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Long-planned Ottawa bike lane suddenly tossed aside

Cyclists have been looking forward to the proposed O'Connor Street Bikeway. Hopefully, it will provide an alternative to Bank Street, which can be busy and dangerous. The bikeway will run from the Glebe to downtown and provide a protected bike route from north to south, similar in design and scope to the east-west Laurier bike lane.

Or at least, that was the plan until April 21, when the city announced that the stretch of the bikeway in the Glebe, between Strathcona and Glebe Avenue, would no longer be considered for full bike lanes. The lanes would instead be “shared” - which is essentially what happens now.

The announcement came as a surprise to cycling advocates, since the bikeway had been a part of the Transportation Master Plan for several years. Citizens for Safe Cycling vice-president Alex de Vries said he was “highly disappointed” - not so much with the loss of the bike lane (because that section of O'Connor isn't very busy or dangerous) but with how fast the City folded and backtracked on plans they'd already spent a lot of time and energy putting together.

He added that although the plans had been in the works for years, there hadn't been any vocal opposition to the lane before this. According to the City's website, the main reason for the change was “acknowledgement of the low-speed, low-traffic-volume residential nature of this two-way street” and the need for parking in the area.

The stretch of O'Connor that will stay as shared lanes is a mostly residential, quiet street. Another local cyclist told me he'd just ridden down that section to see what it was like and for much of it there's very little on-street parking anyway.

A full bike lane would also benefit pedestrians using the sidewalk: as it is, the sidewalks are narrow and a bike lane would provide a buffer between car traffic and people on foot, making the whole street more pleasant. Even a slowing in traffic caused by the reduced lane width shouldn't make much difference, as car traffic on that street is predominantly local.

True, O'Connor (in the Glebe at least) isn't the most dangerous street in Ottawa. But it was a street designated for a separate bike lane in the Transportation Master Plan. And, according to some cycling advocates, the City's quick turnaround based on recent complaints signals a lack of will on City Council to fully support bike infrastructure: at the first objection, they seem quick to backpedal.

Note: A previous version of this article said that the city had previously proposed “segregated” bike lanes for O’Connor through the Glebe. The previous proposal was for conventional (non-segregated) bike lanes. The article also referred to the “north-south Laurier bike lane," when it in fact the two Laurier bike lanes run east-west. Metro has now corrected the error.

Kathryn Hunt @k8thek8 is a writer, editor of Centretown BUZZ, storyteller, poet, cycling blogger, rock climber, mysterious techno vixen (confirmed) and geek. Not necessarily in that order. You can read her cycling blog at

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