No cars this summer on the Driveway – and permanently?

All forms of active transportation enjoyed the Queen Elizabeth Driveway closure during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. (Brett Delmage/The BUZZ)

Alayne McGregor

For the first time, the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (QED) will be car-free 24 hours a day this summer – a possible indication of more to come.

From Canada Day to Labour Day, the driveway from Somerset Street West to Fifth Avenue will be reserved for active transportation: walking, cycling, scootering, rollerblading, or exercising animals. Unlike previous years, cars will not be allowed in at night.

Then, until October 10 (Thanksgiving), the driveway will be reserved for active transportation on weekends from Saturday at 8 a.m. through to Sunday at 8 p.m.

The National Capital Commission (NCC) said that the car-free roads are “a great way to experience the beauty of the National Capital Region in a fun, safe and environmentally friendly way.” It will also offer its regular weekend bike days until Thanksgiving on the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway.

Parkways for People (PfP) has been pushing for a more permanent removal of cars from the driveway. It said it was pleased that everyone would have “the freedom to enjoy some of the most beautiful greenspace in Ottawa.”

“However, we really feel that the full length of QED should have been included in the program and that it should be made permanent. This is, after all, public land and should prioritize people over private motor vehicles,” said PfP co-lead Erin Maher.

“Waterfront land such as the QED is the jewel in the region’s crown, and we should be using this space for more than just moving cars. With climate change and all we know about noise and air pollution, we need to stop catering to the ‘car is king’ way of thinking and start looking for opportunities to provide inclusive and robust active transportation infrastructure. This could be easily done along QED on a full-time basis which would furthermore allow better use of the surrounding park land. While we are seeing progress from the NCC and are thankful for this, more needs to be done to provide equitable and sustainable access to public lands and waterfront.”

Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi has been pushing for either the QED or Colonel By Drive to be permanently closed to cars, arguing that “we don’t need cars on both sides of the Rideau Canal.”

He told The BUZZ that he asked the NCC to collect data on how the QED is used this summer – and then to follow that up with further trial closures in the fall and winter to show how active transportation could be used on the driveway in all seasons, “since we are a winter city.”

Any decision would be made by the NCC in conjunction with Parks Canada. There is no timeline for this, but the NCC is open to the idea, he said. Since the pandemic began, the NCC has been closing the QED to traffic for varying periods, and attracting large numbers of users.

The Centretown Community Association (CCA) has also asked for cars to be removed from the QED; CCA President Mary Huang said they were “very pleased” that the NCC had listened. The association will be encouraging people to use the QED so that the NCC extends the pilot or considers a permanent closure.