Groups Act to Protect Cyclists Right to Use Parkway

      In January 1998, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton announced its intention to cancel the planned twinning of the Ottawa International Airport Parkway, a popular route for both commuter and club cyclists. Despite the dumping of twinning plans, Regional staff submitted a request to Regional Transportation Committee to designate the Parkway as a "controlled access roadway". The effect of such a designation is that future modifications or widening would be made without considering the Parkway's use by cyclists or by pedestrians (who currently cross the road) since both would be prohibited. If approved, it would clear the way for the Parkway to become a freeway. Staff's report states it considers Highway 17, another controlled access roadway, to be unsafe for cyclists due to high vehicular speeds, although no evidence was offered to substantiate this. In an apparent acknowledgement of the Region's declaration to cancel the twinning of the Parkway, staff's report said that cyclists would be permitted to use it "for the present time".

      In February 1998, a representative of the Ottawa Bicycle Club attended Committee hearings to object to staff's proposal. The Club made the following comments:

      1. As a general principle, the Club is opposed to any prohibition of cyclists from legally riding on roadways.

      2. Access to roadways is not just a transportation issue but a civil liberties issue too. Cycling on public highways is a well established right dating back over a century. To put this in perspective, driving a motor vehicle is a privilege granted by licence, not a right.

      3. The Parkway has been used by the Club as a route on its Sunday rides since it's opening.

      4. Some of members of the Club fly to out-of-town destinations with their bicycles. They cycle to the Airport.

      5. The Club challenges the claim that due to high vehicular speeds cyclists are not safe on controlled access roadways like Highway 17. Freeways have not been shown to be inherently dangerous for cyclists. In approximately half of US states cyclists are permitted to ride on the shoulders of inter-state highways with no evidence of any safety problems. The Club suggests insufficient pavement width, not vehicular speed, is the problem on Highway 17. [The Commissioner of Transportation interrupted to express agreement.] Wider lanes or shoulders should be included in designs to accommodate cyclists.

      Transportation Committee rejected staff's proposal. Cyclists will continue to enjoy their right to use the Airport Parkway.

      March 1998
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