● Time to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the pathways – the NCC is thinking about it.

According to a recent report in the Ottawa Citizen the NCC is looking into creating separate pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. Apparently this idea is being considered as part of an exercise to rewrite NCC’s strategic plan for its network of pathways in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

The idea of building separate pathways for cyclists and pedestrians in the National Capital Region has come up before. I have also seen separate cycling and pedestrians paths next to each other in the Montreal and Quebec City areas, where the system seemed to work quite well. I have also seen the idea implemented in Florida, where it doesn’t always work so well. In Florida, pedestrians regularly walk on the path reserved for cyclists, sometime four abreast, while ignoring the pedestrian pathway a few feet away. (It seems they are drawn to the bike path because it is slightly wider than the pedestrian path.)

Whatever the case, it’s high time that the NCC increase the capacity of its pathway system, and do so by building separate facilities for cyclists and pedestrians. The population growth over the past three or four decades by itself is enough to justify expanding the capacity of the various pathways. (Think of how many times they have widened the Queensway during this period). On top of this, there’s evidence to suggest that the pathways are now being used by a greater proportion of the population.

It seems that the impetus for considering separate pathways on the NCC system is being driven by a desire to reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. I’m sure that such conflict is increasing, if only because there are many more users on the pathways. However, this issue is often framed in terms of a need to protect pedestrians from abuse and harassment by cyclists. This is one of the themes played up in the Ottawa Citizen report.

There can be no doubt that some cyclists are guilty of transgressions on the pathways, sometimes zig-zagging around pedestrians in a way that makes them feel vulnerable. Whatever the case, I’m a little fed up about hearing only one side of the story on this issue. You don’t have to ride on the pathways for long to realize that some pedestrians are also guilty of misdeeds, and do all sorts of ridiculous things that endanger cyclists.

I remember one mother who was instructing her young children to sit and play with their toys in the middle of the pathway. The young children, probably around 4 or 5 years old, actually wanted to play next to the pathway, but the grass was wet and perhaps a little muddy, so the mother was insisting that they play on the pathway. I could fill up many computer screens with stories of inappropriate behavior by pedestrians that I have witnessed on the pathways.

It would be wrong to think that my concerns don’t have any real bearing on the well being of cyclists. Last week my wife was seriously injured (two bone fractures) when she fell from her bike after turning quickly and braking hard to avoid an adult pedestrian that suddenly cut in front of her on the path without warning. A few years earlier she suffered a very serious concussion (which took weeks to recover from) when she fell after an abrupt maneuver to avoid a young boy that suddenly darted out in front of her. At the time the young boy was walking largely unsupervised about 50 feet behind his parents. (In case anyone asks, yes, in both instances, she was going under 20 km/h and was wearing a helmet.)

The lesson that can be drawn from all of this is that the time has come for the NCC to provide a safe environment for both cyclists and pedestrians by expanding the capacity of the current system and building separate pathways for each group.

Participate in an NCC survey about the pathways.

As part of its efforts to rewrite the strategic plan for the pathways, the NCC is inviting people to participate in an online survey about its pathway system. The substance of the survey is found in the first question, which ask people to select four items from a list of what they call “big ideas” for the pathway network.

Examples of the big ideas include keeping part of the pathway open during the winter and providing additional services such as toilets and drinking fountains. Surprisingly, the list does not include the idea of creating separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians, although this could be written in a box for other suggestions.

Click here for more information about taking this NCC survey (note that the survey is open for participation until July 16, 2018).

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4 Comments on ● Time to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the pathways – the NCC is thinking about it.

  1. Separating cycle and pedestrian lanes is a good idea in high pedestrian -tourist areas. Improving site lines , improving signage and lowering speed limits to 10Km/hr in these areas would also help. Having cycled on NCC pathways for over 30 years I have had 3 accidents all due to poor site lines and signage.
    I would not hold my breath for these measures to be implemented though; as the NCC does not have the budget to maintain the existing pathways let alone improve them. The City of Ottawa could contribute funds to this purpose as the primary beneficiaries of these improvements would be citizens of Ottawa.

  2. I agree with nil’s July three comments – totally! We need to completely reject this false notion of build it and they will come (hint there are already there) to improve and extend what you have and keep the carpet baggers out (sorry but I don’t need a ice cream cone or patio food when I’m out riding – I need water stations, toilets, repair/air stations strategically and logically placed) some with the grandiose ideas NCC you just suck at it.
    Leave the Ottawa river shore route alone this idea to improve the shoreline is just an invitation for every kind of crap retailer to pop-up and it will turn into a concrete s*#t hole. Do something real and concrete about winter snow clearing of routes – not the last to be cleared (not on the day it snows but like 3 days after the snowfall) and do something about plowing snow INTO legitimate spring – summer – fall bike lanes – they dhould be accessible ALL year long.
    And yes I realize that cyclists do stupid things but I too could fill this page with some of the incredibly stupid and unsafe things pedestrians do – like stopping to talk in the middle of the path OR ear-buds, etc,. etc.
    Widening the pathways is not the solution – extending existing ones, creating safe and logical inter-city bike routes and really recognizing that transportation solution MUST include bicycles – not as a second thought (I wish) but as an integral, essential, vital and legitimate mode of urban transportation.
    NCC – City Hall – wake-up

  3. I certainly disagree with the first post. I think something has to be done to regulate the use of the pathway system. Cyclists are far too fast, especially near pedestrians. Separation would be an expensive way to solve the problem and would also require monitoring. The problem could be solved by enforcing the speed limit for cyclists and getting those who want to go fast onto the road. Such a move would require a publicity campaign for drivers who expect cyclists to be on the path at least on the Sir John A portion of the parkway. A bike lane on the road would help. Finally we need more signage explaining the rules for the use of the paths

  4. ridiculous… someone building an empire on it all. I can see in some parts, but all over – come on… the feds just dumped a sht load of money into some depts, ncc is one of them. Now, the NCC wants to create disney land again. Need to keep a close eye on the ncc from time to time, esp when there are large sums of money dumped into the economy (almost like a pump and dump scheme really). Now, I do agree with the NCC maintaining pathways, maintaining buildings (some buildings are absolutely falling apart like the ONEC boat house – ncc washes its hands of maintaining a building), and getting some pathways up to snuff (like the one by the museum that has been closed since the 100 year flood of the ottawa). But, to widen every damn pathway is ridiculous. One needs to look at utilization rate. I suspect in some areas its high where pedestrians congregate like along the shoreline where the rock sculptures exist. Other areas have pedestrians all over the place going the wrong way, having picnics on pathways etc…
    Simple rule – stay right everyone… we don’t need all sorts of massive infrastructure like our concrete sht hole neighbor TO… that’s costly to create and maintain. We don’t need all sorts of laws/rules/policy neither, that just builds empires – I worked for one of those giants, believe me its not about the goodness of the country, its about the goodness of growing an empire on bullshit.

    Question things, esp when the feds start dumping money for the sake of creating temporary jobs which just over inflates everything in a short period of time and leaves the tax payers with a hefty bill later on – the debt and the cost to maintain things.

    I like the water fronts just the way they are now – rugged, simple, nature like… that’s one the unique beauties of ottawa. We don’t want to end up like concrete sht hole TO – that’s an expensive mess to maintain.
    Sure I’d like to see upgrades to structures and pathways that are falling apart, but to widen everything as they did with the gatineau park to the point where roots of trees are destroyed and the natural beauty of the land is taken away while a dirt road it put in so we humans can get our adrenalin /dopamine rush… come on… waste of tax dollars.

    Just stay right is key on the pathways.

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