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OPINION: Memorial bike lanes a traffic hazard

DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER! Memorial Drive is too narrow and winding to safely accommodate bike lanes and is an accident waiting to happen.  

Since the bike lanes were installed on Memorial Drive a few months ago, vehicles crossing over the center line into oncoming traffic has become a common occurrence.

Let’s forget for a minute that the Kate Pace Way is right there and has worked just fine all these years, the Memorial bike lanes have created a number of ongoing traffic hazards to all road users.

Here are just a few examples I have personally observed:

A truck trying to go around a bicyclist in the bike lane while on a bend in the road, while at the same time an oncoming car exited a bend in the road toward them less than 25 metres ahead (pictured above).

Then there was the mother with a baby in a carriage walking in the bike lane against oncoming traffic.

There was the time a bicyclist was in the bike lane heading straight into approaching traffic. Come to think of it, that’s happened quite a few times.

On two separate occasions, I passed by one of the four-person family bikes (that they rent out at the marina) going down the bike lane on the wrong side of the road driving at oncoming traffic. One of those times it was a family with a toddler and a baby on board. These rentals are like three to four feet wide but there they were, driving into traffic with a baby and a toddler, no car seats.

All of these incidents caused passing vehicles to cross over the center line into oncoming traffic to avoid someone in the bike lanes. I’ve heard many similar stories — that people feel less safe while driving on Memorial now.

Fellow military veteran and local para-athlete Dave Innes voiced his safety concerns about the Memorial Bike lanes, saying, “My bike definitely hugs the painted line, cars have no choice but to drive over the yellow line or come extremely close to me”.

Having responded to numerous traffic collisions and fatalities over the years, the health and wellbeing of the public are important to me. I think the Memorial bike lanes have created an unacceptable risk to public safety so I decided to take action and contacted the North Bay Roads Operations Manager to ask some questions and share my concerns.

To their credit, the manager and staff listened and answered my questions about road widths, regulations, etc. They listened when I told them vehicles are crossing the center line regularly.

They listened when I told them Memorial Drive is full of bends in the road that reduce sightlines to approaching traffic in both directions and adding the bike lanes onto a narrow two-lane road has “squeezed” traffic in towards the middle on both sides.

They listened when I explained that drivers are trained to stay within the lanes and that while the bike lanes are “courtesy lanes,” motorists don’t see it that way. Driver behaviour and driving “memory” compels motorists to stay out of the bike lanes completely.

They listened to my information, but they weren’t swayed. City staff felt that these near misses are a driver's responsibility and are not concerned that the bike lanes have created hazards for all road users and increased the risk of a head-on collision.  

I am okay with the bike lanes when done safely. The City of Ottawa's bike lanes are installed with safety measures such as concrete dividers or foot wide painted lane spacers that keep cars and bikes apart and protects all road users. 

The City of North Bay recently installed a bike path on Main Street West for which construction widened the road and put the bike lane up at curb level off the street. Unlike Main Street, Memorial Drive has no safety measures in place at all…unless of course, you count the bike lane that’s already there up at curb level and off the street…the Kate Pace Way.

Management wanted to give it a trial run and collect some input before making a decision to keep or get rid of the Memorial bike lanes in the future. Well, here’s my input….DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER! Memorial Drive is too narrow and winding to safely accommodate bike lanes and is an accident waiting to happen.  

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Neal McNamara

About the Author: Neal McNamara

Neal McNamara is an entrepreneur, investor, and former Military Police studying business at Nipissing University
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