The NCC will be improving the cycle tracks on the Portage Bridge this summer. Plans call for making the existing bidirectional cycle tracks a touch wider (2.5 metres to 2.6 metres) and adding a 25 centimetre vertical barrier to separate cyclists from motor vehicles.
These improvements will be part of a larger project to resurface the entire bridge. Work is expected to start at the end of June, and should be completed by September, 2018. Construction will results in some disruptions on the bridge for cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles. For example, it is expected that cyclists may be diverted to the sidewalk on the east side of the bridge, and pedestrians will be re-routed to the sidewalk on the west side of the bridge.
It is interesting to note that the NCC decision for improving cycling facilities on the bridge are based on a survey that was conducted last January. The online survey asked if cyclists would prefer to (1) have the current bidirectional bicycle lanes on the bridge widened, or (2) have the current bidirectional bicycle lanes with a physical barrier between cyclists and traffic, or (3) separate southbound and northbound bicycle lanes on each side of the bridge.
It seems that the NCC decided to go with option number two.
A physical barrier to separate cycle tracks from traffic is a good idea because it will put some space between cyclists and buses that currently whiz by only a few inches away. However, I really think there’s also a need for a wider bike lane.
The bridge is a major cycling route in the Ottawa-Gatineau downtown area with over 300,000 cyclists crossing it every year. This number has been increasing by 4 % in recent years, but I think it can easily double in the near future as more and more people start using their bicycles to commute to work and for basic transportation. When this happens, the existing cycle tracks will be inadequate to handle the demand, especially during rush hours. The problems with all this is that the improvements that are being made to the bridge this summer are suppose to last for up to 25 years.