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COMMENT: It’s time to transform Queen Elizabeth Driveway

Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Driveway. (Via National Capital Commission)

In the midst of a city council-declared climate emergency, what does Ottawa’s Mayor Mark Sutcliffe deem to be his priority? Scratching away at what little space we have for safe, urban active transportation that reduces emissions and gives residents more options to stay healthy. 

The mayor’s questioning of reserving Queen Elizabeth Driveway for active use stands in opposition to the city’s own plans and values, including the city’s own Transportation Master Plan which aims to have the majority of trips in the city be made by walking, biking, transit, or carpool by 2046. The mayor’s position also goes against creating a true destination that can provide immense value to the city of Ottawa.

It’s about time we do something more productive, and more permanent, with the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. Reserving the prime waterfront space in our nation’s capital for an indirect, winding, two lane road is a waste of a golden opportunity. The Driveway should be redesigned for people, so cyclists, pedestrians, tourists and all people can enjoy Queen Elizabeth Driveway all year round. 

Queen Elizabeth Driveway is just 2.4km of Ottawa’s over 6,000 kilometers of roads. The pathways are very busy, with lots of walkers and bikers being forced to slow down to keep everyone safe. The NCC’s active use program has been a huge success, with over 100,000 yearly users, and already with over 50,000 this year. Based on the City of Ottawa’s most recent origin destination survey, 41% of households surrounding Queen Elizabeth Driveway don’t even own a car. This success, and the overall demand for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, should be rewarded with something more permanent and meaningful.

A permanent people first promenade on Queen Elizabeth Driveway would be more sustainable, attract more tourists, and allow for more businesses to operate in the area. Prioritizing cyclists and walkers, and giving them their own space, would encourage active transportation, reducing air pollution and the number of cars on our downtown streets. Allowing tourists to stop and enjoy a place dedicated to people, with public washrooms and places to stop for food or drinks, would surely increase the number of people visiting the canal. 

It’s due time we do something meaningful and valuable alongside the Rideau Canal, 1 of 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada, to truly take advantage of the beauty and uniqueness of the space. It’s due time we make active transportation permanent on Queen Elizabeth Driveway.


Derrick Simpson

Derrick Simpson is the Transportation Co-Chair of the Centretown Community Association.