Laurier Bike Lane

It seems that everyone wants to hate on the new Laurier bike lane.

Laurier Bike Lane
Laurier Bike Lane

This new segregated bike lane, stretching from Elgin to Bronson, has a lot of people huffing and puffing.  Why?  According to opponents, the new bike lane will:

  • Cause an increase in traffic
  • Make it difficult to find parking
  • Make it difficult for people to make deliveries
  • Impede emergency vehicles
  • Act as a barrier to people living with disabilities

The lane, which officially opens today, is a pilot project to encourage people to cycle to work.  As far as I know, this segregated lane is the first of its kind in Ottawa, and judging by all the controversy, it may be the last.

As an avid street cyclist, I am used to biking without bike lanes.  I bike all over the downtown core, most of which is bike-lane free.  This means that, out of respect for pedestrians, I bike alongside traffic.  Although I have never been hit, I have come close on many occasions to being doored in the face by parked cars or run off the road by motor-vehiclists that forget to shoulder check.  It is instances like these that always make me covet the security of the segregated bike lanes found all over Montreal.  So while I don’t need bike lanes, I welcome them with open arms.

The argument that a single bike lane will cause more traffic is a hilarious one.  Every person on a bike is another car off the road.  If you don’t expect traffic in the middle of the city, I really don’t know what else to say to you.  Maybe buy a bike?

I also understand that this one bike lane limits parking on Laurier.  I guess my argument here is the same as above: parking downtown blows no matter whether or not there is an additional bike lane on a section of a street.  The average person won’t be too disadvantaged if they need to walk an extra block or two to get to work.  

Many people have suggested that it would have been a better idea to paint the lanes rather than segregate them.  This would definitely alleviate many of the aforementioned problems, but it would defeat the whole purpose from a cyclist’s standpoint.  The reality is, people drive, stall and even park in bike lanes all the time. 

The last two arguments are actually more serious.  It is unfair to impose additional barriers on people living with disabilities and it may be dangerous if emergency vehicles are not able to do their job.  These groups should have been better consulted during the planning process in order to prevent some of the upset that has been surrounding the construction of this lane.  That said, Montreal has had segregated bike lanes in the city core for as long as I can remember, which seems to point to the fact that these problems can be solved peacefully.

In the meantime, I am excited to start cycling in Ottawa’s only segregated bike lane.