OOE Community Association Responds to Yasir Naqvi “Improve Colonel By Drive, Don’t Close It!!”

John Dance

The Old Ottawa East Community Association has recommended that safety improvements be made to Colonel By Drive instead of the one-year pilot closure proposed by Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi during the recent election campaign. Photo by John Dance

The Old Ottawa East Community Association has recommended that safety improvements be made to Colonel By Drive instead of the one-year pilot closure proposed by Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi during the recent election campaign.
Photo by John Dance


The Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) has pushed back on newly elected MP Yasir Naqvi’s proposal to close Colonel By Drive to motorized traffic for a year-long, data gathering
pilot.

“We are of the view that there are two permanent measures that would have a similar impact to what you have proposed while allowing continued motorized vehicle use of Colonel By Drive,” OOECA President Bob Gordon wrote to Naqvi.

Specifically, the community association has recommended that the National Capital Commission (1) reclaim space from the vehicle lanes in order to create bike lanes on the actual roadway for faster cyclists, e-cyclists, and e-scooters on the parkway; and (2) construct a pedestrian only pathway expansion cantilevered over the Rideau Canal on the stretch from Clegg Street to Bank Street.

During the federal election campaign, Naqvi stated that “(e)xtending the popular Colonel By Drive pilot project to a full-year would not only allow our community to get out of their cars to walk, bike and roll to work and school, it would also give our community the necessary data and comprehensive details to measure the quantitative success of this important project.”

In his response to Naqvi’s proposal, Gordon advised that “(o)ur primary concern about closing Colonel By Drive to motorists is that this would likely result in more traffic through neighbourhood streets in Old Ottawa East (OOE) and elsewhere both in Ottawa Centre and in other constituencies as south-end commuters and tourists travelling to and from downtown, Byward Market and the Quebec bridges would find alternative routes,” wrote Gordon. “Colonel By is the only alternative to Main Street and its closure would result in longer and lengthier trips for many residents.”

Residents are also concerned any diversion of traffic from Colonel By Drive to Main, Hawthorne and Greenfield will aggravate traffic problems resulting from the multi-year reconstruction project that has just begun.

“An unintended consequence of the closure of Colonel By could be renewed pressure from southern constituencies to build a four-lane roadway through the Alta Vista Transportation roadway, something Old Ottawa East and neighbouring communities have been trying to get out of City plans for 50 years,” noted Gordon in his letter.

The specific context for Naqvi’s proposal was the closure of Queen Elizabeth Drive last year and this spring and the closure this year of Colonel By Drive from July to October so that residents had safe, spacious areas to get exercise, socialize, and enjoy a green environment during the pandemic.

During an interview with The Mainstreeter, Naqvi noted that “…the bigger point is that we are in a climate emergency. Climate change is real. And one of the things that I heard again and again in the community, this campaign – and I’m a member of this community – is what does that mean for us locally?”

“Across the country, I was perhaps one of the very few, if not the only candidate who put forward a local climate action plan to look at things like a tree canopy strategy, to look at air pollution on major intersections in our community, and to find ways to ensure more active transportation. So that’s where I’m coming from.”

Naqvi has offered to meet with the community assocIation to talk about his proposal and the association’s alternative recommendations.

Although the community association’s board was strongly opposed to a year-long pilot closure of Colonel By Drive, there are association members, including SLOE Chairperson Jayson MacLean, who think the closure is a good idea. “I think that although the compromise offered in the letter approved by the OOECA certainly has its merits, the greater necessity in Ottawa as in every city worldwide is to cut down on single-vehicle use for the sake of combatting climate change,” he posted on Facebook. “Yes, closing Colonel By to cars would mean more traffic on Main Street, but unfortunately, that’s really what we need to do anyway, i.e., make travelling by car an uncomfortable event.”

The City of Ottawa’s Director of Traffic Services, Phil Landry, took the following position on Naqvi’s proposal: “If Colonel By Drive were to be close to vehicle traffic for a year-long pilot project, the City would work with the National Capital Commission to remedy traffic impacts.”

One immediate benefit of the community association providing its recommendations to Naqvi was that the National Capital Commission issued a quick response, as follows: “… the NCC recognizes that there are improvements to be considered for this section of the Rideau Canal Eastern pathway as outlined in the Capital Pathway Strategic Plan.” The NCC also noted that “the suggestion for the boardwalk extension over the canal would require the involvement of Parks Canada, as the agency responsible for the Rideau Canal.”

One suggestion that several people have made is that Queen Elizabeth Driveway be closed rather than Colonel By. During the two seasons of “pandemic” closures, the Driveway had an average of 3,175 daily visits, more than twice the daily average of 1,482 for Colonel By this year. Also, according to a 2019 City traffic study, the Driveway had about a third less motorized traffic than did Colonel By, so that its closure would have less of an impact on drivers.

The informal “Parkways for People” group has also suggested that the Driveway be permanently closed between Fifth and Pretoria.

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