Sharing Fun in Ottawa

Okay, so you know how in Ottawa cycling on sidewalks is banned under the Ottawa traffic bylaw? Very sensible, right?

Well, since they’ve closed off the Riverside pathway between Hog’s Back Road and Bank Street for O-Train upgrades, cyclists who normally take this path have been advised to:

…use the existing asphalt sidewalk on the east/south side of Riverside Drive

Sure enough, there are nice shiny new signs posted all along the sidewalk telling us that this is now a shared cyclist-pedestrian sidewalk.

Hey! That’s super-terrific in my books because I love sharing. And, it’s such a nice, cozy, narrow sidewalk, especially when it crosses over the O-Train bridge. And, it runs on a fairly significant incline so that cyclists can really move when they’re barreling down toward Bank Street.

But wait! There’s more! What makes this all extra zany fun is that pedestrians can’t hear cyclists behind them because of the noise of the heavy traffic on the road next to the sidewalk. Cyclists can be ringing bells and yelling all they want, but the pedestrians won’t be hear them until they have a front wheel up their ass-crack.

I’ve been clipped twice by cyclists since this fun new sharing program came into effect. Fortunately, it wasn’t by the speed demon cyclists, but only by wobbly old people who can’t keep their bikes upright over the bumpy sidewalk. Poor old, nature-loving folks. They came out for a nice ride along the Riverside trail with their big hats and baggy shorts and bike baskets full of goodies and suddenly find themselves detouring alongside a highway.

I called the City’s traffic people to ask them what the hell they were thinking. They told me they appreciated my concerns but that cyclists are supposed to be careful on the sidewalk.

Very comforting.

 The traffic guy also told me they had no choice. They decided the road was too narrow for cyclists share, so it had to be the sidewalk. The guy I talked to went on to assure me that he also has a temporary shared cyclist-pedestrian sidewalk situation outside his office and he and the other pedestrians just walk on the grass now.


By all means let’s not inconvenience the automobiles. And since cyclists have had the wit to organize and get some consideration in this car-centric, highway-mad town, we hapless pedestrians have one less place to walk and will just have to suck it up and trudge through the fields, I guess.

24 responses to “Sharing Fun in Ottawa

  1. It could be worse: in Vancouver, there was an experiment a few years ago to repurpose one entire lane of a bridge into downtown for cyclists only. There was general anger and traffic mayhem and the lane wasn’t all that well-used by those cyclists, although the pedestrians who got the sidewalk to themselves were quite pleased, I imagine. So they quickly cancelled the venture … and have started it up again this year. But this time, they’ve also carried the dedicated bike lane further into downtown and have restricted right-hand turns for vehicles, which has caused even more anger, unrest and confusion. Nothing says civic politics like anger, unrest and confusion, eh?

  2. Cyclists and pedestrians in Ottawa need to get together in some sort of active transportation organization (e.g., the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation, Transportation Alternatives in NYC).

  3. Wonder how those big cities in Asia cope, where 10 bazillion cyclists ride around all willy-nilly, with no organized traffic lights or bike paths to speak of?

  4. Oh oh oh ! F.A.M.O.U.S
    I was checking out Ottawa Start. com and there was a link to the Citizen which mentions you and our troubles.

    Personally I was annoyed because the Pathway at Brookfield Road is closed during the Otrain downtime – or so the Citizen announcement said. As a pedestrian I use this walking path which has only a level crossing at the 0- train for all sorts of business. I cann’t understand why it is closed for a month!
    Congrats BTW I will say I read you when.

  5. There used to be a group in Ottawa called Gottawalk, spearheaded mainly by Chris Bradshaw, but it waned.

    There were also a few of us who hastily assembled a small picket of the event to announce the “Walk like your life depends on it” pedestrian ‘safety’ campaign last summer. How nice it was for police to ticket pedestrians so that they don’t get hit by speeding and texting motorists.

    Pedestrians do have the Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee at City Hall, who recently pushed for wider sidewalks on Metcalfe in the core to alleviate pedestrian congestion.

    – RG>

  6. Jazz – Ya sure. I walk, so I don’t matter.

    Pinklea – motorists need to learn that it’s not all about them. There’s nothing wrong with having a dedicated bike lane. It benefits everyone in the long run.

    Cyclestrian – Great idea. The cyclists have got the right idea in getting organized. Pedestrians need some sort of voice, too.

    Friar – Ah, but cyclists own the road there. Cars are incidental and pedestrians have their own space.

    Jay – Yay for me!! This city sure makes some crazy decisions. Closing the Riverside trail in the middle of summer – its busiest time. Oy! I guess we should just all get cars and drive everywhere.

    Grouchy – Stop egging me on to form groups. You did the same thing about the transit riders union thing. It’s all just common sense that a city that encourages pedestrian and bike traffic is a more vibrant place – rather than a city that just encourages drive-thru traffic. This city is not big on common sense, however, and loves things like condos and suburbs and big box stores and highways and overpasses. People who walk or ride their bikes or want to shop on Bank street are looked at askance. We don’t fit in. We should just leave.

  7. I’m not egging you on to form a group, you were lamenting the lack of groups, and I commented.

    I know you’re too busy thinking up more groups that there aren’t to make any of your own. (Aside from Bloggers’ Breakfast groups, of course)

    – RG>

  8. Grouchy – Touche. Seriously, if I were staying in Ottawa for the long haul I would be all over starting both of these groups…because I do stuff like that. But it requires a long-term commitment

  9. That’s brutal. Like there aren’t enough problems between pedestrians, cyclists and cars already that the city has to invent new ways for everyone to get upset at each other. There must have been a way to keep a pathway open or choose a better time of year to do the work.

  10. Okay, the first thought is to get organised as those cyclists did, i.e. form pressure groups! But I see from your chit chat with RealGrouchy (isn’t he a cycling activist?) that the idea does not go down well with you.

    Hence, second idea; “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Buy a bike and start cycling …… and run down some bureaucrats.

  11. Why is it some cyclist’s god-given right to stay on their bike even when it’s clear that it’s dangerous to other people, i.e. pedestrians? How about advising them to get off and walk their bikes across that part of their route?

    It’s too bad common sense is so, well, uncommon. Personally, I don’t object to bikes using the sidewalk when the road is busy and dangerous and the sidewalks are empty–but the minute it becomes clear that riding a bike in a particular place is dangerous to OTHER PEOPLE then the cyclists should get off and walk them until they either have the eggs to get back on the road, or the sidewalk is clear.

  12. so, i don’t think this is the venue for me to admit that i am one of those terrible cyclists. though i have never been on that stretch of road and i try very hard to obey the rules of the road. i do have to admit that i think it’s a pretty shitty solution for everyone, including the commuters that are without the 0-train for pretty much the entire summer. ottawa transit is the best.

  13. A bit OT perhaps, but one thing that’s always irked me about most cyclists (at least where I’ve lived) is that they don’t follow basic traffic rules i.e. stopping at STOP signs.

    I used to cycle a lot in Hamilton. I learned how to come to a complete stop, and balance for 5-10 seconds without putting a foot down – seriously. So I could actually follow the rules and it hardly slowed me down.

    Believe it or not… in my own small town a few years ago, a cyclist almost hit me at a 4-way stop intersection. I had arrived there first, and was proceeding into the intersection when this guy zoomed out of nowhere, cutting in front of me and almost hitting me.

    He then had the nerve to *yell at me* for not paying attention.

    I turned around and followed him home, at a distance.

    When he stopped at his house, I got out and went over to him, and asked him calmly if he had a problem with my driving.

    Not missing a beat, he kept screaming at me.

    I calmly told him if he didn’t lower his voice, I would call the police to his house, and report his traffic infraction.

    He got really quiet, and I returned to my car smiling.

    Which reminds me… I notice a lot of the people who cycle into work each day blow right through a stop sign at the bottom of a long hill in one of the parking lots.

    I think I’m going to report it. Might as well have some fun.

  14. Brett where is that stop sign? I’ll watch and if I can time it right I could prang a few of them with my old beater…..

  15. I don’t really have a dog in this fight as my only cycling is done to and from the soccer field and playground in Carp with my kids.

    I am at various times a driver and a pedestrian in Ottawa, and have noticed, as Brett mentioned, the lack of traffic-rule-following done by cyclists. I get off the 417 at the Rochester exit and come up to a four-way stop at Booth and Orangeville. I turn left onto Booth northbound. I always wait my turn. On three separate occasions I have almost hit cyclists heading south on Booth and not bothering to stop at the 4-way stop and shooting out in front of me as I start my turn.

    Every single time, I’ve been yelled at or flipped the bird, like it’s my fault. If cyclists insist that they’re vehicles, then they should follow the rules.

  16. This is so completely messed up … is it just me or is the City of Ottawa being particularly stupid this time of year… sigh.

  17. Finola – Seriously! Why in the summer? Not only the path but the O-Train construction. Sheesh.

    LGS – No, I’m all about getting organized, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be in Ottawa too much longer. I did try to ride my bike to work for a while, but I kept getting almost killed by motorists. I will need to get a car to really fit in here.

    LesterBee- Bikes don’t belong on the sidewalk under any circumstances. A smart city would make sure there are adequate bike paths throughout the city.

    Smothermother – You are a cyclist or you are a cyclist that rides on the sidewalks??

    Brett – Ya, that’s a whole other issue. I don’t have a lot of experience with that since I don’t drive around much, but I have seen cyclists do some crazy stuff.

    Alison – True, true. But they don’t really belong on the road either, I don’t think. They can’t compete with motor vehicles and pedestrians can’t compete with cyclists. We all need our own paths.

    Nat – This time of year??? Aren’t they always stupid? When are they smart??

    Laura – Thanks! When someone gets hurt then they’ll re-think the whole thing, I’m sure. But not until then.

  18. I hate that sidewalk and the cyclists on it. Before they posted the “shared route” signs I deliberately obstructed the sidewalk when I saw cyclists coming, and yelled at them about how it’s illegal to bike on the sidewalk when they swerved past me, glaring. Call me a grumpy curmudgeon but especially that bit over the O-Train… I can’t even walk comfortably by myself on it without feeling like my ass is hanging out in traffic.

    Yet another shockingly brilliant move by our city.

  19. that would be a pain in the arse, especially if someone like you that walks so much. you know those things people put on their tires, little wire things that let them know if they’ve hit a curb? i wonder if you should invent it for peds and become a millionairess.

  20. Susan – I wonder why I’ve never passed you on that bridge??

    Leah – Spikes on my shoes to deflate bike tires that get too close??