It's been a long arduous affair, but Ottawa City Council gave the final approval required to build segregated bike lanes on Laurier Avenue. The bike lane will run along Laurier Avenue from Elgin Street to Bronson, and if everything goes as scheduled, it should be ready for use sometime this summer.
Technically, the segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue is a two-year pilot project. At the end of this period the bike lane will be evaluated for its impact on the downtown area and to see how well it has been used by cyclists. If successful, it could be used as a model for the creation of additional segregated bike lanes in Ottawa’s downtown core.
The final go-ahead for Ottawa’s first segregated bike lane has not come easily. First, there was the city’s aborted attempt to build such a lane on Somerset Street last summer. This effort failed in the face of strong opposition by local business associations. The city then held consultations and announced that Laurier Avenue had been selected as the preferred location for the segregated bike lane.
However, plans to implement a segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue came under attack by a local business association, condo owners, hotel operators, and vehicular cyclists. Opposition from businesses tended to be centred around the loss of on-street parking spaces on Laurier Avenue, while vehicular cyclists are opposed to bicycle paths and segregated bike lanes as a matter of ideology.
In an official news release about the approval of the bike lane, Mayor Jim Watson said "This is an important step in healthy living that will bring more people downtown and boost business and tourism, as Ottawa becomes known for being the cycling capital."
It is interesting to note that while Ottawa was engrossed in the public debate on the merits of building a segregated bike lane in the downtown area, the NCC was quietly proceeding with its own plans to build the city's second segregated bike lane
. Last week, reports surfaced that the NCC will be building a segregated lane on Wellington Street from Bay Street to the Portage Bridge. So finally, in one summer, Ottawa is about to catch up with cities in North America and Europe that have been developing segregated bike lanes during the past decade as an effective way of promoting cycling. Click here for Ottawa's News Release about the decision to go ahead with the segregated bike lane project. Click here for a detailed description of the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lane project (a PDF file).