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Bikes vs. cars debate ignites municipal campaign

Coun. Catherine McKenney’s plan to spend big on cycling if elected mayor has jolted Ottawa’s mayoral campaign out of a late summer slumber.

McKenney’s pledge to borrow and spend a quarter of a billion dollars over four years just on cycling grabbed a lot of attention online and on the streets. That is $250 million, just on cycling infrastructure. McKenney says it will fundamentally transform Ottawa into a world-class cycling city.

Candidate Mark Sutcliffe immediately responded by suggesting McKenney’s plan would be focused mostly in the core, at the expense of the suburbs. Sutcliffe’s more modest plan is for $100 million over four years, on roads, cycling and all infrastructure.

Candidate Bob Chiarelli rejected both plans as too expensive and says he will not earmark new money for cycling infrastructure at all. Instead, he is pledging to cancel any new road construction and fix Ottawa's current roads, which he says are in horrible condition.

Some of the cycling projects that were identified as important during public consultations for the city's Transportation Master Plan include work on Moodie Drive, Strandherd Drive eastbound, Wellington Street, Riverdale Avenue, the Trans Canada Trail, connections with the Aviation Pathway and neighbourhood connections in wards 10, 16, 17 and 18.

For a snapshot of what McKenney’s plan might look like in the end, CTV’s Graham Richardson jumped on his bike with a mini camera to look at the patchwork of protection in the east end, and what a major investment in bike lanes might bring.

In a Twitter thread with several video clips, he highlighted different kind of cycling infrastructure, from lanes with reflective vertical strips to fully separated multi-use pathways. 

Some Twitter users replied to Richardson’s Twitter thread with opinions on all sides.

Some did not believe the spending was wise.

“I understand the concerns, but there are far more vehicles than bicycles and we have had cycling infrastructure overload, much to the disappointment of other needy groups,” said Donna Mulvihill. "Please don't misunderstand. We need safe cycling but we need safe streets too. Cycling lanes that just end leaving cyclists no where to go but into traffic just doesn't work for the cyclist or vehicle. Before more cycling lanes are added, work on the safety issue first."

Others said improving infrastructure for cyclists will make roads better for drivers, too. 

“It also changes things for people on four wheels, even those of us who live in the sticks. More bikes means fewer cars and less congestion,” said Wayne Beaton.

The municipal election takes place Oct. 24. McKenney, Sutcliffe and Chiarelli are three of the 14 candidates seeking the mayor’s seat. Jim Watson is not seeking re-election. Top Stories


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