Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Open letter to XYZ: please don't park in the bike lane

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To the management of XYZ Heating and Cooling,

On Tuesday morning, I snapped the attached picture of one of your trucks blocking most of a block of access to the Laurier bike lane on Tuesday morning. This is illegal, and I hope it won't happen again. There is, just to the left of the truck, a whole loading lane available for deliveries and contractors of which I hope your staff will take advantage in future (see in Google Street View how it works). I'm glad we had the chance to chat this morning, and I hope this letter will lead to a discussion not just at your firm, but all businesses that rely on motor vehicles. 

Yesterday, one Kitchissippi resident staged a small protest when a bike lane was blocked by a Shred-it truck. He blocked a car lane for a short while to make a point. He thought it was telling that very quickly there were police and City employees on scene. Rarely do we see such a response when, as in the photo attached, motor vehicles park willy-nilly in the safe cycling facilities we have.

Ottawa is in transition. On many of our roads, traffic congestion has reached the point where motorists are frustrated. I realize that that has a cost. It's not good to have people stuck in traffic. It hurts productivity and inflates the cost of goods and services. On streets in Kitchissippi such as Parkdale or Island Park Drive that are hopelessly clogged, more and more of that traffic winds up on our side streets, traveling at speeds high enough to make people fearful of enjoying neighbourhoods that are supposed to be walkable. Right across the City, we're spending more and more money on trying to deal with cut-through traffic with impediments to speeding, and councillors' offices like mine spend expensive staff time trying to address the problem.

There's no quick fix. We're building the core denser and higher to rein in urban sprawl ahead of being able to deal with the congestion issues. Not that the City isn't trying. One of the most important solutions is to get people out of their cars and onto public transit. Building the multi-billion dollar Confederation Line and extending the Trillium Line is critical to our city's sustainability.

More cheaply, we need to give people every opportunity to walk or cycle and leave the car at home. To that end, the City has built the Laurier bike lanes, opened new pedestrian/cycling bridges, the Trillium Line path, the Churchill segregated cycling track, and just this month in Kitchissippi some critical multi-use paths around the Bayview station. One can travel nearly from Carling/Churchill to City Hall and beyond without mixing with traffic (which both drivers and cyclists appreciate). Our cycling and traffic staff are champing at the bit to start knitting together the gaps. On every development project and road re-build in Kitchissippi, I'm having a cycling conversation to continue to incrementally build out our segregated infrastructure. There's never enough money to do it all, and where we haven't chosen to build out even more bike lanes, the City is at least using signage and paint to try to raise driver awareness of cyclists on the road and to give them some space.

I've seen a transition in people's attitudes towards cyclists, even among those who may not even own a bike. Frustration at sitting through a couple of traffic light cycles at Parkdale and Wellington while cyclists zip through is slowly turning to bigger-picture thinking. If three or four cyclists zip by, what if those were cars waiting in the same queue? As one of my colleagues on Council says, imagine what all that resistance to putting more of the cost of operating OC Transpo onto the tax roll and building bike lanes would turn into if bus riders and cyclists all hopped in their cars for a few days instead. The cost of that congestion would be staggering.

But, not everyone is thinking along those lines. I continue to get letters and calls every week asking Council to make it more difficult for people to choose cycling. And, the point of this letter, we see the kind of behaviour in the attached picture by your employee. The City has made an excellent effort for which it has to be applauded to keep cars and bikes separated, but this thoughtless parking job renders the effort and expense wasted. When cyclists encounter an obstacle like this, they're back in traffic and vulnerable. That's no academic concern. Every year, cyclists die on Ottawa roads. Every headline about a dead cyclist keeps that many more people from getting out of their cars, which perpetuates a vicious cycle of congestion.

Greater enforcement by the City is only part of the answer. Almost every week, my office gets calls and emails asking us to dispatch By-law to more locations than they can possibly get to in a timely way. We need every resident's help to make sure that the infrastructure that we're building works to reduce congestion for everyone. When everyone does their part, and we increase the number of people using alternatives, there will be more relaxed car trips, more parking available, less time spent waiting at congested intersections and more willingness to live in a denser city that chews up less farm land. I recognize that businesses like XYZ will be using trucks to serve customers for years to come. I'm sure that if you think about it, you'll see the benefit to your business of giving cyclists their space.

Thanks for your consideration.

Posted January 28, 2016