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Advocates call for better cycling infrastructure as NCC Weekend Bikedays begin

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Ottawa cyclists took to the streets on Saturday in celebration of the National Capital Commission (NCC) kicking off Weekend Bikedays on some city roads.

Cycling advocacy groups took advantage of the day to organize a community cruise to Ottawa’s city hall in an effort to promote improved long-term cycling infrastructure. Dozens of participants started at the Canadian War Museum, including Gatineau’s own Critical Mass Ride community.

“Roads should be for people and not for dangerous vehicles, so we are here to say that we need our space – we need to share this better,” said Gatineau cyclist Laura Darche.

Saturday marked the start of the NCC’s popular Weekend Bikedays and the summer active use program, where there are nearly 20 kilometres of car-free roads for residents and visitors to use.

Between May 11 and October 14, Queen Elizabeth Driveway, the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway and the Kichi Zībī Mīkan will be open on weekends for active transportation. The Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be open for active transportation on weekends between Fifth Avenue and Somerset Street.

Advocates gathered Saturday calling for better cycling infrastructure in Ottawa on May 11, 2024 (Sam Houpt/CTV News Ottawa)

In July and August, Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be open for active transportation 24 hours a day, seven days a week between Somerset Street and Pretoria Avenue.

A cyclist of more than 25 years, Darche says she has had her fair share of close calls with motorists. She and others are calling for more protected bike lanes in the region.

“Paint is no protection. We need something physically separating us from cars everywhere,” Darche said.

Just after 10 a.m., cyclists poured out of the museum parking lot headed for city hall. Before noon, hundreds had converged at the Rink of Dreams – the first to arrive were young advocates who took part in the 5 kilometre Kidical Mass Ride.

“We’re here to make sure the roads are safer for bikers and pedestrians,” Evan Schnarr told CTV News.

Walkers and those with mobility issues traveled up from Pretoria Bridge, rallying for more accessible active transportation infrastructure. The Ottawa Longboard Community also came out in support.

“It’s allowed for a lot a lot more insight into the infrastructure and how a lot of the roads are crumbling,” said longboarder Devin Ferguson. “The ones that aren’t are extremely dangerous for riders.”

Somerset Ward Councillor Ariel Troster says there is appetite for bolstered biking infrastructure at the council table. Her office is currently pushing for cycling lanes on Gladstone Avenue and Kent Street.

“We want to have the routes that make the most sense to get places, because bikes are not just about recreation, they’re also about transportation,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ottawa cycling advocates are thinking big. Some in the crowd wore t-shirts with concept art for a “Queen Elizabeth National Urban Park.”

Cycling advocate Chris Hircock says the idea is to reinvigorate the active transportation infrastructure along Queen Elizabeth Drive.

“The NCC just opened up the parkways to active transportation today – well we want to see more of that,” he said.

“We would like to see the program extend along that full driveway. We want to see it being used for people and for park space in a way that offers more options.”

NCC Weekend Bikeday Schedule

The Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway will be open for active transportation on weekends between May 11 and Oct. 14. The parkway along the Ottawa River will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between the Aviation Parkway and St. Joseph Boulevard.

The Kichi Zībī Mīkan will be open for open for active transportation from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between May 11 and Oct. 14. The westbound lanes of the parkway will be open from Vimy Place to Carling Avenue.

The Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be open on weekends from May 11 to Oct. 14 between Fifth Avenue and Somerset Street. In July and August, the road will be open for active transportation seven days a week between Somerset Street and Pretoria Avenue.

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle

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