Rachlis: ‘Active use’ of The Driveway wasn’t a total success

The closed road is never very busy with pedestrians on weekdays. Let’s do things differently next year.

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As Labor Day approaches, bringing with it the end of the 24/7 closure of Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicles in order to dedicate it to “active” use, I have thought a lot.

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Depending on whether this thought was made while crossing stop signs on O’Connor Street north of Fifth Avenue and then being stuck in traffic on Isabella Street trying to cross the Pretoria Bridge – or walking or running serenely in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Driveway and looking at bumper-to-bumper cars on Pretoria and Isabella – I have mixed feelings about active use.

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The streets are there for a reason. When Queen Elizabeth (aka The Driveway) is closed, traffic is jammed on the side streets of the Glebe, especially during evening rush hour. It also makes it difficult for those of us just across the Rideau Canal in Old Ottawa East to take the Queensway westbound.

First, bike lanes were installed on Elgin Street at Catherine Street, along with “no left” turn signs. Then we couldn’t go around Catherine on Queen Elizabeth anymore because the road was closed. The Isabella Street Loblaws became a ditch for cars to circle, front and back. All this so people can walk, bike, run or jog down a street that has been closed to vehicles 24 hours a day.

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I agree that the Queen Elizabeth Driveway closure has been great for bikes – especially beginner kids and their parents – and scooters finally having an acceptable place. Who wouldn’t want to ride a bike on a big, wide road without cars?

But there are still bikes on the path that runs along the canal on the Queen Elizabeth side; some cyclists still prefer it and keep trail runners and walkers on high alert. It seems to work best for bikes when the closed road is Colonel By Drive, which gives a longer cycle and better connections.

The closed Queen Elizabeth is never very busy with pedestrians on weekdays, especially on cold or rainy days; the path of the adjacent channel is sufficient.

My instinct from personal experience is that next summer the National Capital Commission should keep the Queen Elizabeth Parkway open to vehicles on weekdays, but closed to vehicular traffic on weekends. And let’s save the money from weekday road closures and set up more red Adirondack chairs and picnic tables by the canal – for active rest.

Louise Rachlis is an Ottawa writer and painter.