City of Ottawa should adopt a strong Vision Zero policy

This is a critical moment for safe cycling in Ottawa. On May 16th, a person was killed in front of city hall while cycling along the Laurier Avenue bike lane.

The following week, 250 people gathered to cycle along the same stretch of Laurier Avenue, calling on the City of Ottawa to make our streets safe for vulnerable road users. Now, there are two motions on the city council table to address this obvious need, and we need your help in getting those motions passed.

Infrastructure like this invites mistakes. And when mistakes happen on a wide busy road like this, they can be lethal. We encourage Ottawa City Council to recognize that they have the power to save lives. And also the responsibility to take action, because more people will die on their watch if we continue to build inexpensive half-measures such as this one (Laurier bike lane in front of Ottawa City Hall). Yes, safety is indeed a shared responsibility. Councillors, are you feeling yours?  

For decades, we’ve built our roads to prioritize traffic flow over cyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety. We’ve come to call tragedies like the recent one on Laurier “accidents”, but the vast majority are entirely preventable. In reality, better road design and policies can drastically reduce deaths and severe injuries caused by traffic [1].

On Wednesday, June 12, the City of Ottawa Council will vote on two motions aligned with a “Vision Zero” approach, an international movement for policies and practices that aim to eliminate traffic deaths and severe injuries by using safety-based design principles. Since being developed in Sweden in 1997, cities throughout the world [2] and across Canada, including Toronto, Halifax, and Edmonton, have adopted Vision Zero and are already taking measures to make their streets safer. In Ottawa, will the ghost bike memorial, visible from council offices, be enough of a reminder of what is at stake?

The motions before Council

We must call on councillors to adopt a strong Vision Zero in Ottawa. On May 22, Councillor Jeff Leiper made a notice of motion, identifying the one-time use of certain gas tax transfer funds as an opportunity for immediately fixing some of Ottawa’s most dangerous safety gaps. Furthermore, Councillor Catherine McKenney proposed a Vision Zero motion, including the following measures that would significantly improve road safety in our city:

  • Implementing segregated cycling infrastructure with protected intersections on all arterial roads and main streets, and across the city’s official cycling network
  • Installing flex posts along existing painted bike lanes on these streets and the cycling network within three weeks and finalize plans to convert them to protected cycling infrastructure within one year
  • Optimizing traffic lights to give priority for vulnerable road users
  • Eliminating right turns on red lights on streets with bike lanes and high pedestrian volumes
  • Abolishing “revert reds” and “beg buttons”
  • Implementing 30 km/h speed limits on residential streets

In the wake of another life being cut short on our roads, it is time to make a change for the better. Let’s not allow even one more person to lose their life on our streets. Let’s take meaningful action by implementing solutions that have been proven to work in other cities. City Council is being asked to implement many simple Vision Zero measures at its June 12th meeting that will improve safety for all users. Whether council will support these motions, defer them to committee, or introduce new motions that are less bold in scope, may largely depend on being shown that Ottawa residents believe in Vision Zero. We believe that council has the ability to save lives. We want them to use it.

Write to your councillor

We encourage you to contact your councillor, urging them to support the Vision Zero motion on June 12. This is important if your councillor is behind the movement, so that they can tell their council colleagues how much support they’re seeing. And it’s also important if your councillor has been silent on the issue, to help show them the broad community support they may need to feel comfortable taking this life-saving step. You can find your councillor and their contact information on the City of Ottawa’s website, most often, firstname.lastname@ottawa.ca. Here is a sample message that you can copy and send to your councillor (or, better yet, write a short note in your own words to personalize why you care), and please send us a cc at info@bikeottawa.ca.


[Subject:] Support the “Vision Zero” motion on June 12 to protect vulnerable road users

Dear Councillor ________,

Councillor Catherine McKenney has put forward notice of a motion for Council to adopt a “Vision Zero” policy on Wednesday, June 12. The motion calls for eliminating traffic deaths and severe injuries in our city and proposes significant measures to make our streets safer.

Furthermore, Councillor Jeff Leiper’s motion proposes to dedicate $57 million in federal gas tax money to making our cycling network safe, thereby improving safety for all road users.

I urge you to vote support both of these motions and to be a leader in recognizing that traffic-related tragedies are avoidable, and that our streets should be safe for everyone.

Sincerely,

[Name]

Resident of [Ward name]


Bike Ottawa, along with Ecology Ottawa, the Healthy Transportation Coalition, and hundreds of individuals are calling on the city to implement a strong Vision Zero to protect vulnerable road users. Our streets must protect everyone – including those who are disproportionately impacted by traffic violence, like seniors and children.

If you believe traffic deaths and severe injuries are unacceptable, join us and hundreds of others in urging City Council to adopt Vision Zero and Councillor McKenney’s and Leiper’s proposed measures for safer streets.

[1] Sarah Goodyear. “The Keys to Designing Cities With Fewer Traffic Fatalities.” CityLab. July 27, 2015.

[2] Vision Zero Canada. “Vision Zero Principles.” No date.