Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ottawa’s scenic parkways to close to traffic again this year | CBC News

Must read

Following a heated debate last year, the National Capital Commission (NCC) has announced it’s again closing several roads to vehicle traffic this year to make way for active transportation such as walking, cycling and in-line skating.

Starting May 11 and until Oct. 14, the NCC will close a portion of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicle traffic on weekends and holiday Mondays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The driveway between Somerset Street W. and Fifth Avenue will be car-free during those times, according to a news release Tuesday.

The Kichi Zībī Mīkan, formerly the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, will close between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., from Vimy Place to Carling Avenue, during the same period.

The Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway will close to traffic between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., from Aviation Parkway to St. Joseph Boulevard in Orléans.

The NCC, which manages the scenic parkways, began reserving a portion of Queen Elizabeth Driveway for pedestrians and cyclists early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was responding to calls for more public space for people to exercise while remaining physically distanced, and the popularity of the initiative inspired its expansion, the Crown corporation said. 

Smaller closure this summer

Through July and August, Queen Elizabeth Driveway from Somerset Street to Pretoria Avenue will remain closed 24/7. The NCC suggested it will put on activities along the roadway during that time.

“NCC Weekend Bikedays transforms our scenic parkways and shorelines into destinations in themselves,” said NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum in the news release. 

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners and stakeholders to create spaces and experiences that make our region a wonderful place to live and visit.” 

Cyclists ride along the westbound lane of the Kichi Zībī Mīkan in Ottawa in 2020. The NCC closed that parkway and others to traffic early in the COVID-19 pandemic to make way for active transportation. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The NCC said according to its recent online survey, both tourists and residents are “highly satisfied” with the active-use parkways during warmer months. 

Electronic counters captured more than 240,000 visits to these three parkways last season, according to the commission.

But the program became a point of contention last year when Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and Nussbaum sparred publicly over the initiative. City councillors have also waded into the debate.

Sutcliffe argued last year that the closures at some parts of the driveway creates “traffic pressure” for residents in the Glebe, limits accessibility to Lansdowne Park during major events and creates barriers for emergency vehicles attempting to service the area.

This year’s 24/7 change does not extend past Pretoria to Fifth.

“This is a positive development to address past concerns about congestion and emergency vehicles in this one specific section of [driveway],” Sutcliffe wrote on social media.

“I appreciate the collaboration from the NCC.”

The NCC also said in its news release it’s considering whether to install bike lanes along the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Colonel By Drive to separate cyclists from what are currently multi-use pathways along the Rideau Canal.

Latest article