Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Bike lanes on Spencer

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I want to thank the many of you who have written to me in the past week-and-a-half about the proposal to put bike lanes on Spencer, replacing the parking. I’ve appreciated the feedback focused on the merits of the proposal. As I noted in my communications, I have been re-considering the proposal to move ahead with this initiative, approaching this with an open mind in the spirit of a re-set in the consultations.

We’ve received in the vicinity of 160 emails after my team and I flyered the neighbourhood, and those have been around 55% opposed to proceeding, with an additional number in which we can discern no clear support. Some of this opposition was sometimes on the basis of assertions with which I disagree, but much of it has resonated with me. Nearly all has been from residents of the area, or who cycle through it.

On the basis of both the number of those opposed, as well as the arguments raised in many of those notes, I have determined that we cannot demonstrate to the City that the support among residents is high enough to effect this change.

I’d like to share a couple of thoughts from residents.

As a someone who cycles on Spencer from time to time (mainly en route to the Superstore) I have written to you in the past about the poor road surface on the street. This has now been fixed and the street is a pretty smooth ride.

The reason I use Spencer is the low level of relatively slow car traffic with or without parked cars. I don't think that adding bike lanes would improve my ride under current traffic volumes. In some ways it might worsen it. Currently I'm entitled to the complete lane on Spencer and use the road on an equal basis with cars. To date I have not had any conflicts with other road users. Perhaps this is due to the residential nature of the neighbourhood or the fact that I tend to ride at off-peak times. Putting in a bike lane would reduce the road space I can use and other road users would now except me to use it as well setting up a your-space/my-space dynamic.

I am not against bike infrastructure. I strongly support it. My preference is segregated protected bike routes or MUPs whenever possible followed by quiet residential streets. However, in this case I don't think bike lanes on Spencer would improve my ride and might even worsen it.

Another resident writes:

Whereas I consider bike sharrows on Wellington-Richmond and bike lanes on Scott St as appropriate and helpful, I don’t think neighbourhood backroads like Spencer need them.  ‘Unnecessary’ bike features may actually ‘harm the biking cause’ among taxpayers/drivers.

… Walking down Spencer this sunny spring Sunday afternoon, there were 11 cars parked (about half of them near Holland, the rest scattered).  A mother was biking with two young children, so I said hello and asked if she lived in the neighbourhood (yes), did she know about the bike lane idea (yes), what did she think? She worries taking parked cars off the street will lead to faster driving.

She had a small child (eg., ~5 yrs old) riding independently (near the middle of the road) and another younger child on one of those attached-behind half-bike things.

That’s pretty normal for Spencer.

I was a bit surprised that even a mother with kids biking on Spencer isn’t big on bike lanes.

And finally,

Re bike lanes on Spencer: I do not see the point of creating *sub-standard width* bike lanes on Spencer. The minimum bike lane width necessary for cyclists, in order to have enough room for trailers and to avoid cracks, grates, and debris, has always been 1.5m.

I'm not a fan of on-street car parking -- it endangers cyclists. But there's no point in removing it for lanes that won't work because they're too narrow. As well, if you take off the parked cars and increase the perceived width of the street, you may actually allow motorists to think they can travel faster on that street.

Armstrong/Spencer is a good alternative route to Wellington/Richmond, particularly with the increased traffic seen there recently. But it's more important to address the entire streetscape and traffic experience on it, IMHO. I would argue that keeping speeds low (30km/h) and reducing aggressive driving on that street is more important.

I’ve received multiple notes in the same vein.

Last spring, in good faith, I believed I had the support necessary to move ahead with this change after it was requested by many. Dozens of you have written in the past days with your endorsement. However, the community’s view has become much clearer since we renewed the consultation. 

The sentiments expressed above have resonated with me, and the numbers are clearly not in favour of this proposal. I will not be asking the City to proceed with the elimination of parking or the implementation of painted lanes.

Raised intersections at the intersections of Ross, Smirle and Huron will still be implemented; those should help slow traffic.

I am happy to meet with people tonight at the Hall of Peace at 241 Northwestern from 7-9 as scheduled, though I will not be conducting that meeting as a town hall as had been planned. Rather, it will be run as a drop-in – come by if you’d like to chat further one-on-one.

Thank you for your continued engagement. I continue to believe we need to do a better job of protecting cyclists, and many of you who have written – even in opposition to this proposal – agree. I hope that over time we’ll continue to make progress doing so.

Posted April 25, 2017