Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Your thoughts on opening Byron to pedestrians

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Last summer, I worked with the City and residents to effect a temporary opening of Byron Avenue between Redwood and Golden to pedestrians by restricting the street to local-only traffic with barriers to discourage through-traffic. That was well-received by many for creating additional space for exercise and I saw it well-used by walkers, joggers and cyclists. The measure was temporary and was removed in the autumn to accommodate snow-plowing. I am exploring whether another summer is possible given the unlikelihood that the pandemic will be over. If I can find a way to accomplish it, I would like to.

To the point of this post, though, in September I received a petition from a group called Living Byron summarizing the support they’ve heard (and who individually emailed me) from more than 180 people who live in the neighbourhood asking that Byron in the same stretch be more permanently restricted. Unfortunately, while I was expecting to see the petition and talk to residents about it early this winter, it fell through the cracks until recently.

The most popular approach, among those who signed the petition, would be to close Byron to vehicular traffic at a few locations. The petitioners cite Clemow Avenue as a real-world example. Other suggestions include alternating one-way directions (funneling in from either side to Fraser) for example. Or, it’s been suggested that permanently closing the intersections at Redwood to Byron, and at Fraser, might accomplish the same thing. I’m sure there are multiple other ways to accomplish the same goal.

The feedback from residents that my office received was not, however, uniformly supportive. We heard from residents of streets like Golden, Dovercourt, Fraser and others that the closure was putting further stress on their streets as people sought ways to get around the vehicular restriction. Some residents on Richmond who have been facing vibration issues as well as excessive speeds and construction traffic have been vociferous opponents of permanent modifications.

It’s important to note the mechanics of how this could be implemented. The decision is not mine as councillor to make. There are a few elements that would need to fall into place before the City could make a determination to effect permanent restrictions. First, in our first conversations with the City they would like to ensure that there has been a robust public consultation. They also have concerns with considerations such as emergency access and garbage collection. And, there would need to be a way to fund the implementation of any modifications.

The message that I have gotten from the City is that even with a petition, they are not in a position to proactively begin a study and then fund its recommendations. The most likely path forward would be for myself (working with Councillor Kavanagh) to undertake our own consultation to determine residents’ receptiveness to this. If that support is adequately demonstrated, we would have a greater chance of succeeding with staff support on a motion at Council to ask the City to try to achieve this in a way acceptable to it and to residents to at least get a plan on the table. I believe there are likely ways to accomplish funding with things like development and parks benefits, but those would take time to be clear and actually materialize.

My question to residents, then, is whether you are amenable to achieving some kind of permanent restriction on vehicular through-traffic on Byron from Redwood to Golden? What concerns does that raise for you? What would be your suggestions for accomplishing it in a way that mitigates those concerns?

If the response I hear from you is positive, I’d be pleased to try to find a way to work with the City to try to accomplish it. I would need to be in a position to demonstrate to the City that there is real appetite in the community to do this. My caution is that neither City approval nor funding is certain, and this is not likely to be a quick process. In the meantime, any restrictions put in place this summer would be temporary and covid-related.

Please email me at with your thoughts on the matter by March 15, and please include your postal code to help me understand better the feedback I get. I'm sure this will generate some social media discussion, but my ask in order to capture everything is that you use email as well to ensure we capture your comments. My staff will be collating those and presenting me with a what-we-heard summary that I can share before taking any further steps in this direction.

Posted February 19, 2021