Alexandra Mazur, Ottawa Community News
Public consultation began on Nov. 27 for the proposal of a new stretch of separated cycling tracks on Heron Road, between Bank Street and Data Centre Road.
It’s early days for the project, but it was welcomed by many of the people who showed up that evening as a happy addition to Ottawa’s sometimes stuttered cycling network.
The proposed project will allow for unidirectional raised cycle tracks outside the curbs on either side of Heron Road and will finish at the west end of the project in multi-use pathways that will enable connections with transit stops.
The city says six existing bus bays will be taken out to provide more space for cyclists and pedestrians, and that some private property will be expropriated for the project.
Many at the public consultation were optimistic about the proposed addition, mostly because Heron Road is seen by many cyclists as a hazardous road to travel.
“There’s a lot of streets, arterials like Heron that are pretty darn scary to cycle on, and almost as scary for drivers to encounter cyclists,” said Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, who attended the public consultations.
Nathan Shyminsky lives near the Jim Durell Recreation Centre, where the public consultation was being held. He said although he bikes to work, at Heron Road and Riverside Drive, he tries his best to avoid the busy stretch where the new paths might one day be.
“Maybe I’m not the bravest cyclist, but I think a lot of people who would bike on Heron aren’t,” said Shyminsky, who added that he also avoids driving on Heron Road due to the volume and pace of traffic.
According to the city, the raised two-way cycle tracks are not only meant to allow cyclists to feel safer cycling on a busy road, but it’s also meant to fill a gap between two upcoming transportation projects. The Baseline Rapid Transit corridor project will consist of 14 kilometres of bus-only corridors connecting Baseline station at Algonquin College and Heron station.
The Bank Street Renewal project, that will see the main road reworked with new cycling track, between Riverside Drive and Ledbury Avenue, will intersect with both the BRT and the new cycling tracks on Heron Road.
The funding for the proposed Heron Road project still needs the approval of city council. If accepted, the new tracks will also act as a complement to another stretch of raised track already constructed on Heron Road, a one-way eastbound section built from Colbert Crescent to Jefferson Street.
According to Chernushenko, who’s ward is most affected by the project, it’s a big step making Ottawa a more cyclable city.
“You might say it’s only for a few blocks. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the perfect city cycling network isn’t built in a year either,” the councillor added.
Alex Wilcox, a member of Bike Ottawa, an advocacy group that works to promote cycling in the city, came to check out the plans for the proposed tracks.
“It’s nice to see the city filling in missing links, even links that aren’t quite missing links yet,” said Wilcox, referring to the anticipated need for cycling connections to the future Bank Street renewal and the Baseline Rapid Transit projects.
Wilcox said that Bike Ottawa will be involved in looking over the plans of Heron’s cycle tracks in detail, to make sure they work for Ottawa’s cyclists.
Mike Call, a paramedic, is a testament to the dedicated cycling community in the city. Call showed up to the open house, one of the few nights that reached below 10 C over the last few weeks, in head to toe reflective winter gear. He had just biked there.
“I think what they’ve done on Heron Road already with the one section is wonderful,” said Call, who bikes every day. He called Heron Road a nightmare, especially, where they’re proposing to add a lane.
“Basically, when you come down a bike lane, right around the Heron off-ramp, and you’ve got a nice bike lane there, it’s going downhill, and then it forces you immediately into traffic.” As someone who uses the stretch regularly, he said it’s a wonderful investment from the city.
As for the potential disruption to private property, the proposed line for the cycle track on the north side of the road between Gilles and Clover streets cuts across people’s front lawns and their driveways, and some homes are more affected than others. Chernushenko said he hasn’t heard any complaints yet, but that he’s always prepared when private property is being expropriated for city projects.