Active City

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Ecology Ottawa has a vision of Ottawa as an Active City – a place where bustling, livable neighbourhoods are connected by world-class public transit; where city streets are open to people of all ages, user needs and abilities; and where our transportation network accommodates the needs of people – and not just cars – to move about safely and efficiently.

Key Priorities:


Why we need the Active City:

Transportation decisions are critical to the health, vitality and viability of our communities and environment. For decades, North American streets – and by extension, our communities – were designed around the car. Often, the principal metric of a ‘good’ street was one that moved cars through it as quickly as possible. Decades of over-emphasis on the car has resulted in isolated communities, dangerous streets, a loss of precious greenspace, congestion, air pollution and severe funding challenges for public transportation. It has also contributed to the climate crisis by privileging car transportation as part of the day-to-day travel decisions of every resident of the city.

Bad transportation choices can constrain a city’s options and lead to long-term problems. The more we design sprawling car-centric communities, the more we make transit unaffordable and walking or cycling unsafe. Because people are more reticent to use active transportation when the options at their disposal are dangerous or inconvenient, congestion levels continue to rise as people stick to their cars. New roads and new lanes are touted as a possible solution to the congestion, but they can worsen the problem they were intended to solve. In a phenomenon known as ‘induced demand,’ new roads are quickly filled up with more cars as other modes of transit continue to be inaccessible. In the end, we’re stuck with more cars and more demand for car infrastructure than when we started.

You can read more about induced demand and what it means for Ottawa’s transportation future by clicking here

The Active City program is about forging a new path forward. It’s about working with what Ottawa already has – a city-wide network of bike paths, a robust transit system, and communities demanding access to amenities and greenspace – and pushing for lasting improvements to our city. It’s about revitalizing our communities by making them safer and more practical for people of all ages to live and play in. It’s about giving people the freedom to choose transportation options that nourish their physical and mental health while enhancing community life. And it’s about simultaneously taking action on the issues of climate change, pollution and greenspace protection through positive and concrete changes.

The context:

Ecology Ottawa’s Active City campaign builds on the political momentum we’ve seen in recent years at City Hall. In 2013, the City of Ottawa adopted a Complete Streets Policy, and then followed this up with an implementation framework in 2015. Essentially, the City has agreed to look at street construction and reconstruction through a ‘complete streets’ lens – rather than seeing roads as throughways for personal automobiles, city engineers will ensure they are designed for all users, ages and abilities.

You can read about more on complete streets by clicking here

The City of Ottawa is also in the midst of building a comprehensive light rail transit (LRT) network which would dramatically scale up the city’s public transportation capacity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buses and cars. Stage 1 of the plan, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is currently underway. Stage 2, which would extend LRT to the western, eastern and southern ends of the city by 2023, has been agreed to in principle by all three levels of government and is slated to move ahead. Stage 3, extending to Kanata, is the next big challenge on the table.

You can read more about light rail in Ottawa by clicking here

The City has also committed to two plans which could make active transportation safer and more convenient. The Cycling Infrastructure Plan and the Pedestrian Infrastructure Plan outline the many cycling and pedestrian improvements the City plans to make over the coming years. These changes could have a transformative impact on the city and leave a lasting legacy for current and future generations. However, their funding is currently spread out and delayed over 15 years. Additional funding could accelerate investments in infrastructure such as bike lanes, walkways, signage, pedestrian bridges and transit integration measures. The City has done the hard work of identifying priority projects; our role is to ramp up ambition, so that Ottawa can move into a leadership position on active transportation and move away from a dated planning model oriented primarily around the car.