Checking out Ottawa’s new Bank St.

I was in Ottawa last weekend and strolled along Bank St. in the Glebe neighbourhood, which was recently re-done with new street furniture, art and paving (last time I was there, 2 years ago, it was under construction).

Bank St. is a narrow and busy road and sidewalk, so it’s an area where you have to make the best use of space. The new public art made use of the extra space created by sidestreets, often with sidewalk bulb-outs.

The metal artwork was all done by artist Tim desClouds. My favourite part was the painted metal chairs bolted into the pavement at intervals — both attractive and useful.


Several City benches has also been added, with an intriguing design in which rather than being in the middle, the armrest is set to one side, creating a double and a single set of seating. Sometimes, if two people are on a bench together, no-one will want to sit at the edge like a third wheel, but this creates a bit of separation to make it more inviting. It’s a thoughtful piece of design for a bench that size.


The bike posts are also specific to the area, monogrammed with a “G” for the Glebe.

Bike ring-and-post

There were also some multiple-bike racks in various sizes in the same style, fitted in where there was space at the sides of buildings.

Multi bike rack

The “G” monogram was also visible on the tree-protection fences. These were illustrated with symbols cut into the metal representing the various stores on the street.

Tree fence Tree fence

A nice touch was the decorative wrap created for the dull grey traffic signal boxes (I’m not sure if this is just for this area or for other parts of town too).

Wrap for traffic signal box

Another elegant piece of street furniture is the fish-decorated sewer grates, although these are city-wide.

Ottawa sewer grate

I remember, growing up in Ottawa, Bank St. sidewalks always felt cramped and a bit dingy, even though it had some busy stores and other destinations. The new sidewalk in the Glebe is still not that wide, but the attractive paving and furniture, and the systematic use of side-street areas to extend the treatment (see below), have made it an appealing place for a stroll.

Bank St. side-street assembly


  1. I notice a lot of brick sidewalk surfacing. While the colour is pleasant, sometimes as bricks settle, the tops go out of alignment. This creates a ‘lip’ that can trip walkers. I have mixed feelings as to whether the addition of bricks surfacing really benefits pedestrians.

  2. Victoria’s approach to this within the last five years was to convert such boxes into guide-maps of the downtown core.

  3. It’s about time we start seeing something else besides poured concrete paving for sidewalks in Ontario cities. Poured concrete looks cheap and generic, and doesn’t contribute to a sense of place. The bricks, if properly installed, will serve as a good pavement for pedestrians for years. After a couple of decades, they may simply have to be relaid to correct uneven spots that appear after a long time. (Poured concrete deteriorates over time as well.)

  4. Those fish grates aren’t decorative or Ottawa-specific. Many municipalities use them, indicating that the storm drain below will ultimately end up in a natural water body (as opposed to a sewer line, which will end up in a treatment plant)

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