A War of Attrition on Cars

It’s a strong statement, but a defensible one, that the city of Ottawa has declared war on the private car as a method of personal transportation. It’s not presented as such by the city, and probably not understood as such, but recent and planned moves to provide more sidewalk space and bike paths inevitably reduce the flow of vehicular traffic: there is no magic expansion of street width. It is clear that on some streets, the city has decided that the interests of pedestrians and cyclists should outweigh those of car drivers. Consider the recent imposition of limitations on car traffic on Laurier (bike lanes), O’Connor (bike lanes), Main (bike lanes, sidewalks), and the limitations proposed for Elgin (sidewalks, pub spaces): all of these reduce the flow of vehicular traffic.

 

We can all appreciate the city’s good intentions in providing more safe spaces for pedestrians and bicyclists. But the city has failed, in my view, to be transparent in acknowledging the impact of such measures, and in responding to that impact:

• Announcements of new bicycle paths or widened sidewalks focus on the benefits of such measures – and fair enough. But they also tend to minimize the impact on cars. Travel times for vehicles will change only slightly, it is asserted, but no evidence is offered. And the loss of on street parking seems numerically small, but no evidence of impact is offered.


• But if you propose less capacity for vehicular traffic, it seems reasonable to offer more capacity in public transportation. However, the larger capacity LRT line – and only the relatively short Phase One – does not come online until sometime – no one is telling when – next year.

 

Perhaps there is a better explanation, but the city’s strategy of favouring cyclists and pedestrians in the downtown targets car drivers with little or no offsetting benefit.

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