As it now stands, it seems that people will be able to bring their bikes on light rail trains when Ottawa opens its new LRT system later this year. However, like many cycling initiatives, the current recommendation to allow bicycles on the Confederation Line and Trillium Line has generated some opposition.
The issue started to unfolded a little over a week ago when a staff report to the city’s transit commission suggested that bikes could be brought on the trains, but not during rush hours (between 6 and 9 am in the morning, and 3 and 6 pm in afternoon). Apparently, this would be in keeping with the rules currently in place in Calgary, Montreal, and Washington, D.C.
A few days later the Transit Commission met and discussed the issue. They rejected the staff suggestion and decided to recommend that cyclists be allowed to bring bikes on the trains during all hours of operation. According to a CBC report, Councillor Jeff Leiper played a major role in convincing the Transit Commission to adopt this recommendation . Only the commission chair, Councillor Stephen Blais, voted against the idea. It also came out that 9 out of 17 transit operations in North America, contacted by OC Transpo allow bikes on trains during all hours.
But there is opposition to this proposal. Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan was quick to come out swinging against the idea of letting bikes on the trains during rush hour periods. Although he all but admits that he is not a big transit user, Mr. Kelly suggests that this would ruin the “transit experience” and would result in passengers being “sour-faced sardines”.
Mr. Egan even goes so far as to equate bicycles with crime, violence, and abusive behaviour when he states “Has history not taught us the transit system is the place where people get swarmed, robbed, stabbed, spat upon, punched or verbally abused? Now throw in a bunch of bikes?” It seems that he is trying to make his case by whipping up as much anti-bike sentiment as possible.
More recently, two board members of Bike Ottawa (formally Citizens for Safe Cycling) have made the case that cycling and mass transit go together hand-in-hand. They say that combined, these two forms of transportation provide a fast and efficient way to get around, and will make it easier for people to leave their cars at home.
Update: Despite some opposition to the idea, Ottawa City Council finally voted 15 to 9 to allow bicycles on the LRT system during rush hours. Apparently a good number of the councillors were swayed by the fact that people have been allowed to take their bikes on the current O-Train for years without any issues.
However, there will be rules on how people can bring bicycles on the LRT. Councillor David Chernushenko says there will be a limit of 2 bicycles per train, and only in the foremost wagon. This will be much more restrictive than is currently the case with the O-Train.
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