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  • Writer's pictureMatthieu Gagnon

Jeanne D'Arc and Fortune/Vineyard Roundabout

I am expecting the design of the roundabout that is currently slated for Jeanne D’Arc and Fortune/Vineyard to come out soon. I thought that prior to it coming out, I would share my thoughts and gather feedback from the community since the Convent Glen Orléans Wood Community Association will be involved in the consultation.


As part of my research, I have looked at your comments on FB, consulted with transportation professionals, did a visit to the intersection (if you saw someone crossing the intersection a few times with his phone on a Friday morning, it was me), talked to the crossing guard, reviewed official plans and consulted other material. As always, I will do my best to show my sources.


My priority is to ensure, in order, that:

  • Everyone and especially children going to and from school are safe regardless of the mode they choose (walking, biking, driving)

  • Walking and biking to the LRT station is safe and comfortable

  • Project is in line with a long term strategy for active transportation in the area and with the Ottawa Transportation Master Plan

  • Car traffic congestion is limited to a small window of time during rush hour


I think it's important to discuss the current setup at the intersection from a vehicle and a pedestrian perspective, consider other projects in the area and look at where I landed for recommendations.


Current Intersection


From a car perspective, you are either driving to the intersection from Jeanne D’Arc or from the residential streets of Vineyards or Fortune. When coming from the Jeanne D’Arc Overpass, you are driving on a straight road with wide lanes built to accommodate trucks and buses. More often than not, you are doing so with little to no traffic.


If you are turning left, you often need to wait for a gap in traffic long enough and then speed to get through it. This means that people are generally focused on incoming car traffic instead of focusing on whether or not someone is crossing the intersection. In the last year, there have been a few collisions involving people turning left or doing U-turns.


For drivers coming from Fortune and Vineyards, most people seem to be going towards the highway. The right turn on Jeanne D’Arc from Vineyards is often done on a red since there’s often enough of a gap in traffic to do so. The left turn from Fortune is safe and comfortable since there is little through traffic from Vineyards.


Overall, the experience from a driver perspective is pretty good. Even with the current lane closure, traffic appears to be going smoothly through the intersection in one light cycle even at rush hour. There are some elements of it that are unsafe and likely to cause collisions. There have been a lot of collisions in the last year between vehicles turning left on Vineyards and Voyageurs which is a cause for concerns.. The situation for drivers could be safer but it is generally pretty fast and convenient..


For pedestrians, the experience is different. For those crossing Fortune and Vineyards, they generally have the light since the traffic light is green for Jeanne D’Arc by default and only changes when the pedestrian button is pushed or when the detection loop detects a car (I can confirm that it does not pick up bikes very well). Pedestrians have to worry about traffic turning right on the red light because drivers are typically focused on incoming traffic and not on looking for people crossing but this is like every traffic light in the city and a topic for another time.


To cross Jeanne D’Arc, it gets a bit dicey. You have to press the beg button which, according to my measurements, takes about 30 seconds to give you the crossing light. Once you have the light, you have about 30 seconds to make the crossing which is reasonable for an adult paying attention to the light who is relatively fit. However, 30 seconds to cross 4 lanes of traffic could be challenging for young children and people who experience mobility issues like seniors (an increasing share of our population). While crossing, pedestrians have to hope that drivers respect the red light (the red light camera suggests that the compliance rate is not 100%) and hope that drivers turning right on red will bother to check for pedestrians. If the children don’t pay attention to the lights and start crossing a little later or don’t pay attention to their surroundings, it can quickly become a deadly situation. The fact that we saw fit to place a crossing guard at the intersection suggests that the intersection is not safe for children and could definitely be improved. 


In summary, even though car traffic can go smoothly to the intersection, it has some dangers for drivers and the intersection is definitely a dangerous place for children to cross. We should as a community expect better, especially since, if the LRT is successful, there will be a lot more people crossing at the intersection.


Consideration for Orléans Boulevard Bike Lanes

One project that we currently have on our radar as a community association is the development of bike lanes on Orléans Boulevard north of St-Joseph. The project is currently in the design phase and has been identified as a priority by our councillor, Laura Dudas. During our discussion, we agreed that Orléans Boulevard is the best corridor for bike lanes given the number of schools along or close to Orléans Boulevard. Orléans Boulevard also has low traffic and is the easiest place to create an easy way to cross the 174 especially given that the considerations for active transportation at Jeanne D’Arc (MUP limited to the overpass) and Place D’Orléans (pedestrian bridge into the mall) are pretty limited. Whatever the city proposes should help provide an easy access from the Vineyards area to the Orléans Boulevard bike lane. 


I see two obvious routes from Vineyards to Orléans Boulevard. The first one is along Fortune Drive. I think Fortune Drive is an ok route for me and most people who are used to riding with cars but I don’t think that it is a suitable route for kids going to school. The second route is through the pathways around Terry Fox Park which are great for kids but are not connected to Orléans Boulevard as a direct route to cross the 174 and would require at least a small amount of riding with vehicles. However, it is connected to a lot of the schools in the area. The path is also disjointed at Jeanne D’Arc.


Map showing the existing multi-use pathway and parks in green as well as Fortune Drive from Jeanne D'Arc to Orléans Boulevard.
Map showing the existing multi-use pathway and parks in green as well as Fortune Drive from Jeanne D'Arc to Orléans Boulevard.

Recommendation

My first recommendation would be to remove two traffic lanes from Jeanne D’Arc since the traffic volumes do not justify four lanes. I was talking to contacts who work in the field and a traffic lane has a capacity that is double the existing traffic levels on Jeanne D'Arc. Reducing the number of lanes would make it safer for everyone. Fewer lanes means that cars will be going at slower speeds and people walking will only have to cross two lanes of traffic instead of four. This is in line with the Ottawa Transportation Master Plan Policies by making it easier and safer to walk, bike or take transit. It will also reduce the amount of road that needs to be built as part of the project and reduce the amount of road that the city needs to maintain in the area which will hopefully translate to roads in better conditions. The speed limit should be also reduced to 40 km/h along the entire stretch of Jeanne D’Arc between the overpass and Orléans Boulevard to improve safety and to remove the current confusion about the speed limits in the area which change depending on the date and time due to the school zones.


If traffic lanes are removed, I think a roundabout will make it safer and more convenient for drivers. Given the low volumes of traffic, traffic should flow freely through the roundabout. Traffic will also be slowed down reducing the number and the severity of collisions in the intersection. Based on the experience of the roundabout at Jeanne D’Arc and St-Joseph, I don’t think we would get those benefits with a roundabout that enables four lanes of traffic.


For people outside a car, I do think that a single lane roundabout is safer than the current intersection but a two lane roundabout is definitely a bigger hazard. I would expect a design with refuge islands protecting pedestrians as they cross the intersection one lane at a time. Forcing people to cross two lanes of moving traffic would be, in my opinion, unsafe. I have ridden in single lane roundabouts countless times around the city (e.g. close to Rideau Hall) and when I lived in Perth, Western Australia and I have found them generally safe and comfortable especially in low traffic areas. I know I would be comfortable using them but I should not be the target audience. I am also not convinced that a lot of parents will be comfortable with letting kids cross traffic that does not stop.


I dug into the Ontario Traffic Manual to find what I think would be best. I would recommend a mid-block pedestrian signal linking the pathways in North Vineyard Park and Jeanne D’Arc Park. It would be far enough from the intersection so that it would not impede traffic flow in the roundabout and would be an improvement over what is currently there. It would allow people to cross where a lot of people are actually walking. I still think pedestrian safety considerations are important at the roundabout so this would be in addition to the roundabout crossing described above.


Shows a crossing with traffic lights used to facilitate crossing for pedestrians.
Pedestrian Crossing on Richmond Rd. in Ottawa near Wavell Avenue.


Even as we are looking to add density to the neighbourhood, I don’t expect to see an increase in traffic that would make a two lane Jeanne D’Arc too congested given that we have plenty of capacity with one lane per direction. At worst, a little congestion is a good thing if it allows people to get out of their cars. Let’s focus on making kids safe and giving them the freedom to move around our community.


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