In 2011 the City of Ottawa opened its first separate bike track through downtown on Laurier Ave. It is not the most ideal east-west connection, but the city’s downtown has a bit of an escarpment on the west side and a canal (a world heritage site no less) and a river on the east side. That meant that a number of streets had to be crossed off the list of possible candidates. The intersections were to have traffic lights and both ends needed connecting infrastructure in one way or another. So the choice fell on Laurier Ave as it met most of the requirements: Laurier Ave crosses the canal on the east side and continues past Bronson on the west side and the intersections had traffic lights already.
On line data
Laurier has a number bike counters buried in the asphalt which are dutifully counting the passing bicycles. The counters have detection loops in the lanes, which detect the metal of your bike. Two of the counters relay data to a server in France, where they are put on line overnight. These data give a good impression of the use of the bike lane. The actual numbers are higher, because -as a real life example- I cycle the first part of the lane, but turn north on Kent; I am not counted by the on line counters.
Second coldest capital
Obviously in a climate like Ottawa, being the second coldest capital in the world with serious snowfall, an early snowy start of the season and a prolonged winter like the one in 2014/2015 make a big difference in the numbers: in December 2013, we counted 5437 bike rides, but in balmy December 2015 over 15,000 rides. This makes comparing years a bit harder. Therefore, it is better to choose for warmer months to compare numbers, so that the climate factor is of less influence on the numbers. I am not saying that people don’t cycle, but to spot trends it is better for now to focus on the months that are less iffy. So let’s start to take a look at the numbers between May and October. We have data since July 11, 2011, so 2011 is not a full year. Therefore I am only looking to 20212-2015 here.
Although the trend isn’t taking off like a SpaceX rocket, there appears to be a steady growth. The average of the years 2012-2014 is 376,000 (full year numbers). 2015 is way over that average with a total of 412,000. In fact 2015 numbers are just short of 7% higher than the second best year in 2012.
Just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at the time frame August – December as we have an extra set (2011) of data for that period. You may think that 2015’s high might have to do something with the mild December month, but even if we had counted 10,000 bike rides less in December (the number of bikes rides was only 5400 in December 2013 compared to over 15,000 in December 2015), it would still have been a stellar number for 2015 as you can see below.
Let’s zoom in a bit further. September is an interesting month. Kids are back in school, it is nice and warm and not humid, there are no holidays and rain isn’t too bad usually and snow is still months away. In short, ideal conditions. With five years of data, what happened in September?
2015 broke many records: April, June, July, August, September, November and December were all record months since the bike lane opened, May and October were second best months. The first three months were miserable as you can see below (but great for skiing, so that was not a bad trade off).
2015 was the first year that Laurier Bike Lane broke through the 400,000 bike rides. Seven of the twelve months were better than any other year. Two months were second best, even with vehicles still parked in the bike lane. July was the busiest month with over 65,000 rides. The least busiest was February with ‘only’ 3600 rides.
It is no wonder that city council approved a second separate bike lane, this time on O’Connor, cutting north south through the downtown core. Contrary to the Laurier Bike Lane, when a third of council voted against it, the O’Connor Bike Lane was approved unanimously.
Since 2011, the city made a number of improvements, such as an extension in front of city hall towards the bridge (See above picture), a raised bike lane at the west end and a connection to Slater and further west to Albert. The latter one was just finished, so it is too early to see the effects but with improving connections the numbers should keep rising.
Here is another post on our bike data: Laurier’s missing data.