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NCC to close 1.2 km stretch of Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicles this summer

The 'Critical Mass Ride' travels down Queen Elizabeth Driveway on Saturday, calling for safe active transportation routes in Ottawa. (Jackie Perez/CTV News Ottawa) The 'Critical Mass Ride' travels down Queen Elizabeth Driveway on Saturday, calling for safe active transportation routes in Ottawa. (Jackie Perez/CTV News Ottawa)
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The National Capital Commission will close a section of Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicles seven days a week this summer, but only a shorter section of the road will be open for active transportation in July and August.

The NCC unveiled plans for its popular Weekend Bikedays and the summer active use program on Tuesday, saying there will be 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.

Queen Elizabeth Driveway weekend vehicle closures: May 11 to Oct. 14

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.

Queen Elizabeth Driveway summer weekday closures: July-August

"This will allow the NCC to provide animation opportunities along this corridor, creating an ‘open street’ concept," the NCC said in a statement.

This summer's weekday bikedays on Queen Elizabeth Driveway will open approximately 1.2 kilometres of the road to active transportation.

Last summer, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and some businesses criticized the NCC for closing Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicles seven days a week between Somerset Street and Fifth Avenue.

Sutcliffe posted a video on social media calling on the NCC to only close the busy roadway along the Rideau Canal on weekends. The mayor urged the NCC to adopt a "balanced approach" to its active use program, saying closing the road during weekday rush hour "causes significant delays for emergency vehicles, congestion on neighbourhood streets, and increased commute times."

Sutcliffe tweeted Tuesday he is pleased with the NCC's decision to keep the Queen Elizabeth Driveway open to cars between Pretoria Bridge and Fifth Avenue in the summer.

"This is a positive development to address past concerns about congestion and emergency vehicles in this one specific section of QED," he said. "I appreciate the collaboration from the NCC to provide a solution that offers many options for cyclists but ensures we don't encounter major traffic issues."

The NCC says a recent survey indicates that both residents and visitors are "highly satisfied" with the active use program. 

Electronic counters on the parkways captured more than 240,000 visits last year, according to the NCC. Statistics show there were 133,000 total visits on Queen Elizabeth Driveway, with an average of 1,502 visits a day.

The National Capital Commission says it will launch a Rideau Canal parkway study this summer to explore the feasibility of installing bike lanes along Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Colonel By Drive.

"The objective is to determine the most effective way to provide permanent, segregated cycling space to ease the pressure on the canal pathways and enhance pedestrian safety while separating faster-moving cyclists from the limited pathway space," the NCC said in a statement. "This study will include consultation with community associations, stakeholders and the public."

Dave Robertson, the vice president of Bike Ottawa, told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that the NCC is taking a step in the right direction.

"Having cars on what is some of the most valuable space in our city is unfortunate, but these types of steps are what we want to see," he said.

Robertson says multi-use pathways are not wide enough for all of the different types of users — walkers, runners, rollerbladers, cyclists, and others — and having separate lanes for cycling would be more effective.

"Those multi-use pathways are designed for recreation, not necessarily for moving people, and they're very congested in many parts of the city. There's a certain stress level when you get all those modes stuck into one little bit of small space. We'd love to see more space so that these different modes can move about safely," he said. "We're grateful that we have them in our city, but in the future we need to look forward to building segregated facilities that keep these modes separate so that it's more comfortable for people walking and people on bikes can feel more comfortable getting around."

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.

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