The Bank Street Canal Bridge is an iconic structure for Capital Ward and for the city, and it serves as an important link between the various communities on each side of the Rideau Canal. Bank Street is home to residential buildings, shops, restaurants, offices, community buildings and, of course, Lansdowne Park.
It is a thriving, livable street that serves both as a link between communities and a hub of activity.
It has also long been a source of concern for the residents of Capital Ward (and residents across the city). There is often speeding on the bridge, there is no safe space for bicyclists, and the sidewalks can be too narrow for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs.
Our office wants to make the bridge as safe as possible for all road users, understanding that there are unique demands for this stretch of Bank—it’s a bus route, a truck route and it is part of the transportation plan for Lansdowne Park. We talked about this extensively during the last election.
Recently, residents in the area would have received a construction notice for the bridge this aummer. The plan was to repair the top of the bridge (repave and also repair the sidewalk) and the bottom of the bridge (some concrete is falling and needs attention).
There is still a plan to proceed with the works underneath the bridge this Summer, but after significant public feedback, we worked with city staff to discuss what can be done to the top of the bridge before construction took place. The pylons that our office purchased (at a much-reduced cost than renting them) will remain on the bridge for the near future to enhance safety and distancing.
Working with city staff, we will be consulting on a design that should better satisfy all the uses of the bridge while also improving safety for all road users.
We can now re-imagine the layout of the bridge, and implement a new design that will better serve all residents.
Currently, the bridge with four motor vehicle lanes, two each in the northbound and southbound directions. The curb lanes measure 3.65m and the centre lanes measure 3.0m.
Bicyclists are expected to share the curb lane with cars, trucks, buses and transport trucks.
The sidewalk on each side of the bridge measures 2.0m.
The current design of the bridge provides no safe facilities for bicyclists. Bicyclists are expected to share the curb lane with cars, trucks, buses and transport trucks.
The danger is exacerbated by the pitch of the bridge, limiting a driver’s ability to see bicyclists on the other side of the crest of the bridge, as well as the tendency of some drivers to speed over the bridge.
For safety reasons, many bicyclists are forced onto the sidewalk, fostering conflict with pedestrians, as the sidewalks are only two meters wide.
The width of the sidewalks can also pose issues for people walking, using wheelchairs or mobility aids, people pushing strollers, or people with small children in hand. Conflict can arise when people walking in opposite directions need to pass each other. This issue is more severe in winter, when snow makes the sidewalk narrower.
These issues are nothing new. The local communities have been seeking improvements to the bridge for years, and in the municipal election, I ran on improving transportation safety in the ward and along Bank Street, including over the bridge.
Re-Designing the Bridge
With the construction planned for the bridge, our office saw this as an appropriate opportunity to address the longstanding safety issues with the bridge. We approached city staff, asking for recommendations to provide added safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists.
This was not a simple task. Being both a bus and truck route, any re-design of the bridge must accommodate large, heavy vehicles. The bridge is used as part of the Lansdowne transportation plan, allowing buses to queue for RedBlacks games and other large events. Finally, the bridge’s heritage status must be considered.
After months of collaboration with city staff, we can now present a proposed design that would provide significant safety improvements while also respecting the unique context and uses of the bridge.
The proposed design for this new layout would consist of three motor vehicle lanes--two northbound and one southbound--each measuring 3.5m. The northbound curb lane would continue to serve as the location for buses to queue for RedBlacks games and other large events.
On each side of the bridge, a multi-use pathway (MUP) would be installed. Each MUP would measure 3.1m (for reference, standard MUPs along the Rideau Canal measure 3.0m). The MUPs would be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists. A metal railing extension would be added, as the current bridge railings would not be high enough to meet provincial standards for a MUP.
It would be expected that bicyclists would ride on the right side of the street and pedestrians would walk in either direction, just as happens along Bank Street on either side of the bridge.
The MUPs would be cleared and maintained in the winter, just as the sidewalks currently are.
This design would provide two extra advantages over the current design. First, a narrowing of the roadway should help to calm traffic and slow vehicles. Speeding is a significant issue for residents in the area, and any improvements we can make would be welcome.
Additionally, this would provide extra space for pedestrians attending special events at Lansdowne. Currently, the sidewalks do not provide sufficient space for people walking to Lansdowne Park for RedBlacks games or other large events, and many people choose to walk in the roadway. The proposed MUPs would offer more space and more safety for attendees.
To view our report on on the Bank Street Canal Bridge Re-Design, including alternate designs that were considered, click here [PDF].
It is our intention to consult with residents and community associations over the summer. Due to COVID-19, we will not be able to conduct normal, in-person consultations. Digital consultations will be held, but the timing and format has not been finalized.
In the meantime, you are welcome to email us at CapitalWard@ottawa.ca.
No final decisions have been made. Any decisions will be made after consultations and will be released publicly.
A report by the city’s Traffic Services department will be presented to the September meeting of the Transportation Committee. Any re-design of the bridge would be included in that report.
Any re-design of the bridge will be implemented in 2021.
Construction on the underside of the bridge will begin this summer. Since there will be no change to the structure of the bridge, this work can be done while consultation about the design of the bridge is being conducted.