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.