Holland Avenue and the mayor’s deceit when it comes to street safety

So I wanted to write a post offering Mayor Jim Watson a chance to reverse his horrible, callous decision to remove protected bike lanes from the Holland Avenue detour (no, don’t worry; it wasn’t going to be an “open letter”). I wanted to empathize with him–he’s made a bad a decision. It doesn’t matter why he made this decision–maybe to appease his driving-oriented, suburban voter base; or maybe to pander to a handful of voters on Holland Avenue; or maybe just because he kind of hates bicycling. It was a bad decision, but after personally intervening to make Holland Avenue more dangerous, it’d be hard to suddenly switch course.

I wanted to tell him he could. That he could find some way to give himself cover, some sort of excuse, so that it didn’t seem like he was caving to pressure and common sense, but that there were new revelations that made a reversal warranted.

I mean, yeah, it would all be total bullshit, but most people don’t really care about that. They care about not being run over. They care about their kids not dying on their way to summer camp. So I wanted to offer an olive branch.

But, fuck, Jim Watson just does not ever let you hold such thoughts of goodwill for very long. The deceit and bullshit that pours out of his mouth…the smarmy, cynical politicking…the dissembling…the evading…the intellectual dishonesty…the sheer contempt he has for residents…no, fuck that.

He spoke to CBC (after traffic planner Greg Kent spoke the other day…disastrously), and it was all just so much bullshit. Here’s how the whole damned thing started:

It’s my understanding we’ve got this system in place. Let us go through one season and if there are changes that have to be made, obviously from a safety point of view, we’ll do that

This is so fucking dishonest. It’s his “understanding”? It was his fucking decision to make the horribly dangerous and antagonistic arrangement of the street.

And “we’ve got a system in place”? Yes, we did. There were consultations. The councillor solicited feedback in person and electronically. He went door-to-fucking-door. After all that, the city planners made a wise decision, they chose to put protected bike lanes on Holland Avenue while the footbridge was being replaced.

That was the fucking system we had in place. It was Watson who decided to completely circumvent and subvert–to fucking sabotage–that system.

If you really want to know about the “system” we have in place, it clearly states we need concrete barriers in this situation:

So if Jim Watson was less cynical, more honest politician, he would have done exactly what he said: he’d follow the system we have in place, and try it out for a season before making changes. Instead, he changed the solution before it could even be tried.

Of course, Watson has a preferred solution over demonstrably safe infrastructure: Sharrows:

We have sharrows — for instance — in Hintonburg right now that are well used. Unfortunately, we can’t have a segregated lane on every single street.

You know what good Sharrows are? This:

Those are the same sort of “Super Sharrows” they’re using on Holland. That’s a professional driver. And that’s a bicyclist that wasn’t that far from being killed.

The second part of that tweet is also quite galling. No one is asking for protected bike lanes on every street, but there are no protected bike lanes on any of the streets around it.

The Harmer Avenue Bridge was the only way to cross the Queensway safely in that neighbourhood. And since the Queensway cuts the neighbourhood diagonally, the bridge was a necessary East-West and North-South connection.

There are no protected bike lanes on Parkdale. There are no protected bike lanes on Island Park. There are no protected bike lanes on Carling. You can no longer safely cross the Queensway around there if you’re a bicyclist.

So this bullshit about not having a segregated lane on every street is just so insulting, so deceptive. There are no protected bike lanes (or separated 417 crossings) anywhere. People want one. Just one. Not every street, just one fucking street.

Eight hundred people signed a position to have a safe route on just one fucking street and Watson does not care.

Now, maybe you don’t bike. Or maybe you don’t bike around Holland. Or maybe you only bike on paths or quiet residential streets. So maybe you’re not sure what the big issue.

That’s fair (or, at least, we’ll say it is). Here’s the issue:

Jim Watson wants kids going to school to use that infrastructure. It’s fucking unconscionable.

(And if they don’t use that, they’re allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Well, about that…on his first day to summer camp in the area, a friend’s young son was almost knocked off his bike by a pedestrian who wasn’t watching where he was going.

I bet we can all get behind a ton of sidewalk riding, right?)

You know, it seems like a lot of the people who pushed for this, have gotten cold feet. The resident behind the position that gave Watson an excuse to remove the bike lanes acknowledges that it seems pretty dangerous (he doesn’t explicitly say it’s bad…just that it’s dangerous…and that he’s glad he still has his free parking on public property. But I’m going to assume he’s not an absolute monster, just a selfish, entitled, parking enthusiast).

So, no, I’ve got no time for Watson, his bullshit or his declaration that we just have to wait a year and hope no one fucking dies.

My life is worth more than his damned ego. Your life is worth more than his hostility towards safe streets.

This is all bullshit. And we shouldn’t put up with it anymore.

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Dear candidates, you need to do more than listen.

It seems pretty clear that Ottawa has a consultation problem. No, it’s not that consultations never happen–that’s often a line used when people don’t like the results (*cough*Holland Avenue*cough*). It’s that people regularly feel ignored. You go to consultation after consultation, but to no benefit–the powers that be are just going to do whatever they want to do (*cough*Holland Avenue*cough*).

You can see this appetite for a more consultative and collaborative city not just in local news stories or on social media; you’ll see it from candidates for the upcoming municipal election. Websites are strewn with pledges to consult with residents more; to hold workshops and gather feedback; to find out what you want; and to better champion your wishes at City Hall.

This is all very good. This is what a councillor should do. It’s what many (but not all) already do. So, yeah, find out what’s important to residents, and do your best to build the city they want and deserve.

But goddammit, do more than that. Have a vision. Have some ideas. You need to represent your ward, but you also need to be a leader.

I see too many websites that have no policy positions. They have no platforms. There is no way of figuring out what the candidate actually wants to achieve. Rather than present a set of policies, or a vision, or even an idea of what they want to achieve, many of these websites ask you to tell them what needs to be done.

In lieu of a presenting a platform, they’re asking you to build one for them.

(And, to be clear, I’m not picking on any one person. This is pervasive.)

These candidates without platforms…I’m not arguing that they’re bad candidates or that they don’t have any good ideas (I know some of them do!). I’m just suggesting that they need to give something to residents, to show residents they’re thinking about ward and city issues, and have at least a general idea of how to address any issues.

Now, it’s still July. We’re still in the nomination period (and there will probably be more people declaring in the coming week) and residents aren’t paying the closest attention, yet, so it’s still early. You don’t have to roll out your plan right at the start of the campaign.

But we’re getting closer and closer to home stretch. The longer a candidate goes without some sort of policy stances, the more I think they have no plan for what they should do if they’re elected.

And that would make them bad candidates.

In Ford’s Ontario, it’s time for Ottawa to grow the f up

Okay, I just tweeted this. It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since Ford was elected, last month:

The story here is that with the cancellation of the cap and trade program (which is a very bad decisions for very straightforward reasons), there will be a ton of promised funding that is being cancelled, too. Much of this is for bike projects (also to fix up our schools and get rid of asbestos, if you care about that sort of thing).

The city, proud of its bike projects and “Gold Medal” cycling status, never likes to do things on its own. Take the Fifth-Clegg Bridge (the problematically-named “Flora Footbridge”…we’ll get into that another time); city pols will trumpet it as a success, cut ribbons and take lots of pictures, but they weren’t actually willing to build it. Not until the province and the feds provided a ton of cash did this project finally get going.

So it’s still going ahead, as is the replacement of the Harmer Bridge, but projects on Wellington and Albert and Slater and elsewhere are now in jeopardy. The big mean province is cutting funding, so these projects will be delayed…if they’re ever actually done.

The city will, no doubt, lament the province’s decisions which are resulting in delayed/cancelled projects. But don’t believe them. It’s really nice to be able to blame someone else for not doing your job for you, but it’s still bullshit.

Ottawa is a wealthy city. We have a pretty massive budget (even as we’ve been starving many programs and services). We have a significant transportation budget, and proper bicycling infrastructure makes up a small percentage of it.

If the city wanted to–and if we were willing to–we could fund these projects. We find money for road projects (see: hospital link, Brian Coburn extension, Strandherd widening, etc.). We could find money to build bike lanes on Albert Street. More and more, cities are finding quick and cost-efficient ways to build safe, protected cycling networks, you just need to want to.

Urban planner Brent Toderian likes to say that to understand a city’s priorities, don’t look to its vision document, look at its budget (or something like that). The city insufficiently budgets for bike infrastructure (hell, they insufficiently budget for almost everything, but especially bike infrastructure), because this council and this mayor don’t really care that much about it (see: Holland Avenue).

When Ford was elected, we knew cuts were coming. Putting aside all the municipal culture war bullshit the Fords participated in in Toronto, he wants to cut taxes, cut spending and also do a whole bunch of expensive shit. He has no plan in the election, and all his promises were supremely expensive and budget obliterating.

“We” elected him, anyway.

So news that the province won’t be funding bike infrastructure (thanks for attaching strings to all the funding promises, Liberals!) isn’t a surprise. The province won’t, in general, be funding much of anything that we want.

So, it’s time for Ottawa to grow the fuck up.

As a city, we need to take responsibility for our affairs. We need stand on our own feet and fund our own projects. That doesn’t mean we can’t seek grants and support from other levels of government, but that we can’t trust that such support will always be there.

And this needs to be an issue in the election. We need council members who will act as adults, will be honest about our budget and finances, and will be dedicated to properly fund the city we want and deserve.

Or we could keep going down the same path, ignoring important needs and living in city that won’t reach its potential.

Parking over people, College Ward vs. Heron Gate

Minto wants to be able to charge for visitor parking at its residential rental buildings. In fact, they’ve already started doing so, and a lot of people aren’t happy, including College Ward councillor Rick Chiarelli.

This issue came up last year and, somehow, is back in the news. Buildings that used to have free visitor parking (and, thus, abused visitor parking) now see a fee of $1 per hour.

Look, this kind of sucks for tenants. They rented in a building with free visitor parking and, quite possibly, considered it one of the amenities that drew them to that building. Landlords changing things willy-nilly is never particularly good.

However, this hardly seems like an unreasonable change. $1 per hour is pretty cheap parking, and they say there’s a drop-off/pick-up loading zone, and that they won’t charge caregivers. So, yeah, some necessary accommodations are being made.

(This is far more reasonable than the tenant who complained that their parents were visiting for 15 days and had to pay for each day. Visitor parking isn’t supposed to be for long-term parking or extended stays.)

Despite all this reasonableness, Chiarelli wants it to stop, and he wants to bring the weight of the city against Minto. This is pretty dumb, but I’m not really here to argue this point, right now.

(Okay, here’s my solution: minor changes to visitor parking prices have to be handled the same way rental increases are, in terms of warning and in terms of cost-of-living increases. Starting off changing the cost to a dollar seems fine.)

No, I think there’s a bigger issue here.

Timbercreek is about to evict hundreds of people in Heron Gate so that they can tear down their homes and build something more profitable. They’ve neglected these buildings for the past bunch of years and now claim there’s no way to save them.

Mayor Jim Watson and Alta Vista councillor Jean Cloutier have lamented the displacement, but have also thrown their hands in the air, declaring there’s nothing they can do.

So, you see, we have civic leaders who get more upset about losing free parking than about the eviction of hundreds of mostly marginalized people.

The current city council is more concerned about homes for cars than homes for people.

Now, maybe city council won’t pass any silly motion Chiarelli concocts. Maybe council will let a landlord charge for visitor parking. I dunno, but over and over again, we see the city prioritizing parking, ensuring there’s somewhere to put cars.

This is the second round of evictions by Timbercreek in the Heron Gate community, and it’s the second time the city has offered no protection to these people.

If only they were cars, then maybe our councillors would care.

Who do bike laws benefit?

Quebec has just instituted some really regressive and hostile bike laws (unsurprisingly, the trolls at CAA are cheering them on). Granted, Ontario and other jurisdictions have similar laws, but they’re often, rightfully, ignored. Quebec is diving headfirst into this antagonistic stupidity. They’ve already rolled out some enforcement goons, giving a guy hundreds of dollars in fines for not having reflectors during the day.

I mean, I get it. How the fuck could a driver see you in broad daylight.

(Ottawa cops once had a similarly dumb “safety campaign” when they did some daytime harassment of bicyclists who didn’t have lights…even though they didn’t have to law. The law was sensible. OPS were just thoughtless goons.)

Like many (most? all?) laws regulating bicycling, these are never about road safety. All the advice the authorities hand out (make eye contact! wear a helmet!) are complete and utter bullshit. There’s never any evidence backing them up…and, in fact, the evidence tends to contradict the messaging.

So why do we have these? Aside from the cynical posturing of politicians trying to buy votes from the car-loving demographic, there’s only one real reason, for the benefit of drivers.

We don’t demand bicyclists put hi-viz striping all over their bikes and themselves because there’s any reason to think it’ll help. The highest-viz equipment in the world is the goddamned sun and people still get run down in broad daylight all the fucking time (like, multiple times a day). So, no, this isn’t safety.

It’s an out. It’s permission and absolution for dangerous drivers. Basically no one is going to follow all the inscrutable and illogical laws applied to bicycling. Hell, even our cops don’t know the laws. So if we make it next-to-impossible to comply with the law–if we make every thoughtful, safe and considerate bicyclist a scofflaw cyclist–then whenever someone is smeared across the street, we can tut-tut about shared responsibility.

Politicians and driving advocates use these laws an excuse not build safe infrastructure. Why should we build a bike lane when bicyclists refuse to affix 17 reflective decals and lights to their bike and never ride in the exact spot we want them to (regardless of the law or signage).

If people really cared about safe bicycling, there are a whole lot quick fixes that could actually save lives–bike lanes, bollards, road diets, slower speeds, no right turns on red, idaho stops, using pedestrian advances, etc.

We could also make cars safer. We could install speed-limiting devices. We could mandate stopping-assistance technology. We could lower cars and make them less deadly when they do hit a pedestrian. Fucking side-guards.

But that doesn’t happen. Instead we create laws that target rather than protect. And there’s another reason why the authorities do this.

They want bicycling to be as miserable as driving.

Look, I know, North America has been sold this Easy Rider-esque idea that driving is freedom. That it’s glorious. That it is the purest most wondrous form of existence.

But city driving sucks.

You’re stuck at lights. You’re stuck in lines. You exist in traffic. You’re unable to take advantage short-cuts and alleys. You’re big and clumsy. You can’t do what bicyclists do and you can’t go where bicyclists go. And you don’t get the enjoyment and benefits bicyclists get.

So you want them to be miserable, too.

That’s why we’re so insistent that everyone has to abide by The Rules–except for cars, sometimes. We make the rules for driving. We make the infrastructure for driving. We make the environment for driving. And then the only leeway we give is to drivers.

And this isn’t just about bicyclists, we want to immiserate pedestrians, as well. We’ve outlawed “Jaywalking”. We demand two-stage crossing to get diagonally across an intersection (which we do not demand of cars and only sometimes demand of bikes). We give them beg buttons, and dangerous curb cuts for driveways and parking lots. We let puddles form on lowered intersections. And we give extra lights to drivers.

When you’re walking or biking, you don’t need follow all these rules. They don’t help you. They’re there for drivers, because drivers can’t function at the speeds and volumes they want without them.

So bicyclists and pedestrians are made to suffer for the past generation of bad decisions.

This is how it is for just about every “safety campaign” and every new law to come out of any level of government. Driving sucks–it’s an antiquated form of transportation that really doesn’t work in cities anymore (at the level we do it)–and since it sucks, we have to punish everyone else.

So I’m going to avoid biking in Quebec from now on. They seem even more car-sick than Ottawa.

Deceptions, traffic webs, Booth Street and Lebreton Flats East

I have, in the past, lied at work. I think a lot of us do it. Maybe we’re trying to cover up a mistake, maybe we’re trying to buy more time to get something done, maybe we’re trying to avoid a confrontation, whatever. People do this.

As you go on about your life, you learn more about tangled webs and deception, and (generally speaking) it’s really not worth it to lie. Often, you’ll just wind up making everything worse and more stressful for yourself. Being honest and straightforward is one of the best characteristics you can develop in the workplace (and in life).

This brings us Booth Street.

Booth Street is a colossal fuck-up by the city. It’s a busy street. It’s a main route for bicyclists and drivers. It’s a transit station. And it’s running right through the biggest development opportunity in this city since maybe the canal.

It’s a wide street, with lots of space. It was a perfect spot to integrate different forms of transportation and demonstrate the city’s commitment to safe, wise, equitable urban planning.

And, yeah, they fucked it up. They fucked it up so bad, they’re already re-doing it.

The re-development of Booth Street, coupled with changes to the Parkway (and by extension, construction of the War Museum) meant that we were getting a beefed up street and bridge. So much so, that it required a cement median. It was load-bearing or something.

Prior to this, while the NCC was still happy letting most of Lebreton Flats rot, there was a tiny intersection along Booth Street. Fleet Street connected with Booth at a T-juncture, and there was, temporarily, the ability to turn left off of Fleet onto Booth.

Bear in mind, this was never meant to be permanent. It was a favour, always meant to be temporary and that maybe never should have been granted. All city plans stated that access to Booth via Fleet was never in the plans.

(And, to be absolutely clear, this is undeniably and unequivocally the right decision. Allowing a left turn onto Booth would encourage more driving through the existing Lebreton/City Centre/Little Italy area. Booth is already too much of a thoroughfare. The existing and future Lebreton Flats developments can’t follow a suburban, car-centric design. They’re right next door to the core, they have to prioritize transit, walking and biking…and, yeah, discourage driving.)

So with this absolutely essential median, the former temporary left turn was cut off. This caused much consternation to those who had grown accustomed to the temporary benevolence (and now want to open up Wellington and Booth to left turns), but it didn’t actually change much in terms of long-term planning.

Oh, except it took up more space. And when they designed the bridge, they decided not to have any bike infrastructure (and the pedestrian/transit rider infrastructure wasn’t super ideal, either).

(By the way, initially they designed the bridge with bike lanes, but then some car-slavering pol or planner decided to change it for no good reason.)

As people asked for bike lanes, and as residents of “Lebreton Flats East” initially sought their Fleet Street left turn, they were all told it was impossible because without the median, the bridge would collapse and all of Lebreton Flats would be sucked into an underworld vortex…or some shit like that.

Wouldn’t ya know it? That wasn’t true!

The median is coming out, and Booth Street is going to be improved. I know I’m only giving a rough sketch of the situation (and I’m sure I’m obscuring a few details someone will find important)–is it as good as it should be?, maybe, probably not–but whatever, I don’t care about that right now. Here’s what I care about.

The city fucked up. Some planner fucked up. And city staff decided that instead of owning up and saying either “we fucked up” or “fuck you, bicycles, die in fucking traffic accident, there are cars that need drivin'”, they lied and blamed it all on the median.

So now, we have a public that is (even more) distrustful of planners. We’ve spent a ton of time fighting about this, when they should have just done initially what they’re doing now and started fixing the bridge.

And they made it seem like the city was trying to pull one on the residents of Lebreton Flats East. Rather than explaining to those residents why it was unwise to have that turn at Fleet Street (and, similarly, why we can’t have left turns at Wellington and Booth to make up for the left turn they “lost”), they lent credence to any grievance the residents had about getting screwed by the city.

And, you know, if they’d just been honest and straightforward from the start–telling them why there can’t be left turns onto Booth and explaining that there never should have been one in the first place–most people probably would have accepted it. Not everyone, of course, but most people are reasonable if you’re straight with them.

Next time, opt for the truth, even if it’s a more difficult conversation.

Looking isn’t enough

The trial of Steven Conley, the man who killed Nusrat Jahan while she was biking legally along the Laurier Segregated Bike Lane, has been going on this week. The details are horrible. The descriptions of the sights and sounds of Conley running of Jahan with his truck are gruesome. The evidence is clearly stacked against him (probably because he fucking recklessly killed a woman), but he’ll probably get off.

His basic defense (from the CBC Ottawa coverage):

“When the light turned green, before I turned, I looked in the mirrors three times and then I looked again in my mirror on the hood and then I went ahead,” Conley said.  He told Gendron he always waits a “few seconds” before turning.

“I didn’t see her at all. She came out of nowhere, and if I’d seen her I would have stopped,” he said. “It’s not something you want to see, someone under your truck.”

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know I have a lot to say about the “she came out of nowhere” bullshit, and, don’t worry, I have more to say about that.

Right now, though, I want to address the “I looked in the mirrors three times and then I looked again…” part of his testimony.

He says he couldn’t see her. And he’ll probably get off because he was driving a big truck and it has more challenging sightlines (though the prosecution demonstrating that driving a big truck does not actually preclude you from seeing a bicyclist in the bike lane).

Drivers often say they don’t see the people or things they hit. They often talk about people coming out of nowhere–which is always bullshit; no one comes out of nowhere. They’ll say they looked and though it was clear to go.

This is the crux of it: looking isn’t enough.

Drivers talk about checking blindspots and checking mirrors, and, yes, no doubt they look in them. But studies and anecdotes have demonstrated that drivers can look right at someone and then just run them down. You’ll be crossing a street, a driver will be staring right at you and then they’ll just start driving, because though they were checking, though they were looking, they weren’t seeing anything.

Because looking isn’t enough. You need to be aware.

Pedestrians and bicyclists tend to understand this, especially if you’re on a busy street. There are cars and drivers all over the place, and you can never trust them to be safe.

You know the car at the intersection ahead might be turning, even though they have no signal on.

You know the driver at the corner might just drive through the intersection, even though you have the right-of-way.

You know you can’t trust the benevolence, consideration, ability or attentiveness of anyone wielding two tonnes of metal in our city. So you have to be aware. And, as someone not in a car, you are more aware. You see more. You hear more. You are more engaged with the street around you.

I mean, cars are fucking marketed to keep drivers disengaged from the road–you can’t feel anything, you can’t hear anything, and you can accelerate easily and without care.

If you’re driving beside a busy bike lane, you need to pay attention to the bicyclists. If you pass a bicyclist, be aware that they’ll catch up with you if you slow down. If you’re sitting at a red light waiting for it to change, be aware that there might be bicyclists coming up from behind you, right in the place they’re legally allowed and told to be.

If you’re at a busy downtown intersection, know that people will be crossing the street. Realize that the person walking towards the intersection may turn and cross in the crosswalk (because, again, that’s where they’re told to cross). Be aware that people come out of buildings, that they walk at varying speeds and that they are allowed to try to live their lives without offering a lake of blood to the driving gods.

So, yeah, maybe Steven Conley “looked” in his mirrors three or four times. Maybe he “checked” everything before he turned (illegally, without signalling). But his excuse is really an indictment. It’s clear he wasn’t paying attention to the street around him. He wasn’t aware of what was going on.

He had no idea who was beside him and yet he drove, anyway, utterly destroying a person–snuffing out her life with a loud pop.

We have insulated, figuratively and literally, drivers from the ramifications of their actions and their negligence. We’ve given them no reason to feel they need to be aware of their surroundings, driving with the caution their motorized weapons demand. We tell them they should look, but we never worry about them being aware.

And people like Nusrat Jahan are dead because of it.

More on the mayor and the politics of parking

In my previous post, I wrote about the Mayor Watson’s decision remove a safe, legal detour for bicyclists while the Harmer Bridge is being replaced. A friend on Twitter, made this observation:

He’s right. There’s no political upside to this decision. Watson has high favourability numbers. He has no real competition in the upcoming election. There’s no clear political reason for this.

I mean, maybe he’s trying to paint Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper into a corner (Leiper won’t toe the mayor’s line, regularly supports sane urban development and advocates for safe streets, so you can see why Watson wouldn’t like him), but the possible votes of 118 driving advocates probably aren’t going to make or break Leiper’s re-election. These people seemed unlikely to vote for him anyway.

(And his only challenger so far is Daniel Stringer, and that’s probably not much of a challenge.)

So, no, this isn’t a political calculation. It’s pretty clear the mayor is just a big booster of driving.

But there is a political dynamic underlying all this. There are many, many times we see driving advocates and politicians from car-centric communities (the latter being a sub-set of the former) oppose any projects that benefit non-drivers in central areas.

Because Watson isn’t doing this just (or maybe at all) for the Holland residents who signed the petition. He’s signalling to his core constituency in further out suburbs that he supports their unfettered (except for traffic) driving and will do what he can to ensure the car remains supreme.

He’s saying, don’t worry drivers, you still get to drive everywhere.

And he’s not the only one who does this.

Allan Hubley and Jan Harder railed against the Main Street bike lanes because they didn’t want to take away car lanes (or just increase safety) in the suburbs.

Rick Chiarelli opposed a parking-free apartment building on Rideau Street near uOttawa, because he wouldn’t want there to be a parking-free building in College Ward. College Ward wants to drive and park in their ward, so Rideau-Vanier can never be improved!

We often see suburban councillors attempt to scuttle city-building projects for the supposed benefit of their constituents (they want ample car lanes downtown for driving; they won’t pay for bike lanes because they want low taxes). These rationales are often…irrational (and not even what all their residents necessarily want), and they’re generally misanthropic, but there is a direct link.

But what we’re seeing in these other examples is something different. It’s about sacrificing certain wards and certain neighbourhoods and certain people to maintain the illusion of a driving utopia for those in the outer suburbs.

So, no, there’s no political upside to endangering children, but there’s still a lot of politics to it.

Mayor Watson shows his hostility towards residents and safe streets

David Reevely has a report in the Citizen about the movement to get a safe bicycle detour in place for the next two years while the Harmer Bridge is re-built. There was a plan in place (bike lanes on Holland), but some residents put together a petition with 118 signatures and the mayor got the detour removed. They wanted to save a few free on-street parking spaces.

(This might also be a good time to point out that in that entire area, there is only one safe, legal way for bicyclists to cross the 417. Maybe that needs a fix, too.)

In response to the mayor’s decision, there’s now a petition that has garnered over 700 signatures asking, pleading, for safe way to cross the 417. The local community association is backing this, as well. Apparently, there might be signs of life, as there is to be a meeting between the mayor and some of the bicyclists who don’t want to die on Holland Avenue.

There’s a lot of talk about the issue–about how bad it is, about how it is for both bicyclists and pedestrians, how it’ll endanger school children, how we’re prioritizing private car storage over public safety–and it’s all quite on point. This decision by the mayoral was a betrayal…both of the people who need a safe way to get to work and school, and to the city and its supposed commitment to active transportation, environmental protection and public safety.

The whole thing was also incredibly dishonest. The 118 pro-parking signatories claimed that there’d been no public consultation. There, in fact, had been public consultations, public notices, and the councillor and his staff went door-to-door talking to residents and leaving information if they weren’t home.

But there’s another part of the issue that I touched on briefly on Twitter, and that’s the mayor’s quick and solitary decision to kill the bike lanes (and maybe some bicyclists, who knows).

If you’ve ever seen the mayor interact on Twitter, you know he likes process. When complaints come, he quickly directs them to city councillors. When people want changes to projects, he either tells them it’s too soon and consultations are coming, or that it’s too late and the consultations are over (it’s the too soon, too soon, too soon, too late method of avoiding public accountability).

But this time, he got a petition with a measly 118 signatures (hundreds of people use that bridge regularly), and he went behind everyone’s back and got the change made.

This is the mayor telling you who he is. He’ll trumpet the city’s “record spending” on bicycling infrastructure and he’ll call us a Gold Medal cycling city. He’ll support motions about Complete Streets and “Towards Zero”, he’ll talk a good game about Safer Roads Ottawa, and he’ll pass out the Bruce Timmerman Award for cycling advocacy. But when it comes right down to it, when push comes to shove, he shoves bicyclists back in the gutter.

Watson is a commuter mayor. He’s building a city for suburban commuting and extensive driving.

Just look at Lansdowne. It was built as a “Pedestrian Priority Zone”. There are even signs! But a few weeks and a handful of dumbass drivers complaining, and suddenly there are lines painted all over the park, delineating what is clearly, if unofficially, supposed to be car-first areas. No where else do pedestrian zones get painted to look like city streets.

No one knew how this happened. There was no public consultation. OSEG claimed not to be behind it. The local councillor didn’t ask for it (and he had always wanted a car-free Lansdowne, he says). Word is that the mayor made this decision and directed crews to paint lines without even discussing the matter with council, the councillor or the public.

And then there was the vanishing bike lane on O’Connor. It seemed to be supported by the councillor and by city staff. They planned it for two years, and then suddenly, without warning, it was axed. There are a lot of rumours about who was behind it, but they all lead back to mayor, in way or another.

This is who Jim Watson is. He does not want safe streets (he may not be against them, but driving and parking are higher priorities). He has shown this numerous times, but always tried to hide his animosity for bicyclists.

Now, it’s clear as day. He didn’t want the bike lanes there. He wanted to prioritize parking and driving over bicycling. He congratulated the anti-street safety group after doing their bidding.

This isn’t the only way the mayor shows his true colours. We’ve seen it with safe injection sites–claiming he’s worried about public health and public safety, ignoring all evidence until the political winds shift against him.

We’ve seen it with women’s issues and representation on council. He’ll talk a good game when he sends and MRA/”pick-up artist” packing or nominally defends a woman’s right to choose, but then he’ll make pro-life declarations every year and oppose a motion to explore the implications on women of city activities (again, changing tack when it is advantageous to do so).

Jim Watson is, at his core, a cynical politician. I used to think that meant that he didn’t really believe in anything, but it’s clear he does. He believes in securing and protecting his status as a part of car culture (not to mention as a man) over just about anything else.

The mayor doesn’t really care about you or your safety.

Mayor Watson looking for another petty social media fight

Mayor Jim Watson is an avid social media user. You’ll find him promoting events, recording his public appearance and, sometimes, saying dumb stuff in the face of tragedy (when a bicyclist was killed, he tweeted about record spending on bike infrastructure; when Abdirahman Abdiab was killed by cops, he tweeted about baseball).

You can also see him picking fights and obsessing over petty grievances. He’ll attack city activists and advocates if they don’t toe the line, and he’s had numerous bickering matches with Alex Cullen. It’s all pretty unseemly.

Yesterday, he decided he needed a new foil, and decided it would be Stittsville resident and city council candidate Glen Gower.

Glower established and used to run Stittsville Central–a website covering issues pertinent to Stittsville. It really is a fantastic source for hyper-local coverage, and Glen should be proud of what he built.

But notice I said “used to”. Glen stepped down from Stittsville Central when he signed up to run for council, as he should have. He’s no longer involved in it. Devyn Barrie is now the editor, and yesterday, Devyn ran story about Watson’s cynical ploy to spend money on an environmental assessment to get LRT to Barrhaven.

It’s a pretty transparent election-year promise…but a lot of people have wondered what it means for light rail out to Kanata and Stittsville. Will we do both? Will we shift the focus to Barrhaven? Is this just an empty gesture? It’s a valid question and a valid issue for Sittsville Central to cover.

The mayor was pretty upset:

So this story had absolutely nothing to do with Gower and yet Watson decided to smear Gower, nonetheless. You might wonder why he would do this. Gower is an active and passionate advocate for his community and the city, as a whole. He is committed and works hard, and probably has a decent shot at beating the incumbent, Shad Qadri…

…oh that might explain it. Gower speaks his mind, looks to improve the community and doesn’t appear to be someone whole fall in line if elected to council. Watson has very little time for these people.

Watson has often said that if people want to make a difference, they should run for office. But it seems that’s just a canard and he doesn’t really mean it.

Stittsville Central fired back at Watson and his false claim:

Oh yeah, and that wasn’t the only bit of incorrect info Watson blasted out:

Naturally, Watson didn’t acknowledge his false claims; in fact, he doubled-down on the whole matter. It was a rather tactless episode from a mayor who always tries to present a very specific–if inaccurate–face to the media.

Gower seems to have taken the high road in all of this and not responded. It’s quite possible he’s just a bigger, more considerate person than the mayor.