Almost two years ago I stumbled on the National Capital Commission’s plan to include a narrow, completely unprotected bike lane in the redesign of the Alexandria Bridge. In response I wrote a post explaining how this design could easily be made a great deal safer for cyclists, and more ecologically sound.
My proposal for safe active transit in downtown Ottawa runs counter to the long-cherished ideal of a national capital held together by parkways. In such a vision, urban cyclists and pedestrians are merely an impediment to the experience of driving around distracted by tulips, grass, historic monuments, and the occasional splash of colourful fabric.
This vision of downtown Ottawa as a touring motorist’s paradise is baked into the NCC’s 1959 founding document, the National Capital Act, which refers to “any street, road, lane, thoroughfare or driveway” as a highway—i.e. a place for cars. The National Capital Act served to implement the 1950 Gréber Plan for the city that we now know call Autowa. The Gréber plan is a hefty 400-page tome, but one can get the basic idea from the remarkable ten-minute film Capital Plan, available in full on the NFB website. Continue reading