● Ottawa’s money saving idea – build cycling infrastructure in new subdivisions.

David Reevely has an interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen about an idea the City of Ottawa has come up with to save money by building separated bike lanes (cycle tracks) in new subdivisions.

So how can savings be realized by spending money to build cycling infrastructure? It works like this: When a new street is built, it has to be wide enough to accommodate various traffic, including motor vehicles and cyclists. The entire width of the street is built to a standard necessary for supporting heavy vehicles such as cars, trucks, and buses. But cyclists weigh much less, so space reserved for them can be build to a lighter, and less expensive, standard that is used for sidewalks.

This means it is possible to save money by building narrower streets with the standard needed for heavy motor vehicles, and separate bike lanes with a lighter standard for cyclists. Moreover, because the streets will be narrower, there will be less need to build medians and other features that are often found on wider roads. It is estimated that this could save the city $41 for every metre of road built, and as much as $12.1 million for all the roads the city is planning to build in the near future.

It all sounds like a win-win situation for everyone. But this approach for building streets and bike lanes does raise a few questions. For example, will cyclists be allowed on the narrower streets, or will they be forced to use the separated bike lanes? What will happen during the winter? Will these bike lanes become a convenient dumping ground for all the snow plowed off the streets? Will the lighter construction standards for the bike lanes hold up over long term use? I have noticed some of the paved shoulders that Quebec has added to certain roads for the specific benefit of cyclists seem to be deteriorating faster than expected.

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