Commuter News Network

A few weeks ago, the National Capital Commission decided to fix the Portage Bridge. It needs to be re-surfaced, and they’re also going to try to make it safe for bicyclists. It’s a pretty big project, costing a few million dollars. It’ll make the whole area around the river and the Portage Bridge more accessible, and it’ll improve travel to Gatineau. It seems like a very worthwhile project. At the very least, it’s a pretty big decision that’s worthy of news coverage.

When the decision was made, CFRA made one lone tweet about it to the effect of, new project is going to cause traffic problems:

About six hours later, they offered a bit more info:

Of course, the lede for that article was, “You can expect closures on the Portage Bridge this summer.”

The CBC’s Joanne Chianello did better:

But the only story I can find begins, “Expect lane closures on the Portage Bridge this summer while crews work to repair its pavement and install a two-way segregated bike lane.

The other day, I was listening to CBC radio and they had a story about the latest consultation for the Elgin Street renewal, another significant project coming to Ottawa. Regardless what you think of the design (to be nice, it’s seriously flawed and dishonest), it’s a significant story, and the consultation component of the issue deserves a lot of attention (because the city has not been treating residents well during the process).

Nonetheless, the story opened mentioning that there will be traffic disruptions some time in the future.

It’s so maddening. There are no actual traffic disruptions (right now) to speak of. These are significant issues that deserve the public’s attention. There’s a lot to be discussed, and there aren’t easy solutions to all the problems for both projects. And yet, news orgs just want to talk about some future traffic problem.

In these situations, both CBC and CFRA did a massive disservice to their audiences. (And I don’t mean to pick on them, exclusively–I’m sure just about every news org does this–they’re just the examples that I’ve encountered recently.) They’re feeding into a narrative that too many adopt about city issues–that everything, always, is about driving. That anything that might inconvenience drivers is a big problem, whereas anything that makes life better for non-drivers is more of a footnote.

It’s a mentality that treats our city not as a place to be, a place to live, a place to enjoy; but as a place to drive through. Neighbourhoods, amenities, parks–any non-road space is just an inconvenience that makes driving and commuting that much longer. It’s such a toxic, car-centric view, not just of the city, but of life. As if the only thing that matters is commuting.

No, these are big projects that will have an impact on the lives and safety of residents for decades to come. Yeah, sure, there’ll be a few hiccups when it comes to driving, but those will be insignificant in the long run.

Unfortunately, it gets more and more difficult to have a proper discussion about what kind of city we want and how we can achieve it when media outlets feed into this driving-obsessed viewpoint.

Do better, guys.

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