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Is the truck convoy an opportunity for Ottawa’s cyclists (and pedestrians)?

The downtown core was closed to vehicles for weeks

Could cyclists in Ottawa benefit in the aftermath of the convoy protest? If you just came back from Jupiter, starting Jan. 22, hundreds of vehicles formed convoys from several parts of Canada and drove across the country before converging on Ottawa, with a rally at Parliament Hill. The convoys were also joined by thousands of pedestrian protesters. Several offshoot movements, called “Canadian-style protests” also blockaded cities in Canada and border crossings with the United States.

The protesters then began to occupy the downtown core of Ottawa. Their demand was that they would not leave until all COVID-19 restrictions and mandates have been removed. On Feb. 11, Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, and would introduce new legal sanctions on the impediment of trade routes, highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways.

Following that, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, the first time it was used since the act was passed in 1988. A large joint-operation police presence in Ottawa began arresting organizers, protesters, and the removal of parked vehicles, in order to dismantle the blockades from Ottawa streets. By Feb. 21, most of the protesters had been cleared from the streets.

For three weeks, the downtown core was basically undriveable. Now, many cycling advocates are wondering if this is a chance to have a conversation about closing off downtown permanently for cars, and only allowing cyclists and pedestrians.

“This would be a good time for a serious conversation about making central Ottawa “vehicle-light” (no through traffic; local and disabled vehicle access-only; no non-delivery truck access; reduced street parking; better walking/biking/transit infrastructure) as other cities are doing,” Brett Toderian tweeted.

Ottawa city councillor Catherine McKenney was also in favour of such a measure. Although they didn’t suggest the entire core, it was, as many cycling advocates said, a good start. “I will bring a motion to Council on Wednesday,” they tweeted. “To keep a portion of Wellington closed to vehicular traffic. Details to follow.”

The concern of course, was that closing off the downtown core might create traffic congestion in other parts of the city. “As a courier who delivered often in the parliamentary precinct, I’ll say I hope you have a viable plan for rerouted traffic while still allowing for reasonable delivery/emergency traffic,” JustDaveForNow tweeted. “While the idea is great, especially with the thought of adding a tram, logistics are bad.”