Tag Archives: city of ottawa

Confessions of a Casual Commuter Cyclist

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I am the most casual of casual commuter cyclists. Riding into work, I now find the 20 minute walk too long. I have no idea how long into the fall I will ride and don’t know what my cold temperature threshold will be for my fingers and face. The moment I have to start bundling up to stay warm on the cycle into the office might be the sign I will need that walking is the preferred way to go.

I have been cycling into work for most of the summer now; I credit that to my pocket book. I paid for over $170 for a $49.95 tune up – mainly because my bike is old and in the 15 or so years I have had it, it never received the care or attention it deserved/needed. This year I did and thanks to the good folks at Kunstadt Sports on Bank in the Glebe I was ready for a summer of biking. Because of the tune up I feel a lot safer on my bike.

Liz and I have made good use of the bikes this year, Monday to Friday and on weekends. The only (small) sacrifice I have made is not to make the daily stop into Starbucks as I would if I was walking to the office. I have avoided so far (knock on wood) getting stuck in a rain storm, colliding with another bike and I have stayed clear of scratching any cars whether it was my fault or theirs.

Generally I am happy with being able to get around the City of Ottawa on my bike. I haven’t had to worry about cars too much as drivers are as polite to me as I cycle as I am to other cyclists when I am driving. The path system is good, there a missing links and from what I can see Ottawa is trying to make the connections. Some intersections are worrisome; the Wellington St. /Sussex Ave. /Mackenzie Ave. at the Chateau Laurier is nerve rattling. We have made it through there a few times, but seeing how try not to get trapped in that area does make you think twice. There is some confusion in the approach the new lanes along Mackenzie Avenue on the west side of the US Embassy, especially as you come from the National Art Gallery of Canada. I still don’t feel at ease on the O’Connor dual lane, I would have preferred lanes that went with the flow of traffic – south on O’Connor and North on Metcalfe St. or Kent St. These examples aside, Ottawa has been doing a good job.

I am not perfect as a cyclist, however as a driver (of a car) I have a good sense of rules and the reason they need to be followed. Being a good and courteous driver makes for a good and courteous cyclist. I have noticed a few things while in the saddle – these are just observations of how cyclists can do their part to stay alive.

Use hand signals correctly. I recently learned that cyclists can indicate turning right by sticking out their right arm. I still use the left arm method to show I am turning right. On the left and right arm pointing signals I have seen too many cyclists pointing to the ground – is that their way of telling me you are turning right or look out for a pothole? Come on, if you are going to indicate turns that way, do it with conviction! Point with pride!

Follow the traffic lights. Not watching the lights is becoming a problem on the O’Connor Street lanes. Cyclists are running reds, not stale green lights but RED lights! This morning at Laurier and O’Connor an incident was avoided when alert cyclists saw the red light running biker before they headed west on Laurier. If that had been a car, there would have been bike bells ringing and obscene hand gestures and yelling at the car, but we don’t care if a cyclist runs a red?

How about that distracted driving law? We don’t allow drivers to wear ear pods and headphones when driving? Somehow this is okay for cyclists? And one armed cyclists travel around the city because the other hand is holding the phone? The same “put the phone away out of sight” should apply as a safety measure for cyclists as well as motorists. Pulling over to the side to check for a missed call or waiting for a text/email should be the rule for cyclists as it is for motorists.

Finally, why the race on Laurier? I am passed everyday by other cyclists on the Laurier bike lane. What’s the rush? The lanes are wide enough to pass, but sometimes the speed they pass me at is incredible. Is there a speed limit for travelling on city bike lanes? I suspect, serious bike commuters can’t wait for cooler weather when casual commuters me abandon the bikes for pounding the pavement.

Since my days on the old and long forgotten Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee for the City of Ottawa, the bike path network has improved a great deal. The city and NCC are doing their part to make cycling safe and accessible for more casual cyclists and turning them to being more serious about using their bikes to get around. Is it time for cyclists themselves to call out others who they see as being unknowingly reckless or ignorant when cycling in the city?

p.s. don’t  get me going about parents that make their kids wear a helmet cycling when they don’t.

 

 

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I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

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If we had waited they still will have come to build

A few years ago the City of Ottawa embarked on the Mid-Centretown Design Plan which morphed into the Centretown Design Plan (CDP).  The CDP is now going to the Planning Committee for approval this fall, perhaps as early as September.  The City has been working with the Centretown community, the Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA), individual residents and the developers to create what they hope will be a strong guiding document for the future planning of Centretown.  The CCCA itself has been working on the CDP for over two and half years.

There was a period of time when the City of Ottawa waived development fees in hopes that it would draw developers’ downtown, and did it ever!  There was a flurry of applications to the City before the window closed on the waiver of development fees.  Since August 1st 2011 the City has reinstated Development fees for approved site plans, the good news is that the City’s new fee structure has not dampened the developers’ interest in putting up new buildings in Centretown.

However during the months leading up to the reinstatement of development fees the City was working in two parallel worlds, one where there were outdated Planning Act Zoning by-laws and another where they were dreaming of the best way to design a downtown community. But while there were two Cities of Ottawa, the developers only concerned themselves with what they could do in the old world of planning.  Community groups were hard at work trying to surf through the hundreds of pages of the proposed CDP and then the DRAFT CDP ensuring the document would be fair for everyone – developers AND residents.

Looking back, the City was trying to have it both ways, talking up the CDP, perhaps hoping developers would embrace it and design to the future (but not enforceable) guidelines.  Recent Planning Committee decisions refer to the CDP, however the decision to grant an application was based on guidelines the City was trying to replace.

Now, back to the opening paragraph where I mention the work towards a CDP is now close to 30 months.  I know the City wants to get it right; they want to make sure they have the ‘perfect’ planning document for Centretown, but 30 months?  So I have a thought, how long do you think it would have taken IF the City froze all applications for Centretown UNTIL it had a Centretown Design Plan approved and in place following August 1 2011?  Not 30 months that is for sure.  In fact I am pretty sure that we would have been long down the Centretown Design Plan road and probably avoided a few costly appeals to the OMB.

While this idea is too late for Centretown, there will be other Design Plans for the Planning Committee to consider in Ottawa that would benefit from a delay in applications if only to speed up the Design Plan process and have the right plan in place sooner rather than later.

Disclaimer: The CCCA has filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board over the City of Ottawa’s approval of an application by Claridge for 96 Nepean.  I am Co-Chair of the CCCA Planning Development Review Committee and Chair the working Committee for our OMB Appeal.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.

Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness

I was heartened to read in two separate accounts of the At Home/Chez Soi project that the Mental Health Commission of Canada is leading (Huffington Post: http://tiny.cc/cpdkn. Ottawa Citizen http://tiny.cc/qcxuy ).  Both pieces indicated that the project was on target to prove what all affordable housing providers know, it costs society less to keep a person in a home than on the street.

In Ontario the provincial government funds programs through various ministries; the City of Ottawa distributes money from the Federal, Provincial and its own programs.  The seriousness of our homelessness problems are never as visible as they are in the winter when there are double digit temperatures below zero.

The At Home/Chez Soi project has done much to show that when there is a concentrated effort to provide a home there is more needed than just a roof.  Life skills as simple as respecting and getting along with others can be more challenging than finding a place to live.  The solitude of not having others watch and try to control their lives is one aspect of not having a home that appeals to many.  The At Home/Chez Soi Project address these issues with support and follow up with the clients in the program.

While the monetary benefits help everyone and all levels of government, the greatest benefits go those who have the support and new encouragement to live an independent and healthy lifestyle.   Benefits reach into the most important streams of our live from Health care, Emergency Medical services, Policing and our Judicial System.  Savings in these areas can partially fund the continuation and expansion of the program. Though he does not quote any financial numbers, Malcolm Gladwell writes in his piece “Million Dollar Murray” (http://www.gladwell.com/2006/2006_02_13_a_murray.html ) the impact that the homeless have on many aspects of our society.

It is my hope that well before the At Home/Chez Soi Project ends in 2013 a firm commitment is made at the Federal,  Provincial and Municipal levels of government to continue and expand the program to include cities outside of those currently (Moncton NB, Montreal QC, Toronto ON, Winnipeg MB and Vancouver BC) involved.  It is incumbent on our community leaders to press Government leaders to openly discuss the role each plays in ending homelessness and providing greater assistance to Non-Profit housing organizations to meet their individual mandates for the level of care they provide their residents. The plight of the homelessness is just as important to our society as looking after our elderly and fragile, ensuring a stable Health Care system and good economic government policies.  These are not only individual but collect concerns for a strong Canadian society.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.