Councillor gains support for proposed ‘park-and-cycle’ pilot, staff report expected in 2019

People make their way along Colonel By Drive near the Rideau Canal during Sunday Bike Days in Ottawa on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Councillors on Ottawa’s transportation committee say they’re in favour of launching a so-called “park-and-cycle” pilot project in the city, but the initiative proposed by Coun. Marianne Wilkinson has a few bureaucratic hurdles to jump before it can kick into high gear.

The Kanata North councillor got her colleagues to support a broader study of the idea on Wednesday, after a handful of residents complained about getting fined $95 earlier this summer for leaving their cars in the parking lot at Andrew Haydon Park during the work day.

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These commuters treat the lot off Carling Avenue, which they and Wilkinson insist is underused, like a “park and ride” – except instead of switching onto a city bus, commuters hop on their bikes and cycle on the Ottawa River recreational pathway into the downtown area.

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“Having parking lots that we paid for sitting empty when there are people who could use them doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Wilkinson, who is retiring from council at the end of this term.

The City of Ottawa‘s bylaw department says that car lots at city parks can only be used by people who plan to use the park right there and then – a rule the ticketed residents were surprised to learn.

Wilkinson initially drafted a motion asking staff to allocate 10 of the 50 available parking spots for these commuters to use in the interim, but that would require a zoning change and, therefore, a stamp of approval from both the planning committee and city council.

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At Wednesday’s transportation committee meeting, Wilkinson’s motion was revised to recommend that council direct city staff to “undertake a review of the park-and-bike concept” and report back by the end of March.

Wilkinson appeared to express a bit of frustration at that timeline and urged staff to avoid making their study “too bureaucratic.”

Coun. Shad Qadri asked staff and councillors to consider how to ensure designated park-and-bike spots are only used by cyclists and not abused by public transit riders.

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Kanata resident Dorothy Dalton-Smith told councillors she’s never been ticketed for parking and cycling at Andrew Haydon Park in 30 years. She insisted park-and-cycle commuters aren’t taking spots away from park goers.

“I return to a nearly empty parking lot,” Dalton-Smith said. “In my experience … the usual situation is there is plenty of parking to go around throughout the day.”

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It’s status quo while staff study the park-and-bike proposal, meaning cyclists can still get fined if they leave their car in a city park’s lot and take off.

Dan Chenier, general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, told councillors the city doesn’t ask bylaw officers to “actively monitor parking lots.” He said he suspects a complaint from a resident – or someone who booked Andrew Haydon Park for an event – may have triggered the recent string of tickets.

“(Bylaw officers) do some monitoring at parks as part of their daily work, but we’re not going out of our way to call them in for this,” Chenier said.

In the meantime, Wilkinson said she will encourage residents who get ticketed to contest the fines in provincial court. She said she plans to follow the issue even after she retires.

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Even though parking and cycling isn’t yet permitted on municipal property, the National Capital Commission does have 14 designated park-and-cycle locations in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., all of which the federal agency says are close to bike-friendly routes.

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