Behavioural change / Cycling

Laurier Ave bike lanes safety review, Ottawa

In 2011 the City of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, voted for a pilot to build separate bicycle lanes through the downtown corridor. After careful consideration, the city chose for Laurier Ave. amongst others for the signaled intersections along Laurier as well as the connections on either side of downtown.

The results were very promising with initial bicycle ridership on Laurier Ave tripling. So promising in fact, that city council decided after the pilot project to continue the project as permanent bike infrastructure.

Over the years, the city has been improving access to the lanes, with new connections on the west end. They also sought to improve access and visibility for cyclists on the east end by adding more green Thermoplast and more turning boxes.

As the lane had to be built within limited space, some concessions had to be made. Two (car) lanes were removed and parking was modified. This freed up some space to introduce the bike lanes. The signals were reprogrammed in order to give straight through traffic a head start before traffic could turn and cross the bike lanes.

Since the lane was built it has seen an considerable increase with trips regularly over 3500 per day in the summer, even approaching 4000 a day compared with numbers in summer 2011 which averaged around the 2500 per day.

The right turning movements have always been a concern though and the city had taken steps (education, extra signs) to warn road users of this issue. A first measure was to move the stop lines for cyclists forward so they are more visible.

In 2017, the City of Ottawa commissioned Mobycon, with more than 30 years of experience in cycling and pedestrian safety solutions, to do a safety study after a cyclist died due to a collision with a truck. After extensive consulting with all stakeholders, the city received a comprehensive report with results and recommendations. Some of those were:

  • The number of crashes per 100 million km is considerably down
  • ‘Right hooks’ are a serious problem
  • Signage is confusing and overwhelming
  • The bike lanes are not always clearly marked as bike lanes
  • Right of way exits should be narrower, but sightlines should be wider by removing some parking

The stakeholders offer a number of solutions, such as better visibility, separate bicycle signals, more green in the pathway.

Justin Goulding

‘Transportation systems should be designed to help create the places we want, rather than forcing places to respond to the transportation system we have.’

Integrated Mobility Consultant