Image of a map showing project scope of Pretoria Ave from Bank Street on the west side to Metcalfe on the east side.

New Pretoria Avenue Bicycle Facilities: 2022

Bike Ottawa recently sent the City feedback on designs for Pretoria Avenue in the Glebe. As their website on the project describes, the City will be replacing aging sewer infrastructure in summer 2022. And as is increasingly their practice, they are planning to make improvements to the project area for people walking and biking.

We’re excited for the possibilities with these improvements: if properly designed, they will make it safer and easier for people to access the extremely popular pathways of the Rideau Canal. Currently there are no dedicated east-west bike facilities in this area, so this could make a huge difference for people walking, biking, and rolling.

Picture of a person on a bike riding in a two-way bicycle lane. On their left is a protected curb with greenery, and then two lanes for motor vehicles.
Photo: A bi-directional cycle track along a one-way street in Ann Arbor Michigan (source: mlive)
Picture shows a bidirectional bicycle lane with a pedestrian crossover in the distance.
Photo: A bi-directional cycle track along a one-way street in Ann Arbor Michigan (source: mlive)

This brings us to our first point: the City’s planned facilities extend only to Metcalfe. If they extended one block further east and a safe crossing of Queen Elizabeth Driveway were added, people could bike safely and comfortably from Bank St. all the way to the Canal’s network. We’re urging the City to fill in this missing link 

Then there’s the facility itself. To this point, the City has only discussed the possibility of a one-way bike facility, in the direction of car traffic. (Pretoria is westbound-only.) Moreover, the facility they’ve proposed isn’t fully protected in parts, but instead is just paint on the road.

We’re glad the City has proposed protection at intersections; intersections are particularly dangerous for people walking and biking. But people biking also need protection in between intersections. Moreover, on-road facilities usually collect snow in the winter, which forces people on bikes into car traffic.

We’ve proposed two possible solutions, both of which are two-way bicycle facilities. The first is a two-way cycle track along the length of the corridor. As a bonus, this solution narrows the roadway, which research has shown helps reduce motorists’ speeds and makes the area safer for everyone—including motorists.

The second solution we’ve proposed is a contraflow cycle track. What is a contraflow facility, you ask? The recently released Ontario Traffic Manual, Book 18 (the best book!) defines a contraflow bike lane as “A bicycle lane that operates in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic, enabling two-way bicycle travel on a roadway that has one-way operation for motor vehicles. Contraflow bicycle lanes can be separated from motor vehicle lanes by a painted line only, by a buffer or by a form of physical separation” (p. 33). Washington D.C. has had a contraflow cycle track since 2010; Ottawa has a few contraflow bike lanes, and currently only one contraflow cycle track—that is, something with physical protection, on Bay St, running 6 blocks from Wellington St. to Laurier Ave.

To be clear, our preferred option is the bi-directional cycle track: this is the safest option for everyone. But if proper traffic-calming measures are added to a point where people of all ages and abilities can bike safely and comfortably in the street, this would be acceptable too. 

See below for our letter to the City!

(A text version follows pictures).

To: Julie Lyons, Senior Engineer, City of Ottawa
Lisa Marshall, McIntosh Perry Consulting
Cc: Shawn Menard, Councillor (Ward 17)
Via email: Julie.Lyons@ottawa.ca, l.marshall@mcintoshperry.com, capitalward@ottawa.ca


Date: October 27, 2021


Subject: Pretoria Avenue Road and Sewer Renewal

Dear Ms. Lyons and Ms. Marshall,


Bike Ottawa is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that advocates for safe cycling
infrastructure in Ottawa. We write to provide feedback concerning plans for the Pretoria
Avenue Road and Sewer Renewal.


We are glad to see efforts underway to improve active-transportation facilities on Pretoria
Avenue: this is an important corridor for many people, particularly for accessing the Rideau
Canal.


We are glad to see several specific measures in this area:


● Efforts to limit the speed of motorists through this area through design, including
through narrowing the corridor. Such efforts, if implemented properly, will make
the area safer for everyone in it, even motorists.


● Efforts to improve safety at intersections, particularly with a raised protected
intersection at Pretoria and O’Connor and the narrowing of the intersections at
Pretoria and Bank


● The application of raised cycle tracks near intersections. Elevating bicycle facilities
and providing physical protection increases protection for people biking, and people
using the sidewalk also benefit from this protection.

We also have some recommendations to make:

● That the cycling facility be improved from the current cycle track/on-road bicycle
lane combination to a safer facility that can be winter-maintained. We note that the
City of Ottawa’s Transportation Master Plan (2013) seeks to encourage sustainable
mobility choices, including biking. We propose two possible options, both of which
will permit people to bike safely in both directions along the corridor all year:


i) An elevated bi-directional cycle track along the length of the corridor
(preferred option). Above all, this will greatly enhance safety for those using
these facilities. The resultant narrowing of automobile facilities in the
corridor will also have the effect of reducing the speed of automobile traffic,
which will make it safer for everyone.


ii) An elevated contraflow cycle track on the south side of the street in
conjunction with traffic-calming measures (less-preferred option). Again,
elevating and physically protecting this facility will ensure that people biking
are protected. If this option is selected, it is imperative that traffic-calming
measures—such as roadway-narrowing and bulb-outs—be implemented so
that people biking in the same direction of traffic feel entirely safe doing so
and motorists will not attempt dangerous manoeuvres to pass them.


● That the crosswalk at the intersection of Pretoria and Bank be raised and
continuous. Raised crossings force motorists to reduce their speed and control the
location of where they stop. Continuous crossings signal to motorists the presence
of a crossing and that those crossing have priority. Particularly in a location with
sidewalk traffic as heavy as this, it is imperative that every protection be afforded
people using the sidewalk.


● That the bicycle facility be extended further east beyond Metcalfe to Queen
Elizabeth Drive. This is the only section missing from a link connecting Bank Street
to the Rideau Canal, and completing this link will enable many people on bikes to
access the Canal safely.


● That the bicycle facility be designed in collaboration with winter maintenance staff
to ensure all-season use. In particular, this means including a snow storage area
downslope from the bicycle facility.


● That the ultimate width of the automobile facility be limited to 3.3 m, the minimum
operating width for OC Transpo buses, for the portion from Metcalfe to O’Connor,
since this is a bus route, and 3.0 m for the remainder of this portion of Pretoria.
Narrowing of roadways is a measure well-known for reducing vehicle speeds and
thus improving safety for all users, including that of motorists. While we do not
object to the speed-reduction measures in the current plans—such as speed humps,
speed tables, and bulb-outs—a narrowing along the entire corridor would
contribute significantly to this effect. A narrowing would also permit room for snow
storage off the cycle track and beautification of the corridor.

We thank you in advance for your careful consideration of our recommendations. We
would be glad to answer any questions you may have and to work with you on any aspect of
this project relating to active transportation.

Sincerely,


William van Geest
Advocacy Working Group, Bike Ottawa
advocacy@bikeottawa.ca