a 2km MUP from Blair Station to La Cité collégiale

In thought exercise: cycling north from Blair Station I imagined what a MUP from Blair Station connecting up to the new CSEC MUP would look like.

If you extend the MUP up to La Cité collégiale it comes out at just over 2.25km.

This would make Blair Station a short bike ride to and from La Cité collégiale, the NRC campus, and CSEC.  It also gives you tons of catchment from the houses on the west side of Bathgate.

UPDATE: Feedback from planner added at bottom.  ENDUPDATE

It would look something like this yellow line

Screen Shot - Google Earth - Bathgate MUP - flat

(You can ignore the dots, it’s just because I’m making straight-line segments for Google Earth to measure the path. Some of the dots indicate intersections but most are just to get the line around curves.)

UPDATE 2014-07-01: It would be bidiectional and run where the sidewalk is now along the north side of City Park Drive, turning to the east side of City Park Drive and continuing up the east side of Bathgate Drive. The current sidewalk along the west side of Bathgate and west side of City Park turning into south side would be unchanged. ENDUPDATE

Why not ride on the street? Well the speed “limit” on Bathgate is 40 near Ogilvie and then turns into 50 once it’s in the straightaway. A long unobstructed view means people are going to be going much faster than 50. And cars going much faster than 50 plus cyclists means a dead cyclist if there’s a collision. Which is why you always separate cyclists above 30km/h.

One concern might be that the sidewalk that this MUP would replace may be too busy.

One way is to use Google Street View to count the pedestrians along the route.  From start to finish I count 3, although none of the new CSEC-adjacent Bathgate east sidewalk existed when they did the streetview (there were east sidewalk segments before and after that portion on Bathgate).

Another way is to walk the route.  So I took 51 photos, on three different days, at different times of day.  Here are 5 example photos.  You decide whether this sidewalk is too busy to make into a MUP.

IMG_9062-20140514

IMG_9085-20140514

IMG_9204-20140520

IMG_9221-20140520

IMG_1403-1131403-20140521

See the complete collection: Bathgate MUP collection
or the individual photo sets:
south to Blair Station – May 14, 2014;
north from Blair Station – May 20, 2014;
north from Blair Station – May 21, 2014.

This really should have been covered in the Blair Station TOD study.  But the survey is 600m directly centred on the station, even though the access from the south means crossing the Queensway, which makes it extremely difficult and unlikely to get many sources or destinations there.  I think they should have considered the employment and school to the north of Ogilvie as destinations, since there are thousands of government employees and students going there every weekday.  Additionally they should have considered the housing north of Ogilvie as sources of transit users.  And a good cycling network would make for a much larger catchment area.

The Blair Station TOD is impossible to find on the city’s website, but I found this: TOD Plans Nov 27, 2013 Part 1 draft (PDF), TOD Plans Nov 27, 2013 Part 2 draft (PDF), TOD Plans Nov 27, 2013 Part 3 draft (PDF) at ottwatch.ca

You can also see the outdated posterboards at http://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents.ottawa.ca/files/documents/tod_boards_24.pdf  Beware: in the June 2013 posterboards orange dots are “future on-street bicycle lane”, whereas in the Oct 2013 slide from the Nov 2013 draft, orange dots are “future dedicated cycling facility”.  Does “dedicated cycling facility” mean a separated lane?  I would hope so, but I don’t know.  The cycling on the June 2013 poster is also a different mix than the Oct 2013 draft slide below.

Blair TOD cycling 2013-11-27 draft

The proposal is… just not quite right.  The green dotted future MUP is on the wrong side, the south side of City Park Drive, which has many more car entrances and exits and more foot traffic.  The little strip of orange dotted dedicated cycling facility on City Park Drive north is nice, but it doesn’t connect to anything.  You go from a MUP on the south side of the street, then ??? to a dedicated lane on the east side of the street for a few metres, and then you’re at Ogilvie, which is an incredibly dangerous multi-lane speedway.

The path they want you to take, I guess, is to take a future MUP east from Blair Station to a future dedicated cycling facility on Blair, get across to the east side of Blair, ride for a few metres and then get dumped onto dangeous unprotected cycling up Blair north of Ogilvie.  This delivers no one to the school, doesn’t connect to the CSEC MUP, and has you unprotected in fast suburban traffic with lots of intersections up Blair.

CSEC is new.  The time to do an intervention for people’s travel habits is when they first start working at a new location.  That’s not me talking, that’s Dr David Halpern, Director of the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK, speaking at the Canada School of Public Service (or similar talks he’s given).  The time to put in a MUP to get people cycling from the bus and future train to CSEC is now.  Once they start driving, you will never shift their commute.

In an ideal world this should have been addressed when they spent a fortune making a bright new empty sidewalk along Bathgate Drive that connects to a CSEC MUP.

(As a side note, this MUP would greatly benefit from a large, secure bike storage area at Blair Station; additionally it would be nice if we could take bikes on the future train during commuting hours.)

The lead on the Blair Station TOD was

Peter Giles
613-580-2424, ext. 21667
Fax: 613-580-2459
E-mail: Peter.Giles@ottawa.ca

– contact info from LRT Station Area Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Studies – Overview


UPDATE: I contacted Mr. Giles and shared this blog post with him.  He provided me with more information and with thoughtful feedback.  He wasn’t able to provide the full Blair TOD as it seems the city’s systems simply can’t provide it online (this seems to be a recurring and serious issue in terms of citizen engagement with planning).

He indicated that the primary focus of the TOD plans is zoning, and to “protect pedestrian and cycling connections in the immediate station area (within 800m walk of the station platform)”.  Anything else in terms of connections is supposed to go in the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and Infrastructure Master Plan.

He provided me with a link to the Transportation Master Plan Primary Urban Cycling Map (PDF).  It has Blair as a “spine route” and no infrastructure on Bathgate.  Extract of the relevant section below – thick green is Cross-town Bikeway (the main Ottawa cycling route), blue is Spine Route and red and I’m guessing lowest quality/priority is Major Pathway.  Aviation Parkway gets a Major Pathway.  My personal opinion is that having Spine Routes on multi-lane suburban speedways like Blair (the n-s blue line on the right), Ogilvie, Montreal Road and St. Laurent just puts cyclists at enormous risk without bringing any infrastructure or modal shift benefits.

TMP Primary Urban Cycling - Blair Station extract

Blair Station and north to just below Metz Crescent (roughly half-way up Bathgate) is Ward 11 – Councillor Tim Tierney.  (Ward 11 map PDF.)

La Cité collégiale is between Den Haag in the north and Des Pionniers in the south, which is Ward 13 – Councillor Peter Clark.  (Ward 13 map PDF.)

ENDUPDATE

thought exercise: cycling north from Blair Station

blair_station_cycling-crop

Red: pedestrian and cyclist contention, or crossing intersection (car and cyclist contention)
Yellow: some pedestrian and cyclist contention
Green: no pedestrian and cyclist contention
Cyan: multi-use pathway (MUP)

Section 1: some pedestrians
Section 2: Basically zero pedestrians.  While this may look like it fronts on houses, they are suburban mall houses, with a giant wall all along the sidewalk (see image below).
Section 3: Very dangerous crossing of Ogilvie.
Section 4: This fronts on a drive-in Starbucks and an old-age home, so in theory there could be some pedestrians.

CSE MUP: public multi-use pathway (currently closed while CSE in under construction; see image below)

I’m not proposing this as an ideal route.  It’s just a thought exercise about how a cyclist could actually get safely (i.e. not on the road) from Blair Station to the NRC campus (or with a longer route to Cite Collegiale).  I’m not a vehicular cyclist and I will never be.  I’m certainly not a suburban mall and highway vehicular cyclist.  The sidewalks selected are basically unused (they don’t front on anything but fence, blank building walls and trees), I can’t imagine they get more than a dozen pedestrians a day.  You’d want to count pedestrians and if the numbers made sense, change the sidewalks to be multi-use pathways.  You’d also want to do some work around the bus stops and particularly at the Ogilvie crossing to make it safe for everyone.

If you want to add Cite Collegiale you basically make the entire east-side sidewalk on Bathgate a MUP.  The entire east sidewalk north past the old-age home fronts on uninterrupted government-owned trees, no one walks there.  You’d just need to figure out some treatment around the few bus stops.

Ideally there would also be secure bike parking at Blair Station, for people who don’t want to take their bike back and forth on the (forthcoming) train.

This also assumes that the central road through the NRC campus continues to be blocked as it is now, so that pedestrians and cyclists have to use either Bathgate or Blair to go north.

Transit-Oriented Development?

I thought enabling this kind of cycling connectivity was part of the planning they would do in the Blair Station Transit-Oriented Development plan, but it isn’t.  The TOD plans have two built-in assumptions:

  1. Because the LRT is commuter rail, you are arriving from elsewhere.  As far as the TOD plans are concerned, no one lives or works near the LRT stations (where near is a 20 minute walk or ~5 minute bike ride).
  2. When you arrive, you work or live directly within the 800m station zone, in some mixed-use fantasy development that spontaneously springs up in what are currently parking lots around single-level malls.  You are enclosed in the station zone, which exists in total isolation.  It’s basically just the suburban office park next to a mall, with more residential and towers.

That kind of development does happen to some extent outside Vancouver, but Vancouver housing costs a bajillion dollars, and this kind of development basically gives you enclosed nodes, not stations as the new village centres for existing housing and employment.

“Burnaby doesn’t have a traditional downtown centre, like in Langley or Maple Ridge or Chilliwack,” Mr. Geller said. “Burnaby has a collection of shopping districts and business parks.”

from Globe and Mail –  Transit fuelling Burnaby’s growth – March 6, 2013

This is not modern development.  This is just Place du Portage with housing and a bunch of theoretical walking and cycling and public space amenities that no one will ever use.  Inward-facing, isolated from the surrounding context.

You can see from the September 2013 TOD information session that the Blair scope includes mostly the mall and its parking lots, and a tiny skim of housing surrounding it.  The vast housing to the north and the major employment and school nodes to the north get not even a sketch of connectivity.

Blair TOD – Pedestrian and Cycling Network (PDF) – all on-street cycling.  In the suburbs.  Where no one expects to see a bike.  Particularly laughable is the existing cycling on Ogilvie, which by putting cyclists in high-speed traffic is roughly like aiming bullets at the cyclists and seeing if they can dodge.  Other than vague-at-best “bike on the road and get there somehow” there’s no indication of how commuters would get by bike from Blair to CSE, CSIS, NRC (all with thousands of workers minutes from the station) or to Cite Collegiale.

Blair TOD – Street Network (PDF) on the other hand has bold black lines of car traffic arrowing everywhere.  Who would ever walk or cycle to or from a station?  Park-and-ride or “kiss-and-ride” are clearly the main modes imagined.

Blair TOD – Conceptual Images A (PDF) shows a fantasy of the mall turning into parkland and mid-rise.

The actual streetscape

The suburban housing shield wall ensuring almost no one will set foot on the City Park north and east sidewalk curve.

City Park Drive - wall

The new CSE MUP has very nice signage.  Unfortunately the MUP is blocked off until the end of construction I guess.

CSE MUP 1

CSE MUP 2

Cycling, Walking & Transit in Ottawa – updated plans

The city has to update its major plans every five years.

They’ve bundled together the update of the plans under the heading “Liveable Ottawa”.  This includes:

  • Official Plan
  • Infrastructure Master Plan
  • Transportation Master Plan
  • Cycling Plan
  • Pedestrian Plan

Of these the most important is the Official Plan.  When something is challenged to the OMB, one of the tests is “what does the city’s own plan say?”  If the Official Plan isn’t clear, then it becomes hard to defend against developers at the OMB.

The other plans provide an overview of the city’s goals, but to be frank, the city (and the citizens) have not done a good job of holding particularly to the pedestrian plan in the past.  It is important that citizens contribute to and understand the plans, and then hold councillors accountable when they don’t follow their own city plans.  Every future vote should be based on the direction stated in the plan.  Instead votes tend to be seen as standalone, isolated events.

The latest round of consultations was scheduled to start September 23, 2013 at City Hall, but has been rescheduled following the tragic bus-train crash.

The overall information is available at

ottawa.ca/liveableottawa

and the consultation page is http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/information-sessions-fall-2013

In addition to attending information sessions, you can read the documents and provide feedback directly by email to planning@ottawa.ca

Twitter hashtag: #liveableottawa

Schedule of releases and events

  • released June 2013 – draft Official Plan
  • released Sept 2013 – draft Infrastructure Master Plan
  • Oct 9, 2013 – drafts of Transportation Master Plan, Ottawa Cycling Plan and Ottawa Pedestrian Plan – see http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/draft-master-plans-now-available – special joint meeting of Transportation Committee and Transit Commission
  • Oct 15, 2013information session at Ottawa City Hall – 4pm to 8pm
  • Oct 16, 2013 – Consideration of the Transportation Master Plan at Transit Commission
  • Oct 17, 2013 – information session at Kanata Recreation Complex – Hall A
    100 Walter Baker Place – 4pm to 8pm
  • Oct 22, 2013 – information session at Walter Baker Sports Centre – 2nd floor Food Court, 100 Malvern Drive – 4pm to 8pm
  • Oct 24, 2013 – information session at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex – Orléans, Covent Glen Room, 1490 Youville Drive – 4pm to 8pm
  • Nov 8, 2013 – Consideration of Official Plan and Infrastructure Master Plan at Planning Committee
  • Nov 15, 2013 – Consideration of Transportation Master Plan, Ottawa Cycling Plan, and Ottawa Pedestrian Plan at Transportation Committee
  • Nov 26, 2013 – Approval of all Master Plans by Council
  • Dec 11, 2013 – Consideration of Official Plan amendment by-law by Council

You can also see the above schedule at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/project-timelines

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future

For good and for ill.

I am no expert, but my read on this story is:

One man liked to go fast on his bike.  He considered himself an expert cyclist.  He was worried if they built a separate dedicated bike lane, it might fill with slow, incompetent cyclists and he would be required to use it, suffering a lifetime of slow imperfect cycling misery.

So he devoted his life to blocking all possibility of separated bike lanes, anywhere in the US.  (With the spillover effect of blocking them in Canada too.)

And he did it in a very intelligent way: not simply as a single advocate, but by building up a system of engineering design standards.

There is a magic to engineering standards: no one ever asks where they came from or whether they’re applicable to the current location, because they are The Standard.

This is how US Interstate Highway Standards, designed to ensure new highways were forgiving to very many bored drivers going very fast through the middle of nowhere, ended up applied to the existing centres of cities, where they make no sense.  Standards designed for a situation where the only obstacles are highway edges and other cars were applied to dense urban fabrics full of pedestrians and cyclists and transit.

In Ottawa, Greber proposed a street-level boulevard east-west across the city, the Queensway, but because the city wanted sweet sweet provincial money and the MTO will only build to The Standard of the highway, we got an elevated highway cutting downtown in two instead.  Despite the fact that having a highway in a dense urban environment is, you know, stupid.

So to get back to the topic, this guy was playing a zero-sum game.  If he was to Win The Road for his style of fast cycling, he decided everyone else had to lose.  And so they did.

There are other approaches that can be taken.

One is to realise that the city is not the same as a highway in the middle of a forest, and to design The Standard (for cars, for cyclists, for pedestrians and for transit) accordingly.  Another is to recognize that every situation is not a black and white zero-sum game.  In fact, this vehicular cycling guy could have been a hero of cycling, if he had only advocated for the rights of cyclists to use roads and played no role in the discussion of separated bike lanes.  It could have been a win for cyclists who like to go fast on the road, and a win for cyclists who prefer to ride in protected lanes.  Win-win.

Instead, thanks in part to this guy, we have dead girls and fat children.  Talk about spending 40 years changing the course of the future for the worse.

The good news is there are people like Jan Gehl, who spent 40 years changing the course of the future for the better in their corner of the world.  As Taras Grescoe said about Gehl in Straphanger

I can see how, as a lifetime achievement, making your hometown demonstrably safer, healthier, and more attractive…has a lot to recommend it.

Which role are you going to choose?