Bike Ottawa: External Policies

Bike Ottawa’s policies are developed after reviewing similar policies, where they exist, and other studies related to the issue. Each draft is approved by the Bike Ottawa Board of Directors. Each final policy directs Bike Ottawa’s actions related to the issue, and our representation to government and other agencies. Bike Ottawa policies may be revised by the Board of Directors as the need arises.

We would like to thank all those volunteers who have helped us draft our existing policies, and who commented on them and made them better.

Headings and overarching text was updated in 2017 with the new name “Bike Ottawa”. Where a policy was approved before CfSC changed our name to Bike Ottawa, this text was not altered.

BIKE OTTAWA POLICY: COMPLETE STREETS

Bike Ottawa advocates for complete streets as a means to facilitate a shift to active transportation-based mobility, as a means to address access for equity-seeking groups, and to improve the liveability of our streets.

What are complete streets?

Complete streets are streets that provide space for the safety of all users. The starting point for complete streets is the Vision Zero paradigm for safety: the needs of the most vulnerable users – people on bikes, people who walk, and people who use mobility devices – should be placed at the centre of street design to ensure they can use our streets safely. By removing the threat of road violence, cities can significantly reduce the threat of serious injury and death, while making our streets liveable public spaces.

Complete streets must also address the diversity of users, including women, racialized communities, 2SLGBTQ++ and other marginalized communities. Equity must also be at the centre of consultation and design, so we can ensure that everyone can use our streets as public space safely and securely.

How do we build complete streets for people on bikes? 

Rather than relying on ineffective education campaigns and police enforcement to attempt to improve safety,  “complete streets” use design to achieve safe outcomes. For example, by narrowing streets, implementing year-round traffic calming measures, and eliminating through traffic, automobile speeds can be lowered, reducing the risk of injury and death for everyone. Creating protected intersections by always prioritizing the safe movement of vulnerable road users through design, given the elevated risk for conflict and injury at intersections, means that we prioritize safety versus drivers saving a few seconds. Based on international best practice, and the implementation of bike infrastructure in Ottawa, Bike Ottawa firmly believes that dedicated infrastructure that provides space for people on bikes to travel separated from automobile traffic is the most practical way to increase the number of people on bikes and provide equitable access to safe biking infrastructure. In practice this means prioritizing the following design principles to make complete streets:

  • Cycle tracks that are segregated from automobile traffic by being raised above road level, or separated from traffic with a curb
  • At high volume intersections, using protected, or “Dutch,” intersections, which reduce conflict between automobile traffic and active transportation users by slowing automobile traffic and improve the visibility of people using active transportation
  • Eliminating the use of slip lanes or safe channels, right turns on red and revert reds that prioritize motorized traffic over active transportation
  • Reducing speed limits to 30km/h and designing streets to function at this speed, to minimize the risk of injury and death when active transportation users are struck by automobile drivers.
  • Ensure the pathway is wide enough for side-by-side riding whenever possible, and increase this width based on predicted futures peak volumes for passing
  • The riding surface must be smooth by eliminating unsafe and uncomfortable features like curbs.

In all areas, except in very low predicted volume areas or short neighbourhood connections areas, designs should also segregate people who bike from space for people who walk and slower active transportation modes by providing dedicated space and appropriate features to ensure their separation, including landscaping, grade separation, and tactile treatments to aid the visually impaired.

Quietways

Bike Ottawa also recognizes that even with safe infrastructure, many people will still seek low stress bike routes that accommodate differing levels of confidence, age, and ability. Dedicated bike infrastructure can be augmented by designing quietways – streets that prioritize active transportation users by using measures such as traffic calming, filtered permeability, and lower vehicular speeds.

Mixed-Use Pathways

In predicted low-volume settings and short neighbourhood connections, mixed-use paths (MUPs) may also be employed. Because of the differential speeds between modes when traffic increases on MUPs, competition for space between people using bicycles, those walking and people who use mobility devices, safety concerns arise for all users. As such, this type of infrastructure is not appropriate in most areas.

Paint Is Not Infrastructure

Painted bike lanes are sometimes seen as a means to create space for people on bikes on city streets. Reconfiguring lanes to add a bike lane is sometimes perceived as an easy, cheap solution to a real safety problem. However, the lack of spatial separation limits the usefulness of painted bike lanes, as they are often hampered by illegal stopping and incursions from people driving cars, and afford no real safety enhancement. 

As such, Bike Ottawa only recommends the use of painted bike lanes as an interim solution when building dedicated infrastructure is not immediately feasible but there is a need to provide dedicated space for people on bikes. Painted bike lanes should also make use of treatments that will provide some spatial separation, including buffer zones between general traffic lanes, parking lanes, and bike lanes, and/or the use of flex-posts to create a more defined space. Streets with painted bike lanes should be designated with a 30km/h speed limit, with supporting traffic calming measures to lower the risk to people on bikes associated with mixing with motorized traffic.

Bike Ottawa does not recommend the use of sharrows. Sharrows only indicate that people on bikes may use a traffic lane – something already permitted under the Highway Traffic Act. Sharrows at best may give people on bikes a false sense of safety, and make streets less safe for people on bikes.

Enforcement

Minimizing the need for enforcement is a critical step for making public space safer for members of BIPOC communities, women and LGBTQ+ communities. Given the history in North America of using traffic infractions and moving violations (“driving while black” being a prime example) as a pretense for the harassment of BIPOC community members, enforcement remains problematic and only serves to highlight the inequity that frames who gets to use public spaces.

Along with design, cities have other tools to reduce the need for enforcement, including using camera technology to capture traffic violations such as speeding and running red lights. Using such measures creates certainty for road users in knowing that there is a low likelihood of evading penalties for risky or dangerous road behaviour. Bike Ottawa supports the use of these technologies across the city, as they have been shown to reduce speeds, helping to make streets safer.

Winter Maintenance

Complete streets are not a three-season phenomenon. When provided with safe, well-cleared infrastructure, people on bikes can comfortably travel through Ottawa winters, as evidenced by the growing popularity of using bicycles year-round. As bike infrastructure is added to streets, or as streets are rebuilt, bike infrastructure should be built to accommodate snow clearing equipment, and streets should include appropriate space to store snow so that bike infrastructure remains clear.

Approved by the CFSC Board of Directors October 21, 2021.


Bike Ottawa policy: Bicycle access to light rail

Combining cycling with public transportation can be the most efficient way to make a trip, using cycling’s flexibility and public transportation’s speed over longer distances. This synergy has already been demonstrated with the success of OC Transpo’s Rack & Roll program (cycling racks on buses) and similar programs in other cities. 

Bike Ottawa believes that the Light Rail system should similarly allow bicycle access.

In order that this work, the following conditions should be met:

a) Bicycle parking must be available at all light rail stations, within view of the rail platform. Racks should be provided in the same numbers as for similar Transitway stations, and should be visible, lighted, and easily accessible and allow bicycles to be securely locked. 

b) Cyclists must be able to access the platforms of all Light Rail stations easily with their bicycles.

c) Passengers should be able to bring bicycles with them in Light Rail cars at all times, subject to space availability.

d) OC Transpo should establish written and well-advertised criteria for how and where bicycles are carried on trains to minimize conflicts and ensure safety. These criteria should specify safe places for bikes to be placed  in each car, and the maximum number of bicycles per car.

Approved by the CfSC Board of Directors 13 March 2001.


Bike Ottawa policy: Child cycling education

Citizens for Safe Cycling believes that effective cycling education and training should be available to every child. This should be undertaken when children are at a suitable age of development and are beginning to ride on their own, around the age of nine.

A bicycle is a child’s first vehicle. They have no experience, yet children are given very little cycling instruction. Effective educational programs are ones that happen over time and on the road. Effectiveness is measured by positive behavioural changes and a reduction in crash rates. These programs involve bike handling skills, how to ride on the road and the proper use of helmets. The KIDS CAN-BIKE and other CAN-BIKE programs incorporate all of these elements.

Educational programs would involve extensive follow-up over time as to their effectiveness. Follow-up will lead to course improvements.

Availability means courses should be offered in the child’s community, thus enabling more children to reach a course and to enforce positive behaviours in their own communities. School based community cycling programs (community use of schools) and local community centres would allow for the greatest amount of availability.

Availability also means the continued need for instructor development. This includes instructor identification and comprehensive training. Without adequate instructors, there is no availability.

Parents/guardians are currently a child’s first cycling instructor. Most children learn to ride a bicycle between the ages of five to eight. Children of this age are very amenable to training. Young children are at various stages of developing strategic thinking skills and are far less efficient at switching attention; therefore adult supervision is necessary.

Depending on location, level of traffic and the child’s development, older children also require knowledgeable adult supervision.

In order to provide safe cycling, cycling education programs for younger children are aimed at providing parents/guardians and their children greater practical knowledge.

Elements include bicycle handling skills, rules of the road for cyclists, safe riding practices and understanding children’s ability to comprehend road danger and apply that knowledge at different ages, and proper use of helmets.

Investment and promotion of child cycling education is essential.

Approved by the CfSC Board of Directors 18 October 2001.


Bike Ottawa policy: Bicycle licensing

Citizens for Safe Cycling (CfSC) does not believe that a bicycle licensing scheme will benefit either cyclists or non-cyclists. Bicycles provide direct benefit to their users (inexpensive transportation, improved health and fitness) and indirect benefits to society as a whole (lower highway costs, less pollution), and therefore the use of bicycles should be encouraged.

CfSC does not consider that a licensing scheme will provide any encouragement to the use of bicycles. In particular, it is the opinion of CfSC that: 

  1. The additional bureaucracy required to license a bicycle will discourage the use of bicycles, particularly by casual or new users. It is illogical that an individual’s decision to change to a lower-cost and lower-impact mode of transportation should cause increased cost and inconvenience to that individual.
  2. Cyclists already pay a significant share of highway costs through general taxation. Each person that uses a bicycle causes a reduction in demand for road space, and a reduction in road maintenance costs. Cyclists must not be singled out to pay an increased share of these costs by what is, in effect, discriminatory taxation.
  3. Unless the license fee is set at an unrealistically high level, it is unlikely that the revenue will be significantly greater than the administrative costs (it is for this reason that the majority of bicycle licensing schemes have been abandoned). The scheme will therefore not produce any tangible benefits, and will operate only as a disincentive to cycling.
  4. The practical aspects of implementation and enforcement do not appear to have been addressed. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to license out-of-town riders or bicycles. Police manpower will be diverted from apprehending traffic law offenders to the task of checking bicycle licenses.

CfSC does not support the implementation of a bicycle licensing scheme. CfSC believes that the planning and construction of cycling facilities should be funded from general taxation in the same manner as almost all other municipal and provincial facilities.

Approved by the CfSC Board of Directors April 1991.


Bike Ottawa policy: Bicycle helmets

CfSC does not support mandatory helmet use because this would serve to reinforce the misconception that wearing a helmet is the best way of preventing cycling injuries, and would divert effort from the more important factors of infrastructure, education, and on-road behaviour. Furthermore, mandatory helmet use can be a barrier to cycling.

The use of helmets will not reduce either the incidence of cycling collisions or injuries to other parts of the body. The best way to reduce all types of injuries is to reduce collisions. This can most effectively be achieved by proper infrastructure, education, and enforcement.

Approved by the CfSC Board July 1991.

Updates to reflect emphasis on infrastructure approved by the CfSC Board of Directors July 2016.


Bike Ottawa policy: Bicycle helmet legislation

Policy

It is the opinion of Citizens for Safe Cycling (CfSC) that Bill 124, the Bill to make the wearing of bicycle helmets compulsory in Ontario, should not be enacted because:

  1. It would serve to reinforce the current public misconception that wearing a helmet is the only way of preventing cycling injuries, and
  2. It would divert effort from the more important factors of education and on-road behaviour.

Recommendations

CfSC recommends that all factors relating to the compulsory wearing of helmets should be fully reviewed before any legislation is enacted. This task should be undertaken by a committee or task force that has members with specific experience in this field. The review should receive input from parties that represent both pro and anti opinions, and should include a study of the opinions and experience of parties from other jurisdictions where similar legislation has been proposed or enacted. The results from this review should then be integrated into the Ontario Bicycle Policy review.

Until this review is complete, the wearing of helmets should be encouraged through a public awareness program. Any such program must, however, stress that accidents can be avoided by education and a proper understanding of traffic cycling principles. For example, a cyclist riding safely (with the traffic, using lights at night), and therefore not encountering potential accidents, could be contrasted with a cyclist riding against the traffic, or without lights, who experiences a series of near-misses. This would readily convey the message that riding in a predictable manner is the safest way to ride, and the best way to avoid personal injury.

Approved by the CfSC Board of Directors October 1991.


Bike Ottawa policy: Benefits of neighbourhood schools

Since Citizens for Safe Cycling strongly encourages cycling and walking to school, we support school locations that allow as many children as possible to walk or cycle to school. We oppose policies that direct urban children to schools that are located so far from their homes as to make walking or cycling too dangerous or completely impractical (other than to permit certain specialized programs).

We support the concept of neighbourhood schools, located in the middle of residential areas in all parts of the city, which can be reached easily by foot or by bike (with special routes set up as necessary for younger children). When new subdivisions are being approved, the proximity and capacity of the neighbourhood schools should be considered. If the schools aren’t within walking/cycling distance, the school boards must have plans and schedules to build new schools that meet these needs.

In addition, to the extent that these schools remain open for after-school and evening activities, they allow children to walk or cycle to reach their recreational destinations, again eliminating unnecessary car trips.

CfSC opposes closing neighbourhood schools if these closures will force many children to take the bus or be driven to school, rather than being able to cycle or walk. We believe that the health and other disadvantages to the students, as well as the blow to the neighbourhoods which will no longer be anchored by a school, will more than outweigh any cost savings.

When a school is opened or closed, the zone boundaries should be re-examined so as to maximise the number of students within walking/cycling distance of their school. This may increase number of students disrupted by the school closure, but it is our belief that the long term benefits to the students and the environment outweigh the short term costs.

Approved by the CfSC Board of Directors 5 October 2000.


Bike Ottawa policy: Restricted turns

There are numerous locations throughout the Region where specific manoeuvres (often left turns, but sometimes right turns and straight ahead travel) are restricted. Some of these restrictions apply all day, others only apply at certain times or on certain days of the week.

These restrictions have been implemented for several reasons, for example:

  1. To prevent turning vehicles from causing disproportionate delay to following or oncoming vehicles (for example the numerous “no left turns” and “no right turns” on Bank Street at intersections where a following vehicle could not overtake a stationary turning vehicle due to inadequate road width).
  2. To prevent potentially dangerous manoeuvres at locations where visibility is restricted (for example the “no right turn on red” from Bronson Avenue (northbound) onto Slater Street (eastbound) where vehicles ascending the hill from Scott Street are not easily visible from Bronson Avenue).
  3. To prevent “short-cutting” through residential neighbourhoods or other areas with inadequate through routes (for example the “no right turns” from Sunnymede Avenue and Clearview Avenue (westbound) onto Island Park Drive (northbound) to prevent traffic travelling from Scott Street to Island Park Drive from cutting through the Champlain Park neighbourhood).

Some of these restrictions are clearly pertinent to all classes of vehicles. The restriction at Bronson Avenue / Slater Street is an example of this class of restriction.

Some restrictions, however, are strictly only pertinent to larger vehicles, either because of their size or because of the generally unpleasant effects caused by numerous larger vehicles travelling through quiet residential neighbourhoods. The Bank Street restrictions provide several examples of locations where a bicycle waiting at the curb (to turn right), or at the yellow line (to turn left), would not impede following traffic. The Champlain Park neighbourhood provides an example of the intention to prevent large/noisy/smelly vehicles from idential neighbourhood, whereas bicycles, by contrast, have a significantly lower impact on the residential environment.

The effect of some of these restrictions is to cause journeys to take longer, or to be less convenient, both because of the delays and because of the longer routes that are sometimes required. For the cyclist, such a longer journey is a greater inconvenience than it is to the motorist.

It is CfSC’s opinion that some of the restrictions that are not strictly pertinent to bicycles should be relaxed to provide positive encouragement for the greater use of bicycles for urban travel. CfSC notes that the principle of discriminating against certain classes of vehicles already exists in the restriction of trucks to designated truck routes.

Approved by the CfSC Board of Directors May 1991.