The councillor weighs in on the Fifth Avenue bike lane

In my previous post, I covered the city’s response (and lack of response) to my questions about the Fifth Avenue bike lane–specifically the intersection of Fifth and Bank. To re-cap:

  • The city promises to move the car stop line back a bit.
  • The city promises to put in a bike box.
  • The city is reticent to put in any protection (a bollard or whatever), and apparently there’s no money for it, anyway…but maybe we’ll take a wait-and-see approach.
  • The city didn’t comment on no-rights-on-reds.
  • The city didn’t comment on an advance bike (and pedestrian) light.

So an entirely mixed and rather disappointing, if expected, response. One thing that really bugs me about this is that they’re doing so little on Fifth to begin with, they can’t even muster the interest to do the bare minimum to make this a safe and protected intersection for vulnerable road users. It’s a half measure of a half measure.

So I asked what the local councillor, David Chernushenko, thought–what is his preference for such an intersection.

My specific wording to his staffer was: I have one final question, what does the councillor think of this? If it were up to him, how would he have the intersection and bike lanes constructed?

The response was thoroughly underwhelming.

Thanks for raising these questions. In short, if this was a complete rebuilding of the intersection — with the budget that comes with it — I would look at doing some additional “hardened” measures in place of mere lines. However, it is not. There is a small budget for the whole Glebe Neighbourhood Bikeways project, and it does not allow for multi-million dollar changes. But even if it did, we would still be faced with a couple of major limitations:

  1. The actual location of building faces;
  2. The need for wide sidewalks;
  3. The significant and almost equal needs of different users, and the interactions between them (pedestrians, cyclists, buses, drivers)

As an illustration of point 3, yesterday I was driving on Fifth, turning south on Bank — in my electric car, of course:) Only two cars could get through because the turning lane has now been removed to make room for the cycle lane. There are so many pedestrians crossing that there is little time/room for a turn. Banning a right turn on red would actually increase the congestion and frustration, though admittedly adding some modest pedestrian safety. In short, it is bloody complicated and there is no easy solution in a dense urban environment. Let’s watch and learn, then modify.

As for an advance light for cyclists, there are traffic code limits on when and how these can be used (budgets too) but I will ask for this to be considered.

Please keep in mind that the plan you see in front of you was reached following extensive input from users of all modes, Bike Ottawa, local Glebe cyclists and pedestrians, and went through some public information sessions. So this is not top down. It is the best we could collectively come up with — for now at least. As a city, we keep evolving!

Well, ho-lee there’s a lot to unpack here.

First, I was more interested in what we’d ideally for this intersection under the current circumstances, but I wasn’t clear about that, so a discussion (however half-hearted) about a proper re-construction is fair.

And certainly, if we could widen the sidewalks, narrow the street, eliminate on-street parking and then see what space there was for bike lanes, I’d be ok with that. Prioritize pedestrian safety, yes!

Oh wait, but no, he doesn’t really sound like he wants to prioritize pedestrian or bike safety. Look at point 3. He’s talking that usual city faux-complete-streets bullshit about balancing the needs of all road users.

Look, some asshole driver’s “need” to speed through an intersection is not “almost equal” to my actual need to not get fucking run over. This shouldn’t be difficult. And if a councillor actually cared about bicycling (or, say, the environment), I’d expect him to get that.

Now, let’s look at his illustration. Apparently, only two cars could get through on a light. Oh boo-fucking-hoo. You know how much bicyclists and pedestrians are forced to wait for drivers (or for the hypothetical driver that might soon be coming down the road)? Do you know how many bicyclists won’t be able to go anywhere because some driver is stopped in the bike lane?

Yeah, exactly. So, I don’t care a whole lot.

Also, can we stop prioritizing “traffic flow” over all things on our residential streets? (Yes, Fifth is a residential street.) The Glebe is filthy with cars. We don’t actually need to keep encouraging them.

And, really, if there are so many pedestrians using the street, (a) that’s great; (b) let’s start prioritizing their safety a little bit. ‘Cuz let’s make something clear: I asked his office about some measures to make Bank Street more welcoming, more accommodating and safer for pedestrians and I was…given blatantly false information in defense of the driving-centric status quo.

But, hey, I can play nice. We could give cars a delayed green in order to get a couple of turners through the intersection.

What if between each driving traffic light change, we had a bike and pedestrian scramble? Maybe that’d balance things out nicely.

You see? There are solutions beyond just making sure lots of drivers can do lots of driving.

But, my god, way to diminish pedestrian and bicycling safety (calling needed safety improvements “modest”), when you need to stand up for driving.

I mean, he’s right. These things get bloody difficult when we arrange our entire city around driving. So, yeah, this is a difficult bind (I guess). But, hell, for once, just once, when we’re struggling for a solution, could take pedestrian and bicycling safety as the default, encouraging driving activists to find a compromise they can live with.

For once, could we place the hardship on drivers, not the people they could easily kill?

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The ongoing saga of the Fifth Avenue bike lane

All right. I’m not linking to the old posts, do a quick search and you should find them. For those of you who have been following along, bike lanes…well a bike lane…well, kinda half a bike lane…has been put in on Fifth Avenue. It’s welcome, but I was a little concerned about the state of it.

The bike lane is only on the eastbound side of the road. It goes from just before Bank Street to the driveway (well, there’s a little blip at the O’Connor intersection, but we’ll ignore that). So it kind of connects with something on the east end, but connects with nothing on the west.

In addition, there is a short bike lane (a few car lengths) going westbound as you approach Bank Street. It’s to allow bikes to get past a line up of left-turning cars (I assume), since there’s no longer a dedicated left turn lane on Fifth (good).

So far, so…good?…ok?…meh?

Anyway, I’m supportive of this half measure, as long as we’re doing it right. This bike lane is basically nothing, right now. It’s a line of paint. There are no protections, no advance lights, nothing like that. So I contacted my councillor’s office asking about it. Here are the things I’d like to see at the Fifth Avenue intersection (I focused solely on that because there are only so many battles to be fought at once):

  1. Moving the stop lines for cars back.
  2. A bike box at the intersection for left-turning bicyclists.
  3. A bollard or some sort of barrier to keep cars out of the bike lanes.
  4. No rights on reds.
  5. And advance light for bicyclists (and pedestrians).

My councillor’s staffer contacted the city staffer in charge of this, here’s what I got:

The implementation of the final plans for this intersection have not been completed yet. There are plans for bike boxes in both the eastbound and westbound directions – which would also encompass the stop bars for vehicles being further back (points 2 & 3 below). This requires the implementation of thermoplastic green paint, which is completed through a different operation than the implementation of the ‘regular white lines’. I don’t have the exact timelines for when City crews will be completing this intersection – but it is ‘in progress’.

As for the residents request for flexible posts, I would recommend waiting until the final pavement markings have been fully established and then the City can observe actual operations to determine if flexible stakes are justified or not. The bike lanes are new and it is expected that there will be some ‘adjustments’ from all modes until everyone is used to the new configurations. It should be noted that the Glebe Neighbourhood Cycling Plan project does not have any budget for the implementation of flexible posts.

It’s worth noting that the City has been having some issues with road paint for several reasons, which might affect the timeline of implementing these bike lanes. Not through budget, but just the sheer amount of work on Roads’ plate.

Also worth noting is that flex stakes might be denied outright by Staff should their locations be determined to be out of line with City requirements for placement.

(Honestly, I don’t know if all that is from the city staffer or if the last paragraph or two are from the councillor staffer.)

Okay, so we are promised that the stop line will be moved back. That’s good. And there should be a bike box coming, also good. The issue about paint is understood–though they were able to re-paint the rest of the intersection (and a few days ago painted useless dangerous sharrows down Fifth towards Bronson), so I’m not sure why they couldn’t have done the stop line at the same time.

So this is a positive thing, poorly-planned. I get that. I’ll take it…for now.

The rest of it is absolute bullshit.

We’re going to take a wait-and-see approach to keeping cars out of bike lanes? Does the city staffer ever actually use our fucking streets? Paint does not deter drivers. Hell, sidewalk curbs don’t deter drivers. Yes, some drivers (maybe most?) will abide by the lines, but it only takes one driver to seriously injure or kill you.

It is despicable that the city uses our lives as a behaviour modification experiment for drivers. An experiment that has failed over and over and over again.

And all this bullshit about the budget for the “Glebe Neighbourhood Cycling Plan” (which is a total piece of crap plan)? We don’t have to have special, meager budgets for driving infrastructure, but bicyclists can suck it, I guess.

(By the way, I looked. I can buy a flexipost for about $200 US. I’m willing to do it. Maybe we could take a few hundred from the Christmas miracle budget surplus to pay a guy to install it.)

And, really, “flex stakes might be denied outright by Staff should their locations be determined to be out of line with City requirements for placement”. What the hell is that.

You know where flexiposts should be required, beside bike lanes because drivers just can’t fucking stop driving in them. I don’t give a shit about stupid bureaucratic rules. I give a shit about not being run over by a selfish, incompetent, negligent driver.

By the way, you’ll notice the staffer didn’t address the no-right-on-red or advance light.

Yeah.

I responded back, thanking the staffer for the information (he really did tackle this quickly). I noted that the last two requests were ignored by the staffer, but assumed that since we won’t buy a flexipost, we won’t pay for a sign or new light. (I was always willing to wait a little longer for the light.)

I did have one other question. Putting aside all the questions of what we will do or can do or can afford to do, I asked him, “what does the councillor think of this? If it were up to him, how would he have the intersection and bike lanes constructed?”

And, to his credit, Councillor Chernushenko responded…but that will be the subject of a future post.

More signs!

Okay, no, I don’t plan to regularly update the state of election signs in Capital Ward, but we’re going to do a bit more.

The other night, I headed over to Old Ottawa East to check the sign situation out there. I only did the area east of Main Street (and not each and every street), but here’s what I found…

There’s a decent mix of signs over there. I saw a couple of McAllister signs, but she seemed quite far behind Carricato and Menard, who seemed to be running neck-and-neck for the sign lead. Most of the time out there, I thought Carricato clearly had the most, but just about any time that thought entered my mind, I’d run into a few Menard signs, and it’d seem tied.

(Again, this is incredibly unscientific and, no, I’m not actually counting.)

One little quirk I noticed was that Carricato seems to have a disproportionate number of signs on corners. This doesn’t really mean anything (owning a corner is good because you can put signs up facing two roads, but the people in a corner lot only get to vote once), it’s just an odd observation.

Also, Clive Doucet owns that portion of OOE. I saw no Watson signs until I was on Main Street, but there were a handful of Doucet signs throughout the area.

There were no Afolabi or Chernushenko signs.

(Chernushenko sent out an email saying that his signs came back from the printer with the wrong colours, so they had to be re-done. There was a tweet this morning or last night showing that his signs have come in. So soon we should see how many are out there.)

Back in the Glebe, more an more signs are going up…at least for some. McAllister continues to own the area. I don’t think I’ve seen more Menard signs, but there seems to be a steady trickle of Carricato signs going up. Also, I saw a second Afolabi sign.

Tackling Orleans Ward

Never has there been a better argument for ranked choice voting that the election in Orleans Ward, where every registered voter is running for council, ensuring a 1-vote tie across the the board.

Okay, I’m kidding there are “only” 17 candidates running. Bob Monette surprisingly stepped down, creating a void that was amply filled by councillor hopefuls. What’s interesting is that of the other wards without an incumbent running–Innes (4). Kanata North (5)  Bay (5)–none of them even get into double digits in terms of candidates.

Last time around, Somerset and Osgoode both had 11 candidates, but 17 is a whole other level.

And, really, it’s quite daunting. I haven’t lived in Orleans (or anywhere close to it) in over a decade, and I don’t know any of these candidates. Honestly, I’ve kind of been avoiding the ward race. I have checked out websites, and I’m following whomever I can on Twitter, but there’s just so many of them. And, as an outsider, I don’t even have a sense of who are the top tier candidates.

So, here’s what I’m going to do for you, dear readers, I’m going to do a real quick rundown, based on candidate websites (and maybe any other info I have), and try to figure out what the heck is going on out there.

And at the very end, I’ll give you an assessment of the candidates that I’m most intrigued by (whether they have a hope in hell of winning or not.)

I may also then send this blogpost around to the candidates and invite them to either comment on the post or send me an email response. I’ll be sure to post any pertinent responses I get.

***

So here we go. I’m going in reverse alphabetical order, so that there’s no favouritism, and just to be different.

Don Yetman: First off, that’s quite a website. It loads slow and doesn’t quite function as I’d like, but it’s got a fun retro-DIY feel. He’s a long-time resident of the ward, seems to have had an accomplished career and has done some volunteer work. So far, so good.

I like that his priorities include ward-level and city-wide issues. At the ward level, he wants to rejuvenate St. Joseph. He wants safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure. And he wants to make sure LRT leads to better commuting. These are all good things.

He’s got some fine ideas for the city–making sure LRT works, thoughts on zoning and development, a focus on community–but then there’s this, “Control the expansion of Safe Injection sites to protect Residential neighbourhoods.”

Here’s the thing: Safe Injection Sites protect residential neighbourhoods. The only way I can read his statement is that he doesn’t consider, say, Lowertown to be a “residential neighbourhood”. Further, I worry it’s a let’s-keep-all-the-bad-stuff-in-certain-areas mindset. This is how the Sally Ann’s megashelter gets foisted on Vanier. This is how the needs of low-income households get ignored in the ‘burbs.

Now, I don’t know that there are plans to put SIS in Orleans. I kind of doubt it right now…but considering that we are seeing overdoses in suburban areas, if some place like Orleans needs an SIS, then we shouldn’t reflexively oppose it in order to “protect Residential neighbourhoods”.

Sigh. He was looking promising.

Kevin Tetrault: Okay, he has a Facebook page rather than a website, which is ok…but it makes it a tad more difficult to find info. Here’s what I know: he was born and raised in Orleans. Went to U of O, was in the Cameron Highlanders and he seems to be a Tory. His campaign is about jobs and smart infrastructure investment (which he does not define). And he seems fond of Bob Monette.

That’s all I got.

He posts pictures of canvassing. He says that constituents are concerned about bike lanes (for or against, I dunno), parking downtown and safe injection sites–I can’t find any reporting on SIS coming to Orleans. Maybe I missed it?

Verdict: underwhelming, but need a lot more info.

Louise Soyez: I got nothing. No website, no obvious web presence. Sorry.

Qamar Masood: Masood came to Ottawa in the ’70s. He appears to have been a rather successful businessman for the past few decades, and also very active in the community (he received a City Builders Award). He also has some clear priorities: hydro amalgamation, LRT-transit connectivity (this is good; we need to get people to LRT stations), carpool lanes on the 174 (uh…), support for Movement d’implication francophone d’Orléans (MIFO), crime prevention, St. Joseph rejuvenation…and not increasing property taxes. No, I don’t know how he plans to pay for everything if he’s reticent to increase taxes.

Like Tetrault, he, too, is a fan of Monette.

There’s a lot to like, but there’s also the typical failing of a candidate who wants a lot of stuff but doesn’t want to have to pay for it. From what I see, he falls into the stereotypical (and often unfair) profile of suburban politicians.

That said, getting more diverse perspectives on council ain’t a bad thing.

Matt Luloff: Interestingly, when the avalanche of Orleans candidates had just barely started smothering us, a candidate in a central ward told me to check out Luloff, suggesting he’d be a good candidate. So here we are.

OK, his is the best website so far. I know that doesn’t actually matter, but it’s politics. Keep appearances in mind. He’s a former soldier who now works on the Hill. He also went to high school in Orleans.

Right, enough bio stuff. What does he stand for? He wants to build (a) the community; (b) the economy; and, (c) better mental health service, “especially for our first responders, soldiers, veterans, and public servants”, clearly a cause important to him (though I don’t understand why one is more deserving of such support if you work in the public sector rather than the private sector).

Here’s one thing he says about building community: “We need to widen Highway 174, improve LRT infrastructure, including a larger park-and-ride at Place d’Orléans, and improve access to Petrie Island.”

Come on.

We need more highway and better LRT infrastructure? The point of LRT is to get fewer people driving. Why on earth should we widen the 174?

Aside from talking jobs, here’s what he says about building the economy, “I will vote to keep our property taxes low and predictable to help seniors, families and businesses plan for the future.”

So, more money for LRT, more money for roads (that’ll kill transit use), more money for park-n-rides and Petrie Island, more money for mental health services…but no more money coming in to the city’s coffers.

That isn’t a particularly well-thought-out platform, what with multiple internal contradictions.

Shannon Kramer: All right, we might have our first urbanist candidate (but, don’t worry, it’s not about turning Orleans into Centretown, it’s about an urbanism that fits within Orleans’s current suburban context). Kramer’s an Industrial Design graduate from Carleton (Go Ravens)…but that’s about all I could learn about her personally. That’s not a problem; I’m just noting it.

So far, she clearly has the most extensive website (which also means I skimmed much of it). She speaks of healthy communities, walkability, transportation choice, gentle density and affordable housing. These are all really good things for council to focus on. And, again, she speaks to them in a way to make them fit into Orleans, rather than radically altering it.

She appears younger than most of the other candidates, and I worry that’ll hurt her. But, so far, she seems the most promising candidate.

Catherine Kitts: Kitts’s website is “Coming Soon”. I do know that she was born and raised in Orleans.

Sigh.

I follow her on Twitter, and I know she’s very supportive of women running (which is great!), but I don’t recall anything else that really drew me in.

Geoffrey Nicholas Griplas: Welp. No website. Sorry, I got nothin’.

Miranda Gray: Oh my god, her website isn’t done, either.

Gray was the first of the candidates to declare, and the only one who declared before Monette. She’s also fairly active on Twitter, so I do have a good handle on where she’s coming from, and, so far, I like what I see. She seems to be thoughtful about city issues, and she seems to have a sound vision for Orleans and the city…but seems is key here.

I’d like to see a platform rolled out, Miranda.

Jarrond Goldsmith: He plays the saxaphone.

Okay, that may seem like an odd way to start, but that used to be the first thing you saw when you went to his website. He’s since changed it to be a little more election-focused.

His bio doesn’t really tell me much about him. His priorities seem pretty good: shorter commute times, revitalizing St. Joseph, accessibility, community safety, and arts and culture. They’re all on his home page. Let’s see if we can dig a bit, and see what those mean to him.

He says he supports sustainability and ‘”complete” streets and cities’–this would seem to include balancing transportation needs and offering transportation choices (he says, “expanding safe cycling options just makes good sense,” so that’s a plus). I think he wants to do something about traffic and commute times, but I’m not sure how he plans to tackle those (unless it’s through better transpo choices, which, yeah, that’s a good start).

He rounds out his vision talking about arts and recreation, social responsibility, and culture (all of which seems good); and economic success (which is mostly just buzzwords).

Honestly, I seem to recall not being too impressed the first time I checked him out, but this vision is looking pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised reading through it.

Doug Feltmate: Doug Feltmate thinks a federal employment node should be located in Orleans.

That’s the very first thing that greeted me on his site, so I thought I’d share (it’s possible that after 1600 words, I’m getting a little punchy…not sure if this will be an advantage or a disadvantage for the candidates still to come).

He also wants to revitalize St. Joe Blvd. This seems like a common idea, and I love it. I think St. Joe is nowhere close to reaching its potential. I think it has the potential (to overuse a word) to be a really cool Traditional Mainstreet. Orleans is different than Kanata or Barrhaven, it has an existing framework for a…dare I say it…urban village. Again (again), not to completely change the character of the area, but to make it come alive.

…but I digress…

There doesn’t seem to be a full platform on his site, but he does have some vision points. Aside from the ones I’ve mentioned, he wants to enhance Petrie Island, improve transit connectivitiy, make sure St. Joe is accessible and that it offers amenities for all residents, improve infrastructure, get more sports and rec facilities, and put in a festival plaza along St. Joe.

He’s just all about the boulevard.

Doug moved around a bit as a kid, came to Ottawa to play junior hockey, went to Algonquin and ran a successful business in the food services industry. So that’s all pretty cool.

I’m intrigued by Doug, but, like others, I just don’t have enough details about his vision. I also didn’t see anything on his site about taxes. In some ways, that’s a relief, but it also makes me worried that he’ll be another of those I want everything but I don’t want to pay for it candidates. But I’m not going to assume that yet.

Dina EpaleHe was/is the Executive Director of Orleans Chamber of Commerce. I can’t find a website. He’s got a Twitter account that doesn’t seem to be used much.

So, yeah, I’m gonna need more info to make any sort of judgement.

Diego Elizondo: All right, it took a bit, but I’ve learned a few things about Elizondo. First of all, all his Facebook messages are in French first. I kinda think this is a good thing. There’s not always sufficient francophone representation at City Hall, and he’d definitely change that (it’s one of his issues).

He’s also environmentally-conscious, it seems, not having any plastic lawn signs (which, sadly, could really hurt his campaign). He also wants better transit and better management of public finances. Unfortunately, I have no details on how he’d like to see these achieved.

He, too, is a fan of Monette.

Guy Desroches: Desroches is another long-time resident of Orleans. After recovering from a bilateral brainstem stroke in 2005, he has become an activist for accessibility issues. He’s running on the need for better and more affordable transit, accessibility and housing issues.

You might think he’s a one-issue candidate, and certainly, accessibility is a motivating issue for him, but it seems like he’s developed a broader vision, rooted in accessibility. I say, “seems”, because there’s not a ton of detail.

Mireille Brownhill: Brownhill has four priorities listed on her website: smart development around LRT hubs, safe streets and parks, encouraging community events, and revitalizing St. Joseph. We’ll just leave that fourth one, as it almost seems like cost-of-admission to the race (actually, one note: she wants to work with businesses and BIAs, and I get that, but I’ve just grown to recoil at such shoutouts).

The priorities seem sound–safe streets, transit, livability, community–this is all stuff I can get behind. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll get a few more details on where she’s coming from, and, so far, it’s quite promising.

Toby Bossert: Toby really lays it out there. He’s had some setbacks in his life. In 2015, he lost his father and his job. His wife was also laid off. She quickly found work, but he wasn’t so lucky. He’s worked a variety jobs in the past few years.

This isn’t the usual profile a candidate will present…but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lord knows, we have enough people on council who financially comfortable.

So, what does he want to do? He wants a bus route connecting all of Orleans; he wants to focus on safety and security in the ward; and he wants to revitalize St. Jo…well, you know.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of meat. And his Twitter and Facebook feeds don’t add a whole lot more (on Aug 10, he tweeted he’d make a statement about OC Transpo service, but there’s still nothing that I can see on his website or Facebook page). Personally, it’d be hard to throw support behind him without more information.

Rick Bédard: Bédard is, again, a long-time ward resident. He’s a civil servant who has been way into minor. He’s got a couple of high profile endorsements, and he used to ride a pony.

He has a rather detailed bio (as you might have guessed), but he’s not actually launching his platform until Thursday (he has a handy countdown clock). I’ll try to remember to check back in.

***

That’s it. I’m fucking done. I kind of hate Orleans now…but it’s also pretty great that there are so many people who want to represent their community.

So let’s TL;DR this thing. It will be nearly impossible for me to follow all these campaigns (especially because I’ll have no knowledge of their ground games), but here are my initial assessments…

My (Personal) Frontrunners: Mireille Brownhill, Doug Feltmate, Jarrod Goldsmith, Miranda Gray, Shannon Kramer and Don Yetman.

(Yeah, I went in alphabetical order this time.)

So, there’s still a lot to learn about all the candidates, but my three favourites right now are definitely Brownhill, Gray and Kramer. I’m not pronouncing on their electability, just my preference here. The other three are intriguing, but I find them to be a notch below.

404 Error: Guy Desroches, Diego Elizondo, Dina Epale and Catherine Kitts.

I’m intrigued, but I need to see more information from these four before I can say much. There’s promise, there, but too little info to go on.

Honourable Mention: Toby Bossert.

Toby seems like he cares. He seems capable enough. And he seems like he might bring a different perspective. But not only does he not give enough information, I’m a bit concerned by his tweet saying he’d make a statement about transit, then being silent for almost three week. But I’m not ready to give up on him.

Busy Like Tuesday Morning

Last month, a CBC Halifax reporter contacted me. Halifax is trying to land a CFL franchise, and they’re looking to Lansdowne (among other stadium development projects) as a model for building a new stadium. In case you don’t know, I have, in the past, been critical of the Lansdowne experiment, and that’s why the reporter wished to speak to me.

Now, I’ve tried to refrain from trashing Lansdowne too much, recently. Yes, it’s a massive failure, and, yes, the city and OSEG have only made it worse over the past few years, but I still have a lot of fondness for the park; I still want it to succeed; and I still think it has a lot of potential.

I noted that the second and last coffee shop just recently closed (I miss you, Aroma!). For all the talk of Lansdowne being an “urban village”, what kind of urban area can’t keep a coffee shop open?

The reporter spoke to other people, and one person noted that it’s great. The place is hopping when there’s a RedBlack’s game on. It’s busy when there’s some sort of special event. It’s just a smashing success!

Well, yes, when 25,000 people head to one spot to watch one of ten football games in a year, the place will look pretty packed. I don’t see how this really tells us anything about the real nature–the DNA, if you will–of Lansdowne.

I like to talk about the Tuesday Morning Test (I’m pretty sure I stole that from someone, but I can’t remember who). Basically, yes, when there’s a special event happening, a place will be busy. Yes, when you’ve got a bunch of bars and restaurants, a place will be busy. What happens the rest of the time? What’s it like on a day-to-day basis? What’s it like on Tuesday morning?

Lansdowne is dead on Tuesday mornings, and much of the rest of the time. Judging by attendance to special events is completely ignoring how urban, city life actually functions.

I’ve heard people deride this idea–why would we concern ourselves with Tuesday morning, everywhere  is dead on Tuesday morning.

This is an incredibly ignorant and myopic view.

If you think everywhere is dead on Tuesday morning, you probably don’t spend a lot of time in urban areas. I’m guessing you live in the suburbs, maybe travel to your office building downtown or in Kanata, and never really venture very far from those locations during the weekday.

Because cities–urban areas–are alive during the week. They’re not as hopping as they are on a Friday night, perhaps, but there are people about. They’re going to work, getting breakfast, walking their pets, taking their kids to school, buying coffee, and on and on and on.

And if you walk half a block from Lansdowne, you’ll see this. Bank Street is alive on a normal Tuesday morning…throughout the entire morning. There are people out. Maybe they’re heading to appointments. Maybe they’re shopping. Maybe they’re meeting colleagues. Maybe they’re buying coffee.

So the closest, comparison, the very street on which Lansdowne resides is alive just about at all times. That Lansdowne can’t come close to mimicking this is an indictment of the park. It doesn’t matter if it’s busy on the weekend. It should be busy at all times.

(And, let’s also note that Lansdowne is regularly quite quiet on weekends. I’m there most Friday evenings, and although the restaurants may be full, the grounds are not. There are few people walking around. This isn’t urban life, at all.)

So if you’re mocking the Tuesday Morning Test, you’re revealing a whole lot more about yourself than you are about Lansdowne.

But, whatever, maybe I’ll just switch to the Coffee Shop Test.

Signs, signs, everywh… well, you know.

Yesterday, I tweeted about the number of election signs I saw on my commute to and from work. It was a completely un-scientific way of determining candidate support, but, hell, whatever.

Last night, I decided to do a more extensive tour of Capital Ward to see who is getting the most signs out. I was out for about an hour and a half, and you cover a fair amount of ground by bike in that time.

Again, this was completely not scientific. I rode around Old Ottawa South and the Glebe somewhat randomly (and I didn’t make it to Old Ottawa East, the Glebe Annex or Heron Park), and I didn’t count the signs. I was just getting an impression.

And, you know, this doesn’t really matter that much. Signs don’t vote. And a sign might be in front of a house with one voter, with multiple voters all supporting the same candidate or multiple voters supporting various candidates.

But, you know, it’s not nothing, either. Extensive signs are a…sign…that a candidate has a base of support. It gets the candidate’s name out to the neighbourhood. And since people don’t always follow that closely, signs of popularity could confer a feeling of competence–if so many people are supporting this candidate, they can’t be a nutjob.

And, of course, people like winners. If you look like you’re leading the race, that could help you actually lead the race.

So, with that way-too-long intro to a not-so-important blog post, let’s get on with it…

I started out in Old Ottawa South (I had some library books to return). The first signs I saw were for Christine McAllister. That might make some sense. Being on the border with the Glebe–and considering her extensive activity in the Glebe community–the northern edge of OOS might more naturally be amenable to her.

As I rode on, I started seeing more and more signs for Shawn Menard. This, too, makes sense. He’s the one challenger who lives in OOS (Chernushenko lives in OOS, too). Every time I would go a couple of blocks without seeing any signs, I’d almost immediately come across a Menard sign. Usually, I’d come across a cluster of them.

(This is sort of interesting, and not specific to Menard. In a number spots in the Glebe, I would see clusters of signs for a specific candidate–mostly McAllister, but also Menard and a couple of times for Tony Carricato. This could be due, in part, to where they canvassed, where they happen to have friends or where they happen to have volunteers to put up signs…but still, it’s noticeable.)

Going only on signs, Menard seems to own Old Ottawa South. Aside from the first two McAllister signs I saw, I didn’t see any non-Menard signs.

(Before anyone gets mad and yells, hey, there are, too, signs for *Candidate Name*, I’m not saying there aren’t, just that I didn’t see them.)

In OOS, I saw no signs for Carricato, Jide Afolabi or, notably, the incumbent, David Chernushenko.

After a good tour of OOS, I headed back to the Glebe. Again, based solely on signs, this is McAllister territory. The neighbourhood is littered with her signs. Generally, if I went a few blocks without seeing a sign, I’d quickly run across one of hers. It was always the clusters that I saw in OOS with Menard’s signs, but she there’s really good coverage.

And, again, not surprising. McAllister has been very involved in the community for many years, so she should have leg-up. Also, having announced early and received an endorsement from MP and cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, she’s had the time and the profile to garner such support.

Menard probably had the next most signs up. And, again, often in clusters. Menard needs to compete in the Glebe, but I don’t know that anyone would expect him to beat out the others in this neighbourhood.

I saw no Carricato signs on my way home from work, yesterday, but I started seeing more last night. He definitely has some support, but it doesn’t seem to be as extensive as the other two. This race has three candidates from the Glebe, and two have been on the community executive. Carricato announced back in the spring, so he’s been spending months canvassing. I think one would hope to see a few more signs considering all the work he’s done (and he really has been campaigning hard).

Now, I saw a few more signs up this morning on my commute, so it may just be a case of getting his signs out…but another thing to keep track of in a campaign is who have the most volunteers out working for them. That’s an important part of the campaign–both because it looks better, and because it makes your campaign more effective.

I only saw one sign for Afolabi, and I almost missed it because it was obscured by a bush (actually, I did miss it, but then doubled-back and saw it). Now, I know that Afolabi has been working Old Ottawa East, and I didn’t go there, so maybe that’s where more of his support is. But I was always a little concerned about his candidacy. With McAllister and Carricato coming from the local community association, that’s more local cred than Afolabi has (that’s not to say he isn’t a credible candidate…it’s just about his profile in the ward).

Finally, and this is the most noteworthy thing, zero signs for David Chernushenko.

Now, maybe he’s just waiting for the weekend or something to get his signs out. Maybe he wants one big push rather than having them trickle out–that’d make a good statement. But he was also seeking people to take lawn signs this past week (more on that later), so that makes me think he might not have had enough takers right away.

It’s been pretty clear this year that Chernushenko is running scared. He knows there’s a lot of discontent and that he’s going to have to work hard to hold on to his council seat. He’s appeared more resigned and defeated this term of council, and he’ll need to campaign hard to change people’s impressions of him.

He’s still the incumbent, with all the advantages that entails, but he’s got a harder path to re-election than most.

So I’ll probably be keeping track (unofficially and unscientifically) of the sign wars over the course of the campaign. As I said, my observations won’t mean that much, but, hey, it means something and it’s kind of fun…in a way. I mean, we won’t be able to avoid the signs.

Programming Note: Endorsements

So a while back, I said I wasn’t going to endorse any particular candidates. My plan was that I’d endorse ideas (and would indirectly endorse candidates), but I wouldn’t actually name a preferred candidate in any wards. I also said I reserved the right to change my mind.

Well, I’ve changed my mind.

Since today is August 22–the first day that lawn signs are allowed–it seems like a good day to say that I’ve decided I’m going to do endorsements. I won’t necessarily do each race, and I may actually endorse multiple people in some races, but I’m going to do some endorsements, at least.

You may not care, but let me give you my justification: first off, my original plan was sorta unworkable. I was obviously going to be offering de facto endorsements, so why not just come right out and do some (and, hey, more hashtag-content for you, dear readers!)?

But. more than this, it’s because I actually fucking care about this election, quite a bit. I know I’m really cynical (for good reason) and I can be pretty irreverent about shit, but, yes, I do care. We have some great candidates running throughout the city, some I desperately want to win. Some I know will really work to make Ottawa a better place.

Look, I’m not a reporter and I don’t feign objectivity (clearly). I try to give information about stuff going on in the city, but I also freely give opinions, so there’s really no reason for me to create a facade of complete neutrality.

Now, to be clear, I’m still refraining from participating in any campaigns. I’m not door-knocking. I’m not putting up signs. I’m not donating money. (I am still willing to give any candidate my thoughts, even in person…but that’s not really different than writing this blog.)

So, yeah, prepare for new content! Endorsements are coming soon!

…and later, because there are still a number of races where I’m not prepared to make any such announcements.

Finishing the Fifth Avenue bike lanes

So the bike lanes on Fifth Avenue have been painted and, good news!, they’re solid lines (at least that I’ve seen) not dashed. It’s good that the city isn’t expecting them to double as car lanes.

Unfortunately, though, drivers already expect to be able to commandeer them. I’ve seen cars driving in and blocking the lanes multiple times over the past few days. Hell, once driver couldn’t even wait until the paint was dry, smearing his right-turning tire tracks through the intersection.

Clearly, we’re not quite done with fixing this intersection, so yesterday, I contacted the local councillor, outlining what needs to happen, here’s what I wrote:

It’s great to see that new bike lanes have been put on parts of Fifth Avenue. This is a really positive development that should help make our community safer and more livable.

I wanted to inquire about the state of the project. I hope it is not quite completed, as it seems like there are some points of conflict that still need to be ironed out. My main concern is with the intersection of Fifth and Bank. It seems to me the following things need to be done to ensure the street is as safe as possible for all users:

1. We need bollards. I’m by the intersection multiple times a day, and most of the time over the past couple of days, I’ve seen a car in the bike lane. Even if we can’t have bollards all along the bike lane, putting one right where the bike lane meets the stop line would force cars to remain in their lane while entering the intersection. (You can even see tire tracks in the paint of the westbound bike lane where a driver just couldn’t drive straight.)

2. Speaking of stop lines, it would be great if the stop lines for the car lanes could be moved back a bit. When going westbound, there is a tremendous pinch point on the other side of the street (actually two: first the curb, then the parked cars). Getting bikes ahead of cars would help them get across safely and help them be seen by drivers, especially those looking to make a quick right turn.

3. Can we get bike boxes? Once the stop lines are recessed, I’d love to see bike boxes so that that bicyclists that need to turn left can get ahead of traffic and not be trapped in the bike lane.

4. We also need to ban rights on reds. This will protect bicyclists who are going straight from being right-hooked or bullied by right-turning cars. It would also provide added protection for pedestrians.

5. Finally, can we get an advance bike (and pedestrian) light? (I imagine this might take a bit more time than the other needed improvements.) This will help let bicyclists clear the intersection before cars begin turning or darting through. As mentioned, there are potentially dangerous pinch points, so letting bikes get ahead of the car traffic would be really great.

As I said, I view the new bike lanes as a definite improvement for the neighbourhood. The city appears to be trying to do the right thing to keep bicyclists safe and accommodate all road users. I think with just these few extra tweaks, we wouldn’t just be doing the right thing; we’d be doing the right thing properly.

Now, maybe you think I’m being a bit presumptuous or a little demanding. The city just put in a bike lane and now I’m demanding they do five more things…something about gift horses and mouths.

But what I’m asking for should be the minimum we the city should do–the minimum we should expect–when putting in a bike lane that crosses a major street. These should be extras or nice-to-haves. These should just be done by default.

I’ll keep y’all informed if anything comes of this.

Re-imaging Bank Street as a transit hub

I’m looking for a dare-to-be-great situation.

***

Transit talk is picking up in the city, and this is very much a good thing. There are a number of unwise decisions being made that will hinder ridership and hurt the potential success of LRT.

Recently, there’s been the issue of the number 12 and how the route was cut so that it would only get residents from Vanier as far as the Rideau Centre–expecting them to transfer to LRT if they wanted to actually get the next few blocks into the core. It was a rather incredibly bad plan.

Now, the plan’s been changed. The 12 will get riders all the way to Metcalfe before ditching them and turning around. So if you want to get to, say, Kent Street, you’ve still got a few blocks to hike–and if the weather’s bad, or if you’re lugging something or, heaven forbid, you have the gall to have a mobility issue…well, too bad.

This got me to thinking about how the buses are moving around downtown. Yes, with LRT we’re trying to get as many buses off the streets as possible, but there’s still going to be a need for local, urban mobility that LRT can’t provide. So there are still going to be buses. Maybe the 12 can’t cross the city like its predecessor, the 2. And maybe east-west buses need hit the core then turn around, forcing people to transfer and wait a bit. Okay, I get that. But I think we can still bring a better, more complete vision of what transit should look like in the old city.

And that got me thinking of Bank Street…and what if we turned Bank Street into a real, true transit hub?

Here’s how we do this: first of all, we understand that routes like the 6 and the 7 will still be going north-south along Bank, and beyond, just as they are now. But the local east-west routes, like the 12 or the 11, could get you all the way to Bank Street, maybe go down it a few blocks before turning around to start its return route.

To do this, we’d have to get rid of cars. No more cars on that stretch of Bank Street, at all.

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking Bus Rapid Transit. I’m not talking about a new Transitway. Bank Street would still be the city’s main street. It’d still be alive with businesses and residences and restaurants and people. Buses wouldn’t be allowed to zip along at 50 or 80 km/h; they’d need to adhere to the 40 km/h speed limit (or, better yet, 30).

(This is something similar to Toronto’s King Street pilot, except they actually allow cars on King Street.)

The main driving lanes would be turned over to buses, with the extra space being allotted to bicyclists, pedestrians and maybe some patios. Pedestrians would be able to cross at every block, and maybe we could put in some raised crosswalks or intersections. Keeping the road narrow and allowing for ample crossings would help ensure speeding is kept to a minimum.

This wouldn’t really be feasible for all of Bank Street, but (at least to start), we could implement it from Wellington to Somerset. Hell, there are a ton of turning restrictions along many of those blocks, so it’s not as radical a change as it might seem. We could take it all the way to the Queensway, but eventually, there are going to be cars and drivers–and as much as I’d like to extend it through the Glebe, I don’t think cutting off Lansdowne from driving (except along Queen Elizabeth) is do-able…just yet.

This would make for a radical shift along Bank Street, currently absurdly categorized as an “arterial mainstreet”. Much of Bank would still be an arterial, but once you get closer to more urbanized areas, that would slowly subside. No longer would it be the means to blow through Old Ottawa South and the Glebe to get downtown. We could make those stretches of Bank far more welcoming and hospitable. We could reduce traffic, as less would be coming from the north, and that coming from the south would be disinclined to use Bank because they couldn’t get all the way downtown.

We could also throw in a park-n-ride at Billings Bridge to let people easily connect with the downtown transit hub (or those who park for free at City Hall could pop over to Bank for quick and easy access to neighbourhoods and events to the south).

Further, we could implement a fare-free zone. I’ve mentioned before (somewhere) that it’d be worth considering making buses free on Bank Street from downtown to Billings Bridge, since traffic is getting quite bad along Bank. This would encourage more transit and make Lansdowne more successful (a problem the city and OSEG would surely like to address).

(It’d also be neat to incorporate street cars, reviving a glorious remnant from Ottawa’s past, but there’d be issues with bicyclists crossing tracks, and the buses need to get onto other streets, so that’s probably less feasible.)

Now, there are some issues. What about deliveries? Well, there are still all the cross-streets, and we could create space for unloading on them (and there’s no reason a truck has to be right outside the store…that’s not what happens in malls, and they still get stock). Or we could do like Sparks Street and allow limited delivery times, at certain specific spots. Now, this could occasionally slow buses a tad, but it’ll just take a bit of imagination and some patience to get around.

There are also possible accessibility concerns. If we feel there are people who must drive because they can’t physically take the bus or ParaTranspo (by the way, we should make ParaTranspo suck less), well, maybe we allow for taxis to have access. Or, better yet, we can put in on-street parking on the cross-streets at every intersection and make them all accessible parking spots. Our current set-up doesn’t guarantee a parking spot nearby for those who need one (it could be blocks away); this might actually improve access for those with mobility issues.

And then there are issues with the alternate routes. This is going to result in more people taking Bronson or the Driveway, no doubt. Well, we could certainly do something to make Bronson less of a freeway, encouraging more people to switch to transit. And the NCC has already thrown in on the side of urban freeways, so they can just fucking deal with people driving. If they don’t like it, get rid of the damn QEW and fix our access to the canal.

Now, there’ll be a whole lot of reasons why we can’t do this. People might complain about cost. They might complain about access. Or, more likely, they’ll just say we can’t do that. It’s too big a change and it won’t work in Ottawa.

My friend Alex has been tweeting about what we could possibly do in Ottawa and what’s stopping us. For the most part, the only thing stopping us is will. We could build more light rail, if we had the will. We could improve transit, if we had the will. We could create more crossings over the river, if we had the will.

I’m tired of politicians and community leaders and pundits and bureaucrats telling us we can’t do these things just…because. I want leaders who are willing to lead. I want politicians who have a vision. I want people running this city with the imagination and drive to see what we could be and find a way to get us their.

I want a council looking for dare-to-be-great situations.

It’s the mayor’s little fiefdom and we just live in it.

So, Regional Group says they’re going to try to save the trees in Old Ottawa East.

In case you missed it, the other week, residents along Springhurst Avenue noticed that two century-old trees were slated for removal as part of the Greystone Village development near Main Street. Residents were promised that the trees would spared, but suddenly, that wasn’t do-able. Capital Ward candidate Shawn Menard highlighted the issue on social media, and it was eventually picked up by the CBC and others.

It seems a lot of people wanted the trees saved, so the developer, Regional Group, has said they’re going to try to save the trees and have given themselves until September 30 to do it. It’s a definite win for the community (even if it meant a last-minute edit to my column last week, thanks guys!).

It was also a pretty good win for the candidate. Menard entered the race late and with other competent candidates challenging David Chernushenko, it can be hard to set yourself apart. Menard got ahead of this, forced the issue (which was then taken up by other candidates) and basically forced Chernushenko to step in in his official capacity.

The mayor had an interesting response to this issue, thanking the councillor and positioning himself as defender of the trees:

Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper asked a pretty good question:

The mayor’s response was basically, because I can.

I see about three separate issues here:

The mayor gets to do what the mayor gets to do

Is this really how a city is supposed to be run? I mean it’s great if the mayor is going to actually protect these trees, but can the mayor actually just make decisions willy-nilly about what can and cannot be approved by staff? His position offers a good check on these situations, but shouldn’t his Stop Work order really only apply until council can take a look?

We’ve seen this sort of thing before. Trivially, there was the matter of putting up signs for Sens Mile, which council passed, the Senators then pushed back and the mayor unilaterally decided to overrule council.

And, of course, there was the Holland Avenue bike detour. Months of work went into consultations, canvassing the neighbourhood and making a reasonable plan that best accommodated everyone. Then the mayor–unilaterally–decided he didn’t like it, axed it and then very very reluctantly agreed to offer minimal protections to kids riding bikes to school.

So this is how our city is run now? The mayor gets to make decisions based on his gut and the desire for good press?

And, so what about other trees? There have been a bunch of trees cut down with zero oversight in recent years. Is the mayor going to start taking his Lorax-like role seriously? Councillors Leiper and Catherine McKenney both took note of the mayor’s apparent power. We’ll see how that goes.

Um…Heron Gate?

At the risk of going all whatabout on this issue, but, what the hell? What about Heron Gate? A councillor can pressure to save two trees and the mayor can declare that no ill will come to a single leaf, but when a massive corporation wants to evict–and destroy–a community of poor and marginalized people, it’s just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?

I mean, I get that there maybe isn’t a clear law here protecting residents from a multi-national profit-maximizing corporation, but where’s that Executive-Ordering, willy-nilly decision-making when it comes to people’s homes and lives? Even if city rules allow for more protection of trees than of people, where’s the political pressure from the mayor and local councillor?

Don’t call it a bobblehead

Capital Ward councillor David Chernushenko decided to take credit for this victory. He writes, “…Regional Group will be – at my request – putting its application in abeyance… [sic]” [emphasis mine].

Look, Chernushenko is running scared. He had little challenge last election, but he has been underwhelming (to put it mildly) these last four years. A lot of people are fed up with him and are looking for change. If he’s going to claim a third term, he needs to put in more effort this year…and we’re seeing it.

Of course, the residents of Springhurst were not viewing Chernushenko as their champion. His office was not getting the results residents demanded, and it wasn’t until things got more public that Chernushenko positioned himself in front of this issue.

And, notice, the mayor decided to elevate Chernushenko’s status in all this, thanking him by name.

Chernushenko isn’t what some might describe as a bobblehead for the mayor. He’s come out on the other side of many issues from the mayor…but he’s also not much of a thorn in the mayor’s side. He’s not Jeff Leiper. He’s not Catherine McKenney. He’s not Diane Deans. He’s not Rick Chiarelli. The mayor surely knows exactly what he has in Chernushenko, and maybe he’s trying to protect that.

I don’t see another candidate who would be easier for the mayor than Chernushenko. Maybe some wouldn’t be pains in the mayor’s ass (which is actually probably what they should be), but none would be any more pliable.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before. Last time around, the mayor went to bat for Mark Taylor against his old foe, Alex Cullen. The mayor is now retweeting stuff for Dan Dransfield, who is seeking to replace Taylor and running against Theresa Kavanaugh (who will be a pain in the mayor’s ass…and is also married to Cullen).

This year, he’s already gone after Glen Gower, a rear-guard attack to help out Shad Qadri, who is much more of a “bobblehead”.

And he’s already gone after Shawn Menard this year, when Menard was supporting a community organization in Bay Ward working for better child care for lower-income residents:

This was before Menard was running for council, but over the years, Menard has made clear where he stands on municipal issues. He seeks a healthy, urbanist agenda–one that doesn’t placate parkers and privilege drivers over everyone else. One that doesn’t burden transit in order to subsidize sprawl. One that is compassionate and seeks the best outcomes for all residents.

It’s quite a bit different than Watson’s divide-and-conquer approach–his pandering to his core constituency of suburban commuters.

I mean, could it be any clearer that Watson does not want Menard to win.

But, in the end, trees are saved. A community rose up. A challenger took charge. Two establishment politicians fell in line. And the mayor is trying to spin everything to his advantage. Maybe this is how we get things done now in Ottawa.

Maybe we just need a little more unrest in Watson’s little fiefdom.