People living near and passing through a western section of Walkley Road will notice a tighter fit for the next three weeks as the city looks to find the best way to slow traffic near the Airport Parkway.
The four-lane section of Walkley Road between the parkway and McCarthy Road has been temporarily narrowed to two lanes as part of a pilot project to test and gather data for eventual traffic calming measures.
André Carrière has lived on this stretch of Walkley for 11 years and said speeding is a constant problem, with many drivers routinely reaching speeds of 70 km/h or more, while the speed limit is 50 km/h.
"The first day they did this you could see a big difference in traffic," said Carrière. "It's slowed down. This is much better."
Part of Airport Parkway widening project
The road narrowing project, or "road diet" as it's sometimes called in traffic planning vernacular, is a direct result of the City of Ottawa's controversial decision in 2016 to widen the Airport Parkway from two to four lanes, while also adding a southbound off-ramp to Walkley.
The city agreed that in conjunction with the parkway widening it would add traffic calming measures on this residential section of Walkley to address the anticipated additional vehicle traffic, says Terry Wood, chair of the Riverside Community Association's transportation, traffic and transit sub-committee.
"Traffic safety has been an issue here for a generation going back at least 25 years," said Wood. "Given the layout and the design of the street it's a pedal-to-the-metal situation."
WATCH | Section of Walkley Road goes from four lanes to two in bid to slow traffic
Wood said the community association has long fought to change the existing four lane configuration, partly because there are three elementary schools within 100 metres of the section in question.
"We need to do more to make west Walkley Road safer for all users, cyclists and pedestrians," he said. "It's well-established that when you narrow the lanes you slow down the traffic. Just the visual impact of seeing a narrower road tends to slow people."
Arterial road still home to many
Before investing millions to calm traffic permanently, the city is using strategically placed traffic pylons to convert a lane in each direction into a dedicated bike lane, says area councillor Riley Brockington.
A contractor will work with city staff to observe and then analyze the impact, he said.
"The data that we get from this pilot project will help shape the final design of this street," said Brockington. "Why not test in advance and learn from the data to make the best design possible?"
While the city designates Walkley as an arterial road, Brockington said the stretch in question never reaches capacity and the status quo is not acceptable.
He said the original designers of Walkley believed a bridge would one day be built at Riverside Drive to cross the Rideau River — a project he said will never happen, so it's time to reclaim the road.
"You don't need four lanes here." he said. "We're looking at a road that was built decades ago for the needs decades ago. There's a greater emphasis [now] on other road users."
Safer stretch for cyclists
Carrière said he's keen to use the new temporary bike lanes rather than use the sidewalk, putting pedestrians at risk.
"I'm a cyclist and I won't go on the road because cars go by a foot away from your handlebar and they're not slowing down," he said.
As a self-described "walkaholic," nearby resident Marilyn Patrick says she is "really happy" because the bike lanes should take cyclists off the sidewalks.
Wood says drivers should "drive slowly and respect the limit or choose another route."
"It's our community and we want to make it better," he said.
Construction of both the Airport Parkway expansion and the permanent Walkley traffic calming measures are expected to begin in 2024.