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.
View of the Proposed Confederation Boulevard-Sussex Drive Rehabilitation, King Edward to St. Patrick.
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 →
Vision Zero is a global movement dedicated to the elimination of the 1.2 million deaths and 50 million injuries caused by vehicular collisions each year. In many places the numbers are mounting, and progress will only happen by way of substantial changes in attitude and public policy. It’s time for Canada to get with the program.
As Neil Arason notes in his indispensable 2014 book No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads, Canadians tend to regard motor vehicle crashes as accidents, acts of God, or the fault of individuals engaging in aberrant behavior. This fatalistic attitude helps explain why Canada’s per capita traffic fatality rate is almost double that of the world’s best performers. To improve this lamentable toll Canadians will need to take action based on the example of countries who lead in the development and implementation of safe design.
The first step towards a Vision Zero policy is raising public awareness about the extent of the carnage, and showing how it can be avoided though improvements in regulation and design. Continue reading →