Joint Letter by Thirteen Community Groups: We need Vision Zero now!

Dear Mayor Watson,

We are writing in the aftermath of the tragic death of a cyclist on Thursday, May 16. While the cyclist’s identity remains unknown at the time of writing, many in our community are grieving his loss and the death of yet another vulnerable Ottawa road user.

This grief is giving way to deep frustration. Years after the City of Ottawa’s declaration of a Complete Streets policy and implementation plan, it remains clear that our streets are largely hostile to cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. Even within several metres of our city’s flagship separated bike lane, another vulnerable road user has died.

The word “accident,” however well-intentioned and commonly used, is inappropriate in these circumstances. This cyclist’s death – just like the death and severe injury of dozens of Ottawa residents each year on sidewalks, in bike lanes, in crosswalks, at bus-stops or on buses – is a product of inadequate policy and poor transportation infrastructure design.

As a city, we can and must do better for vulnerable road users of all types. Fundamentally, this means policy that systematically prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists over motorists. It means making the hard decisions that lead to design improvements – improvements that prioritize safety for vulnerable road users above all else. We must make our streets safe for our city’s children, elderly and mobility impaired. We must make it safe for people walking to school or work, biking to appointments, trying to get from home or work to a bus-stop, taking transit, and otherwise trying to live their lives safely in a car-centric world. We firmly believe that our city benefits when it is safe and accessible for all who reside within it. We can stop the injuries and deaths.

In light of the above, we, the undersigned, call on the City of Ottawa to enact a strong Vision Zero policy. Around the world, cities are implementing Vision Zero policies designed to eliminate injury and death on their streets. From their examples and lessons learned, we can develop a comprehensive policy that is ambitious, coherent and uniquely suited to the Ottawa context.

We urge the City of Ottawa to follow suit as quickly as possible. As you know, Councillor Catherine McKenney has given notice of a motion on Vision Zero to be put toward council on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Her motion will include substantial measures to make our streets safer, such as:

  • higher safety standards for infrastructure;
  • more segregated bike lanes;
  • reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h in residential areas;
  • eliminating right turns on red; and
  • altering traffic signal to give cyclists and pedestrians priority over motorists.

At the same time, Councillor Jeff Leiper has proposed a motion to dedicate the $57 million one-time federal gas tax infrastructure transfer to making our cycling network safe. We believe that more funding for vulnerable road users is essential for improving road safety in Ottawa.

We see both funding and strong policy as vital to eliminating severe injury and death on Ottawa’s streets. We urge you to show leadership in boldly implementing an ambitious Vision Zero vision for our city.

Respectfully yours,

Robb Barnes, Executive Director, Ecology Ottawa

Sam Boswell, Ottawa Transit Riders Group

Jean Mullan, Co-President of Bel-Air Community Association

Érinn Cunningham, Bike Ottawa

Michelle Perry, Healthy Transportation Coalition

Neil Thomson, President of Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association

Annie Boucher Rimes, President of Lincoln Heights Parkway Community Association

Stelios Togias. President of Lindenlea Community Association

Liz Bernstein, President of Lowertown Community Association

Sybil Powell, President of McKellar Park Community Association

Heather Marie Scott, President of Pineview Community Association

Marilyn Read, Secretary of Overbrook Community Association

Jeff Westeinde, President of the Zibi project

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