and off the bike.  (You can read my review of it.)  They’ve improved the design by adding a safety clasp so that it is impossible for the bag to pop off your rack (again… Ottawa potholes!) or for someone to yank it off.

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Basil pannier

It’s a great grocery shopping bag, since you can also clip it onto the side of your cart when shopping.
Checking out!

It’s a great “mom-tote” with space for both your stuff and small-people stuff and it’s my go-to carry-on travel bag.  I like that it has become more than “just” a bike bag.

He also has the metal “bottle” baskets that you can pop on and off your bike (seen above on the orange Brooklyn Bike).  This means it can double as your shopping basket at the grocery store or market.  Handy.

The owner, Jose, is also a pedal parent so the shop is a good place to start if you’re looking at biking with kids.  I’ll do another post about for 2014 family biking since that was pretty popular last year.  There’s lots of cool new ways to get the kids around for 2014.

For a complete list of step through bike brands for sale in Ottawa, consult my handy pocket list.


Joe Mamma is located in the Glebe at 767 Bank Street.


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What does it take to be a bike-friendly business district?

One of Ottawa’s more progressive BIA’s, Wellington-West, has decided to speak up about the benefits that biking brings to their business district.  (The Wellington-West BIA covers a 2km swath of territory from the O-train tracks to Island Park Drive. It’s the biggest BIA in Ottawa.)  As a frequent shopper in the area (who happens to travel mostly by bike) it was exciting news.  I want more than anything for this experiment to be a huge success for them.

The BIA announced this week that they want to be Ontario’s first bike-friendly district after a recent presentation from Ontario by Bike.  It’s a sign they that have a willingness to try something new.   There’s no doubt, becoming a bike-friendly district is an ambitious goal, but do they have what it takes?

Fix this and you might have a complete street.

What criteria must be met to be “bike-friendly”?

Great question.  Who knows?  I couldn’t find a list on the Ontario by Bike website.  The closest checklist I could find was for “tourist attractions”.  It includes having bike parking, cycling information, water, washrooms and an ability to talk about the Ontario Bike Network and help with surveys.

What’s the modal share for Wellington-West now?

The Wellington West BIA completed a modal survey to better understand who was shopping in their area and how they arrived.  Their conclusion?  A significant amount of repeat foot and bike traffic.

Active travel (foot and bike) represented over 50% of their business, although cycling only represented 8.5% of that number.

Here were their findings in a nutshell:

  • 51% of their customers were from the K1Y postal code.  And 16% from the neighbouring postal codes.
  • Amongst the total number of walkers, 71.2% of respondents were from the K1Y postal code.
  • 53% who rode their bikes were also from the K1Y postal code.  23% came from the neighbouring postal codes.
  • Those who walked and biked came more frequently to the area than those who drove or rode the bus.
  • 70% of walkers shopped at least once a week.  62% of cyclists shopped at least once a week.  34% of drivers shopped at least once a week.

Their survey showed that the majority of customers came from the area or nearby areas and were the most regular customers.

 

Is Wellington-West a bike-friendly area?

It depends on your interpretation of “bike-friendly” and who you ask.

Bike parking

Currently, the Wellington-West area has:

  • A fair amount of bike parking,
  • Four bike shops (Tall Trees, Cyclelogik, Fresh Air Experience, Right Bike),
  • A bike-share system (Right Bike),
  • Some bike lanes (Scott Street, Island Park) and the Byron multi-use path,
  • Local support (Hintonburg Bike Champions),
  • AND SHARROWS on Wellington Street (the main “complete” shopping street).

This week, new banners went up on the street poles with photos of bikes and the tagline “Where we ride”.  Perhaps, it’s aspirational marketing.  If you believe it, they will come.

 

Is bike parking, flags and sharrows enough to be truly bike-friendly?  Let’s look at the BIAs that neighbour Wellington-West to the east and west. (Click to enlarge the image.)

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Examples A, B and C all have bike parking and sharrows.  Does the bike-friendliness of Wellington-West shine through?

(A = Westboro Village, B=Wellington West, C=Chinatown)

 

Maybe it’s a not-so-complete street?

The use of language around their “complete street” reconstruction in their blog post and the new imagery used on their street signs seems to signal that they have reached a high level of “bikeyness”.

During the reconstruction phases of 2008 the streetscape changed, literally. But also in another way – as a community Wellington West emerged as a complete street. Encompassing something for every mode of transportation, including the car.

Their interpretation of reality and my experience definitely don’t align.

There’s no doubt that this street encompasses the needs of drivers.  It’s a two-way road with on-street parking on both sides of the roadway. For pedestrians, there’s adequate sidewalk space that is attractive.  But, there is no space for cycling.  You are expected to “take the lane” or risk getting doored.

To me, saying that the Wellington Street reconstruction has infrastructure for all modes is bikewashing.  (Read Elly Blue’s great post about bikewashing.)

If Wellington-West if truly a “complete street”, I would expect to see the cycling and walking modal shares more closely aligned since they are both easy and free.  Perhaps these numbers tell us that the street is more complete for some modes.

Good for locals = Good for tourism

Further on, there is talk of being bike friendly to appeal to tourists and stay-cationers.  Not a bad goal, but again, this attitude misses the mark of utility cycling.  Build something great that benefits your community and nearby communities (“nearbours”!) and you will, by default, also create a great cycling experience for travellers and visitors.

To learn how we can take it to the next gear, the BIA participated in a workshop pedaled by OntariobyBike, a not-for-profit group that helps business communities grow their economic base through encouraging cycling friendly tourism  – for the traveler or stay-cationer. Take a look at some of these interesting stats on cycling tourism:

  • According to the bicycle trade association there was a 14% increase in bike sales between 2008-2009
  • Charity rides, attracting over 40,000 participants raised $30 million for charities in 2012
  • In 2011, 1.6 million Canadian visitors participated in cycling activities while traveling in Ontario, averaging $317 million
  • In 2007 Ottawa had 119 km of bicycling network infrastructure today we have 161km
  • Windsor Eats Wine Trail Rides reports that they generate approximately $10,000 in local spending on each 5-6 hour sold out tour
  • Looking across the border, the USA attributes $46.9 billion annually to cycling tourism
  • Finally, Ottawa was the first city in the province of Ontario to receive the gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community Award by Share the Road Cycling Coalition

These numbers paint a broad picture of cycling.  Too broad in my opinion to be useful for the detail oriented solutions that need to be done to make this area truly bike friendly.  Charity rides and total kilometres of bike lanes don’t tell me anything about cycling conditions IN and around the Wellington-West area.

Here’s a map that shows the potential “nearbours” to the Wellington-West BIA that are within a 5km distance from either end of the district.  As you can see, it covers basically all of the central neighbourhoods.  What is missing is the safe, comfortable, and convenient cycling space (with no missing links) to bring those customers into the area.  Anyone can bike 5km.

 



Because maybe “bike tourism” looks a lot more like this in real life:

Taste of Wellington West - Bike parade! - New sharrows

Looking ahead

What is Wellington-West planning to do to turn their current 8.5% cycling modal share to 18.5% or 28.5%?  It’s going to take more than good attitudes and sharrows.  (Hint’: It’s the infrastructure!)

Taste of Wellington West - Bike parade!

Because there’s a whole neighbourhood (and city) waiting for your move.

For further information on why walking and biking is good for business, see:

Also (lest anyone complain that I’m only complaining!), I’ve started tapping out a follow-up post with some ideas for how to improve biking to (and in) the area.  Look for that in the next couple of weeks.

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2014: 30 Days of Biking – Can I buy it online? edition

The last two years I have tracked my cycling in Ottawa for the month of April – including all of my spending done while using my bike. This year, I’m switching my strategy. I’m in a biking funk. I’m frustrated by the slow progression of safe cycling space in Ottawa. I’m frustrated that none of the main business districts where I shop have bike lanes (and probably never will). Most BIAs are loathe to give up the car parking. Even BIAs that are getting 9 million dollar parking garages built for them. So, this year, I’m giving up on all of it.

Instead of tracking all the “local feel good” spending like I have done in previous years, this year I’m doing the opposite. When I need to buy something, I’ll try to find it online first. (The only exception will be for groceries, I can’t get around that.) Shopping online avoids all the yucky no bike lane pitfalls. And ensure less of my money stays in the community.

Sure, our main streets have a fair number of bike racks. But in order to use those facilities, you need to brave some unpleasant biking conditions. I’m tired of pretending it’s “great” to bike in the city. If you want to toodle recreationally on a river pathway, Ottawa is ok. But if you want to shop, get kids to school, dine out, get groceries or any number of useful day-to-day transactions, the Ottawa bike network has serious barriers to make it a desirable option.

I, for one, am looking forward to a Somerset sharrow-free month! A Tyndall/Parkdale-free month! A “we just like car shoppers better”-free month.

Goodbye local spending! Hello internet.

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East-West cycling solutions needed for Somerset Street West and Gladstone Avenue

Dear councillors, planning staff and BIA members

I would like to bring your attention to the biking conditions along Somerset Street West and Gladstone Avenue and their dual roles as a heavy trucking routes and bike routes.

Somerset Street West between Kitchissippi and Somerset wards is noted with sharrow markings.  The road is also an arterial street and a trucking route.

These three designations as a cycling route, arterial road and trucking route are not compatible with its role as an active transportation route.

Here is why.

Every day, I cycle with my son to Devonshire Elementary on Breezehill Avenue (Kitchissippi ward).  After I drop him off, I cycle to my office downtown using Somerset Street.  Yesterday, after crossing the aquaduct I came to a stop at a red light on Somerset at Preston.   A large garbage truck pulled up directly to my left.  I checked to see if the driver was signalling a turn.  He was.  I realized that I was in a situation much like the cyclist at Bank and Riverside who was killed by a truck that turned right.  This driver was intent on turning right and I was in the worst possible spot – yet legally exactly where I was supposed to be.  I dismounted and moved to the sidewalk as he turned right onto Preston (another city truck route).  The driver should not have turned right.  With no advanced stop line for cyclists or segregated lane, there was no infrastructure in place to prevent such a dangerous manouever.


I feel compelled to use this route since there is a bike counter in order for my ride to be counted in the city statistics.

I cycle this street every day. This is my commute to work.  I have a right to feel safe.

I am frustrated that there is no safe East-West connection that is not a truck route.

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My son and I are often passed by tractor trailers on Gladstone Avenue west of Preston Street.  That part of Gladstone is not a trucking route, but has many destinations where deliveries are done by large heavy trucks and thus does not break any by-laws.   Because Gladstone narrows as you go west of Preston Street, sometimes we choose to cycle on the sidewalk if there are no pedestrians.  We have been passed far too closely by 16 wheeled trucks.  Gladstone Avenue is marked with signs as a cycling route, but has no on-street infrastructure. There is no bike counter on Gladstone Avenue to measure usage.

This is our school route.  My son and I have a right to feel safe travelling in our community.  There is no other way to get to Devonshire.

The proposed East-West bikeway on Scott Street is too far north to be of any use for our daily school run, shopping or commuting to my workplace.

I would like to see a pilot on Somerset Street or Gladstone Avenue for real bike lanes.  Not in 2030, but this year.  Please do a trial.  Test it out.  With the LRT construction happening further north in our communities, there is an urgent need for connections to downtown and all of the destinations in between.

I would also like to propose that when roadways are reconstructed that there is a dedicated percentage of the budget set aside for active transportation on-street infrastructure.  Bike racks should be considered as part of the street furniture budget and not as cycling infrastructure.  Being able to calculate the project’s cycling budget is also good for the city when announcing how much the city has spent on cycling each year.

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Resolutions – another year on two wheels

Last year, I made a series of resolutions and didn’t do so well at sticking to them.  Who does?  Let’s recap how 2013 went…

1.Be less involved.  In 2012 I went to a lot of meetings: Bronson, Laurier, Downtown Moves, Main Street, bike things, walking things etc.  And while it was nice to get out of the house, in the end, I’m not left with much to show for these investments of personal time.  Bronson is still Bronson.  Pedestrians wait too long for pushbuttons to change the lights.  Drivers speed through the neighbourhood.  For 2013, I’m only going to get involved on projects that are in my neighbourhood or nearby places that I go to frequently.   And I’ll be going in with low expectations.  The fewer meetings that I go to, the more time I can spend biking or being with friends.

How’d I do?
Failed miserably.  Went to a lot of open houses.  Sat on public advisory committees.  Was any of it worth it?  Nope.


2.
Don’t read the comments.  And perhaps, don’t read the articles either.

You know what doesn’t have comments?  Books.  I’ll be reading more of these and less of online Letters to the Editor. Don’t like bike lanes?  Don’t use ‘em.  I’m sure the Dutch are wrong anyway with their bike modal share of 60% in Gronigen.  You can’t trust skewed statistics like that.  On that note, bike to Gatineau more.  Up hills, around bends. Possibly wearing spandex.   Do not mistakenly purchase men’s shorts like in 2012.  Ugh.  (Damn you sale rack at Sports4!)

How’d I do?

I stopped reading the comments!  Mostly.  Life got better.  I biked to Gatineau Park.  I haven’t purchased any men’s clothing by accident!  (Though my husband bought women’s socks by accident – which was a win for me!) Success achieved.


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3. Bike more.   Bike farther

Go bike camping.  Do a multi-day ride.  Probably in Quebec.  I like Quebec.  They seem more akin to outdoorsy family adventures.  I think Ontario tourism, I think Marineland.  I’d also like to do the Montreal Tour de l’ile.  I like Montreal, they like bikes.  This is a good relationship. I’ve also never tried taking my bike on a VIA train before or for that matter, biking to the VIA station.  That should be um… interesting.IMG_3987

Once the LRT is built, getting to the train station should be a breeze.  Of course, biking the 3km to get there should already be a breeze.  Cynical me says that large destinations are particularly difficult to bike to on purpose so that we will use the bus.  Isn’t that right, CE Centre (EY Centre)?  Those new Park and Rides aren’t going to pay for themselves!

How’d I do?

Did it.  Biked to Montreal on a Dutch bike!  It was awesome.  Went bike camping in Quebec!  We liked it! Did not take bike on train (VIA cancelled the bike car service).


4.
Write more.

I would like there to be more people cycling.  I would like sensible bike infrastructure to be built without having to beg for it and for biking to be treated as transportation – not a special interest activity.  Planners, who are salaried, should do the heavy lifting when it comes to persuading traffic engineers of these plans.  Some of that might happen, but it is painfully slow.  The most effective way I can think of to get more people, parents and kids biking is to write about it.  Talk it up.  I have it on good account that at least 5 people read this blog.  And of course, just be out and about doing bikey things.

How’d I do?
Blogged on and off.  Got nominated for a Canadian blogging award.  Not bad!

 

5. Put your money where your bike is.

Some places in the city are woefully difficult to bike to.  Or lack bike parking.  And some large shopping centres that are located by the Rideau Canal don’t seem to care about shoppers who arrive on a bike.   Nor does their business association.  (The mall owner has Cadillac in their name – I think that says it all.)   It must be very expensive to maintain such a large empty parking garage – I’m sure the $1/hour evening rates will cover it.  And if it doesn’t, that’s ok, I’m sure the extra cost can be passed onto the retail leases.  So, I’ll take my shopping dollars where the bike racks are.  Enjoy your lucrative car shoppers during the LRT construction!  When I need to buy something at Banana Republic, I can do it online.  Who needs a mall?  Not me.   In 2013, I’ll continue my Ottawa record of never having been to Trainyards.  I don’t think I’m missing much.How’d I do?

I think I went to the Rideau Centre twice – you just can’t buy jeans online.  I wrote to the mall about their bike parking.  They said it was a city issue.  Mall releases plans for new parking garage.  Circle of life continues.I went to Trainyards.  Twice.  While it is totally pedestrian unfriendly, the kids clothing store can’t be beat.  If downtown sold kid’s shoes… maybe I wouldn’t go back.  Until then…  I bow to the Trainyard overlords.IMG_2494

6. Don’t buy any more bikes this year.

This is easier said than done.  I’ve never been mountain biking… or fat biking…  or…  um radonneuring.  Make do with five bikes.  It’s a perfect number.

How’d I do? Failed.  Bought a Brompton.

7. Decide whether to get involved with the Transportation Master Plan review.

To bother or not to bother?  The target modal share for walking and biking will be based on calculations of current trends and planned infrastructure.  It’s not an aspirational number, but merely one based in mathematical probability.  How depressing.  What’s the point?  9/10 dentists and councilors think that biking is for recreational spandexing.  I think I’d rather just ride my bike back and forth over some counters.

How’d I do? Went to an open house.  Filled in a comment sheet.  It made no difference.

 8. Knit more.

I fell off the wool wagon by getting too involved in city dealings.  That was kind of a big time suck.  It’s time to queue up some projects and start stash busting.

How’d I do? Got back on the wool wagon.  Happy days.

9. Declutter.

I’ve already given away a snowsuit.  Next: playpen, strollers and toys.   Out of basement, out of mind.  Anyone need a stroller or playpen?

How’d I do? Work in progress!  Doing it!

 

10. Be less cynical? Impossible.

11. Quit the kettle corn and kettle chips.

I can do this.  No, I can’t.

How’d I do? Failed miserably.  Totally 100% failed.

Popcorn run

So, 2014… what are we going to do with you?

1. Do not attend another city meeting, “consultation”, open house, “information session” etc.

What a waste of my personal time for topics that already have their resolutions plotted out in advance.  No more of that.  Do not volunteer my time at meetings where others are paid to attend.  My time is valuable too.  Overall, I feel I wasted a lot of my 2013 going to these types of meetings.  No more.

2. Plan a second summer bike trip. 

There is some chatter in my parent circle of doing the Rideau Lakes tour.  I just don’t know if I’m a “tour” person.  I just don’t get a kick out of ‘big distance’ after last year’s trip.  I think I’d rather take my Brompton to Montreal for the Tour la Nuit.  Montreal!  Oui!  Kingston?  Non.

3. Go cross country skiing more

This year’s mega snowfall has gotten me out skiing and shoop shoop shooping along the river more often already.  I seem more ski trips to Mill Street in my future.  This resolution is a keeper.

4. Advocacy?  Meh.

The city is ramping up for municiple elections.  Will walking or biking be on the agenda?  Not unless you want to lose.  Given the ‘all hands on deck’ priority that the LRT construction is currently receiving, there’s not much  appetite to bolster walking or biking infrastructure in the coming year.  What we have is what we have.  As we say to the kid, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”.  Ottawa.  It is what it is.  Neither great, nor bad.  Coasting on complacency.

Being an advocate for walking and biking is mostly unfulfilling.    You’re scorned and villified by motorists on one hand… and cursed from people who want better active transportation and don’t see any concrete action on the other hand.  It is a recipe for bad times.

I’m tuning it all out.

I’ve tossed my hand into some other volunteer opportunities that seem to make a real immediate difference in people’s lives.

My biking advocacy will consist of riding my bike.  Pretty much every day.   That will have to do.

5. Shop where the bike racks are and the bike lanes are ample.

This I can guarantee.   It rules out a lot of locations… say, Sparks Street, Rideau Centre etc.  If you can’t provide a safe way to bike to your area of town (cough… Byward Market) or at a minimum decent and plentiful bike racks, I’ll just shop elsewhere.  That’s your loss.  And for whatever I can’t find, I’ll just go to the internet.

January 24 update: After a surprise kerfuffle on the old Twitter with a local business, resolve to shop only at businesses that don’t call you stupid in public.

 6. Food blogging was a lot more fun.

Cooking and growing more food in the garden is definitely on the agenda.

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