St. Laurent Blvd: Transit priority

Written by Alison Kranias

Bike Ottawa recently sent feedback to the City about designs for St. Laurent Boulevard. As the presentation on this project explains, the street is being redesigned with transit priority in mind, and safe and accessible infrastructure for people on bikes and pedestrians will be included in the plan. 

We are glad to see that the City is pursuing a sustainable approach by prioritizing transit and including cycle tracks and protected intersections in the design. This area of the city badly needs a good north-south route to connect people on bikes to the LRT, mall and local businesses. 

The Queensway in particular is a major barrier for anyone traveling north-south in this area, and it’s good to see St. Laurent being proposed as a safe route across it. Slowing down cars going on and off the highway and providing cycle tracks would make it possible for so many more people to bike when they travel around here. However, making these changes is challenging because it requires collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. We need to lobby MPP’s as well as City councillors to make this route safe for people on bikes and pedestrians.

In the City’s plan itself there are also some problems. Particularly concerning is the proposal to include a shared bus-cycle lane along part of St. Laurent. This might be safe for experienced people on bikes , but that’s not good enough, it needs to be safe for everyone. The City needs to go back to the drawing board and find a better solution here. 

This project has the potential to transform St. Laurent into a street that is safe and welcoming for people on bikes and pedestrians, making it possible for residents in the area to walk and cycle where they need to go instead of drive. It’s still in the early stages of planning, and we need to keep our eye on it and make sure the City resolves the concerns addressed in our letter (see below). A well-designed plan for St. Laurent, without any gaps in the cycling infrastructure, will go a long way to making this neighbourhood a place to bike.


To: Katarina Cvetkovic, P.Eng.
Cc: Jean Cloutier (Councillor, Alta Vista Ward)
Rawlson King (Councillor, Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward)
John Fraser (Member of Provincial Parliament, Ottawa South)
Lucille Collard (Member of Provincial Parliament, Ottawa—Vanier)
Via email: Katarina.Cvetkovic@ottawa.ca, Jean.Cloutier@ottawa.ca, rawlson.king@ottawa.ca,
jfraser.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org, LCollard.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Date: 17 August 2022

Subject: St. Laurent Boulevard Transit Priority Corridor Environmental Assessment (EA) Study

Dear Ms. Cvetkovic,


Bike Ottawa is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that advocates for safe cycling infrastructure in
Ottawa. We write to provide feedback concerning the St. Laurent Boulevard Transit Priority Corridor
Environmental Assessment (EA) Study, and in particular in reference to a presentation on this made on
22 June 2022.

We are pleased that climate change and public health played such a prominent role in the presentation,
and that the presenters acknowledged the critical role of public transit and active transportation in these
issues. We urge you to continue in this vein and act on the City’s declaration in 2019 of a climate
emergency.


We are also pleased that the presentation acknowledged the efficiency of transit and particularly active
transportation relative to travel by car, and the fundamental unsustainability of a car-oriented approach.
A sustainable approach is particularly necessary in light of the increased densification in the area, as
acknowledged in the presentation, and particularly in the area immediately south of the study area—St.
Laurent from Industrial to Russell Road. In light of this, the only feasible “alternative solutions” (Slide 41)
are “expand active transportation network” and “transit-only lanes” or “at-grade rapid transit facilities.”
Finally, we are pleased by the direction in which the City is heading vis-à-vis Complete Streets, all the
while acknowledging this is insufficient: not all modes are equal, and the safety of the most vulnerable
users must be the highest priority.


Providing protected bike infrastructure on St. Laurent could improve biking connectivity exponentially in
this part of the city. Currently, there are no safe crossings of Highway 417 for people on bikes in this area,

with the exception of Cyrville, east of the poorly connected Max Keeping Bridge; but even here, there is
no safe connection from Cyrville to a north–south biking route.
The Councillor Briefings are right to identify the urgent need for “improved pedestrian and cycling
infrastructure: address challenging intersections, highway interchange, rail overpasses, and new
connections” (p. 11). Eliminating high-speed slip lanes, creating segregated above-grade cycle tracks and
sidewalks, and connecting public transit are crucial to improving accessibility for everyone in this
corridor, not just motorists.


For the highway interchanges, we urge that, through collaboration with MPPs Fraser and Collard (CCed),
the Ontario Ministry of Transportation adopt current best practices for active transportation
infrastructure. These include slowing down motorist speeds on highway on and off ramps, as well as
providing safe spaces for people of all ages and abilities to safely walk, bike, and roll across these areas
that are currently so dangerous. At a minimum, this means cycle tracks—that is, actual physical
protection—and wide sidewalks.
We urge that the possibility of a combined bus–bike lane be rejected. Biking infrastructure should be
designed for all ages, and no parent would let their eight-year-old child share a lane with a bus on a
major arterial road.


Slide 38 shows 8 lanes of mixed traffic by Ogilvie/Coventry, with no cycle track and only a narrow
sidewalk. This is inexcusable. The phenomenon of induced demand—increasing infrastructure for cars
only creates more car traffic—is well-documented, and this is a clear example. Also egregious is the
width of these lanes, which climbs to as wide as 4.5 m. Instead, there should be a maximum of two car
lanes per direction—better would be one per direction—and cycle tracks and wide sidewalks, as well as
a boulevard, provided. As an example, Main Street was reduced from 4 lanes to 2 lanes and the traffic
moves better than it did before. Certainly any talk of expropriation or road-widening must be dismissed
out of hand.


On a personal note, the writer of this letter lives in the area south of Smyth; he works as a registered
nurse in the emergency department of L’Hôpital Montfort and bikes to work year-round. If there is a safe
cycle track on St. Laurent, that will be his commute. His wife works near the Gloucester Centre and will
take that cycle track to Ogilivie. Many others will follow suit. The area south of Smyth will densify
significantly in the coming decade, and this project will be a vital transportation connection for current
and future residents of this area.


It was stated at the presentation that the bridges in this area were built in 1962—that is, 60 years ago.
We urge you to build new infrastructure appropriate for the next 60 years. This means infrastructure that
favours sustainable modes—above all, walking, rolling, and biking, but also public transit.

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

Sincerely,
Rob Samulack RN, BSN, BEng (Bike Ottawa Alta Vista Ward Advocate)
Advocacy Working Group, Bike Ottawa
advocacy@bikeottawa.ca