Adventures in voter outreach

I’m not trying to pick on mayoral candidate Darren Wood; I promise. But the mayoral campaign is pretty quiet and Wood is not, for good or ill. To his credit, he is very engaged with residents on social media, even if it doesn’t always work out so well.

For instance, on Twitter, he has been claiming to support bike safety and bike infrastructure, but this is a direct contradiction he’s written previously. As happens, people–voters–call him out, and when they do, he doesn’t respond so well:

Here’s what he wrote on his blog:

So how do we handle the debt. Tighten our belts, no new capital spending, cut back the LRT to finish the line we started and use existing tracks in the city and expand as we have the money in the future.

Bike safety does not come from a few cans of paint. Real cycling infrastructure requires capital spending. You can’t honestly claim to be for bike safety but also categorically rule out any new capital projects. Buy, you may wonder, what did Wood have to say specifically about bike infrastructure in that blog post:

Last, but not least by any means, is bikes in Ottawa. Surprisingly the views run the spectrum from let them fend for themselves to make more bike lanes to the need for bike lanes with concrete barriers separating the bikes from the cars. I am all for separate bike lanes and in new construction or total remodels, room permitting concrete separating the bikes and the cars. But we cannot do it over night. Bike lanes are easy, concrete separated bike lanes cost money. When asked of the people who wanted concrete if they were willing to pay for it with a slight tax increase the answer was 100% no from everyone asked without fail. You can’t have it both ways. But no matter how you dice it, bike safety has to be a priority in Ottawa. With more and more people riding due to health concerns, cost of fuel and/or it’s the environmentally friendly thing to do, there are a lot more bikes on Ottawa’s streets then ever before. Their safety is everyone’s concern. But to make any real change when it comes to bikes in our city, it will take an effort on the part of city hall and the bikers to come together and create “realistic” plans and goals.

It is, clearly, one giant hedge. He’s all for bike safety, but we need “realistic” goals. He supports putting in separated bike lanes “room permitting”. What does that mean? Does he value ample free parking over bike safety? Is all for bike safety as long as it doesn’t interfere with his commute down a four-lane road. His suggestion that bike safety would necessarily require a tax increase is facile and dishonest. Surely, a mayoral candidate understands that city funds can be re-allocated. Current spending on bike infrastructure is a pittance compared to the overall budget, as well as current spending on road work. We could spend a tiny bit less on cars and a tiny bit more on bikes.

However, Wood seems to be wedded to the status quo (which is odd for a self-styled maverick and outsider). The money for cars must remain for cars in perpetuity. It’s a simple-minded approach to city budgeting. A new budget is an opportunity to re-prioritize spending.

Further, since Wood is running on a platform of saving millions by eliminating the green bin program and cutting wasteful spending, why would we need a tax increase to pay for a few more cycle tracks? Is Wood admitting that his crusade to curb waste is doomed to failure? If you think Wood learned his lesson about going after residents over twitter, you’d be wrong. Here’s what happened yesterday evening:

Here’s the full quote, from the same blog post as above:

I have sampled almost every ward in Ottawa via Tim Horton’s and various grocery stores and without a doubt, the number one issue in Ottawa is garbage. People want their weekly garbage pick up restored now!

Well, I guess he has a point. He surveyed people at Tim Horton’s and grocery stores.

(And, yes, I’m sure he’ll just chalk it up to his sense of humour.)

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Our cops don’t know the rules of the road

As happens on the internet, a bit of a cyber-squirmish broke out today. In response to this petition for Ottawa politicians to “create a safe and protected bicycle lane networks throughout the city“, one resident suggested we tell cyclists to stay on the right hand side of one-way streets. From there, Deputy Jill Skinner stepped in:

Deputy Skinner’s interjection was 100% incorrect. Here’s the actual law, as found on the city’s website:

Cyclists are required to ride as close as practicable (ie no closer than 1.0 metre) to the right curb of the roadway, except when…Preparing to make a left turn, passing another vehicle, or using a one-way street (in which case riding alongside the left curb is permitted)

Perhaps a whole new petition is in order.

A bad day for cyclists

Do you want to hear a funny story? A couple of months ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen arguing that the city is not doing enough to keep cyclists safe. It was planned out a few days in advance to be a part of the new re-branded paper. As the publication day approached, a bit of irony almost befell me. I was riding home along Prince of Wales, in the bike lane. Traffic was pretty busy, and often that means that drivers will pull their cars into the bike lane in order to… I don’t… be assholes, or something. So whenever it’s busy, I make sure to go a bit slower and keep my hands ready for braking.

And, wouldn’t you know it, someone pulled into the bike lane. They weren’t going to go anywhere, I guess they just wanted to get a better look at all the bumpers ahead of them. I didn’t get hit, but I thought how I’d have the “best” bio ever on an op-ed about cycling safety:

Jonathan McLeod was an Ottawa-based writer who killed by a driver.

It would have been a poignant, if unwanted, end to the op-ed.

Anyway, yesterday Prince of Wales was pretty busy again. No one actually drove into me, but a number of people where veering onto the magical painted line that somehow gives cyclists super protection for two-tonne death machines. As I turned the corner, I saw a car in the bike lane… a cop car, lights flashing. It happened around here. You can clearly see the bike lane.

It appears that there was an incident of sorts between a cyclist and a minivan. It didn’t seem like anyone was hurt, thankfully.

I was chatting with a local newspaper editor about it, and he noted that there’d likely be no press release from the cops because no one was hurt, so it likely wouldn’t get much (if any) press. This isn’t really a surprise. Collisions between cars and bikes happen with alarming frequency, but don’t get reported a whole lot.

As I was chatting with the editor, I learned that there was another incident on the evening commute. Along Wellington West, a cyclist was doored in heavy traffic. Here’s a tweet:

It should be obvious that the man in the LTD Landscaping truck almost killed the cyclist. It should also be clear that he committed a crime. There’s no real grey area here. Dooring is a crime. Here’s the response:

Look, I get that the cops can’t be everywhere and police everything, but a man was almost killed. Perhaps the authorities (cops, city councillors, city planners, etc.) should do <i>something</i>, rather than waiting on someone to report this.

Oh, and Wellington West is considered a bike-friendly area. Yeah.

Is OSEG Just Lying?

News came out yesterday that Winners is the newest retailer to set up shop at Lansdowne Park. The groans were inevitable. OSEG and the city have touted Lansdowne as an urban village, a “unique urban village”, but adding Winners to a list of shops that includes PetSmart, GoodLife, Booster Juice and Telus is just more evidence that the vision isn’t so much “urban village” as it is “South Keys North”.

OSEG and the mayor can object to the big box store label (and, perhaps they’re right, they’ll be medium-sized box stores), but they can’t really claim anything unique or village-y about this shopping plaza. So, it really brings us the question, were they just lying?

It is possible that Lansdowne will still resemble something close to an urban village–and I certainly hope it does–but the overall promise is going unfulfilled. Maybe OSEG never planned to make an urban village. Maybe they had no idea whether it was even possible. I should probably assume stupidity rather than malice.

But it reminds me of their treatment of transportation. The travel plan for RedBlacks games hopes for hundreds of cyclists. This is a good development, and they have planned for it, to an extent. They will have 600-1000 spots for supervised bike parking (for special events), and they are installing 300 bike rings throughout the grounds. So, they’re trying… sort of.

If OSEG really wanted people biking to Lansdowne, they wouldn’t handcuff the city when it comes to re-developing Bank Street. As it stands, we may not be able to get rid of on-street parking (thus making actual room for hundreds of cyclists) due to the contract with OSEG.

Further, the travel plan requires parking buses on the Bank Street Bridge, creating a walk-your-bike-zone (which apparently won’t actually be enforced). It’s bad enough that the bridge is unsuited to bicycle traffic (and pedestrian traffic), and the city isn’t doing anything substantive about it, now–on game days–they’re telling people to get off their bikes. And remember, Bank Street is considered a cycling route by the city.

I still have hopes for Lansdowne. I don’t think the obvious mistakes are crippling or irreversible (well, maybe some of them are irreversible). I just hope that the apparent dishonesty is just an appearance.

We shall see.

Ottawa Police Punish Cyclists During Safety Blitz

I think Ottawa cops have a weird sense of humour. They released the results of a recent “bike safety blitz” that was conducted on June 26th and 27th. “Safety” consisted of stopping and harassing counseling 130 bicycles on appropriate safety procedures. You know, wearing a helmet (which isn’t actually required by law), having the proper reflective tape, not going trough stops signs, having a whistle, wearing the proper clothing, never leaving your drink unattended at the… oh, sorry, that’s the wrong lecture.

What took this from just insulting to downright offensive was that this blitz came one day after the cops declared they’d not be filing charges in the death of Mario Theoret, the cyclist who was right-hooked last year.

And worse still, this hunt for cyclists will continue for the next month.

It shouldn’t take much thought to figure out why the police approach to “safety” is so boneheaded. The lack of a helmet or whistle are not the grand threats to my safety as a cyclist (in fact, the lack of a helmet might even be safer). No, the issues I have are the careless driving of motorists, infrastructure that is built for cars first and no one second, vehicles with massive blindspots and a mentality that all cyclists are scofflaws who are to obviously to blame whenever a car runs them over.

Take this quotation from Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Atallah Sadaka when talking about “bike safety”:

“The safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians is a priority for the Ottawa Police Service and this campaign was an opportunity to educate and conduct enforcement.”

Yes, when dealing with the safety of cyclists (who are far more vulnerable than motorists), this police officer mentions the “safety of drivers” first. It may seem unimportant, but it is telling.

What is particularly odd about this vendetta against cyclists is the city’s move to better accommodate cycling. Just today, the transportation committee approved a plan to build new cycling infrastructure in the east end, and the city unveiled new bike corrals in Hintonburg and the Glebe. (And, let’s not forget, the city is counting on hundreds of cyclists to make RedBlacks games attend-able.) It is absurd that the police–who work for the city and for the betterment of the city–would take this initiative to actively thwart cycling.

The audacity of Ottawa Police Services has had one effect on me, however. It has made me realize that the police do not care at all about my safety. They have no intention to protect me or my rights. They only think about cyclists as a nuisance to harass. So now I know. I can’t play nice expecting the city, the police or motorists to give any thought of me. I’ll take the lane. I’ll block traffic. I’ll do everything I need to do and I won’t play nice. Playing nice will only get me killed.

I also have no inclination to ever help the police, ever. (Granted, talking to the police any more than is necessary is a fools errand, bike or not.) They’ve thrown down the gauntlet. I’m not going to upheld the polite lie that the police officer is my friend.

In a nice twist, the Ottawa Citizen trolled the police last week. Publishing, on June 29th, an op-ed declaring Ottawa is still not safe enough for cyclists:

I heard the collision before I saw it — the thump of a car slamming into something soft, then a howl of anguish from a distraught witness. Biking around the corner, I saw the driver sitting frozen behind the wheel while four frantic pedestrians tried to help the injured cyclist.

Hardly a day goes by in Ottawa without us hearing a report of a cyclist getting hit. There are roughly 300 reported collisions annually between bicycles and motor vehicles in Ottawa, most occurring during the peak cycling months we’re in right now. (A reported collision is one in which the police are called, which means most collisions aren’t counted in this calculation.) And as our urban cycling history continues to be formed by eye-witness anecdotal accounts, news stories, ghost bikes and the annual accumulation of statistics, many feel our city is becoming more dangerous for cycling.

The word “whistle” is not mentioned once.

To Kill A Cyclist

Whoops.

That’s all we seem to get. A man is dead. The police have spent eight months investigating. Facts have been reported since day one. No charges will be laid. A collective shrug.

By all accounts, Mario Théoret was not comfortable with his commute. Each day, he travelled 25 km to and from work. His trek would take him along Hunt Club Road, a thoroughfare with an 80 km\hr speed limit and a flimsy painted bike lane to protect him against hurtling chunks of metal. Hunt Club would take his life.

Théoret epitomized goodness. He was devoted to his family, his friends and his community. He did charity work, organizing special events for kids. If you were writing a tragedy, you would never concoct Théoret. His goodness would be unbelievable.

According to reports, Théoret was travelling east on Hunt Club Road, approaching Merivale Road. It was Thursday October 17, 2013. There was a transport truck, also heading east, intending to turn right and head south on Merivale. The truck “right-hooked” Théoret.

If you look at Hunt Club, you will see the bike lane on the north side of the street, adjacent to the right car lane. You will also see a right turn channel just before the intersection with Merivale. Any cyclist in the bike lane will have the right-of-way over a truck looking to turn right.

Looking. Maybe the driver wasn’t looking. Maybe he was, but couldn’t see Théoret. Regardless, it doesn’t really matter. As Théoret rode—legally—towards that intersection, a transport truck crossed his lane, causing a collision, causing a death.

Our city helped kill Mario Théoret. It is ridiculous to think that we could ensure the safety of cyclists on Hunt Club with some buckets of white paint. We built what is, essentially, a freeway cutting through our city; its traffic intermingling with bikes and pedestrians at extra-large intersections. The infrastructure screams the message, this road is for automobiles.

You can’t completely blame motorists for responding to this message. We have created incentives to drive fast, be selfish and treat non-motorists as second-class users. It is natural that when you are told you are the most important thing on the road, you believe it.

This dynamic is not isolated to Hunt Club. We see it throughout our city, in suburbs and downtown, commercial areas and neighbourhoods. We rely on sharrows and road signs to keep cyclists safe from cars. Cycling routes often double as trucking routes.

And our response to safety concerns amounts to little more than condescending lectures about high-visibility clothing.

Wear a helmet. Use reflective tape. Ride in designated bike lanes. None of this saved Mario Théoret when a truck crossed his lane. And though city infrastructure and political myopia facilitated the death of Théoret, it was the truck driver who killed him, and our justice system needs to admit it.

I have no doubt that the driver feels terrible. Most of us would if we were involved in such a terrible incident, but the driver’s feelings should not be valued over Théoret’s life. It is too easy to kill a cyclist and get away with it. We don’t want to punish someone for an accident; but these incidents strain the definition of the word. It may have been unintended, but that does not absolve responsibility.

If you shoot someone by accident, it is still a crime. When you are on a bike, with traffic speeding inches away from you, every car is a loaded gun. Every driver could take your life in a split second. If it was you, what would you want people to say?

Whoops?

Don’t Vote For Mike Maguire For Mayor

Ottawa’s mayoral campaign is now officially a two-horse race. Mike Maguire, who finished fifth last time around, launched his campaign on Thursday. So far, he is the only challenger to incumbent Jim Watson.

Maguire has built his campaign on four pillars: debt and taxes, traffic, trash and hydro. These are probably wise topics to focus on (though politicians fetish for ever-cheaper hydro and an increasingly polluted environment irks me), but–despite being intrigued by his candidacy four years ago–his platform would be bad for the city. His impulses may be wise (control spending! ease congestion!), but his actual proposals would be harmful, and his overall platform is incoherent, lacking in vision and self-contradictory. There is also a clear demonstration that he doesn’t fully understand some of the issues upon which he is commenting (plus, perhaps, a tad bit of convenient dishonesty).

Overall, he has a general goal, but he seems to be applying a high-level political philosophy that works well on talk radio (and, to be frank, blogs) but doesn’t translate neatly to the intricacies of municipal governance. It was never my intention to do a point-by-point fisking of his platform, but, well, here we are.

Taxes
This appears to be his fiscal discipline pillar (his main concern, from interviews and reports, appears to be the city’s debt, but he doesn’t have a plank titled “debt”, so everything goes here). Maguire wants to “rein in spending and lower taxes to foster growth”. It’s a nice idea, and maybe it’s workable. At this point, his site doesn’t have any further specifics, so we don’t know what will get cut.

He has stated that he’s not going to give a specific promise in terms of how much he’ll lower taxes. I respect that. Larry O’Brien got scorched for his “zero means zero”. These sorts of things always lead to a “read my lips” scenario that’s open for easy mockery during and after a campaign (*cough*MillionJobsPlan*cough*).

Unfortunately, he also has an odd definition of taxes:

The City directly taxes residents through property taxes. However, the current City Council has increased indirect taxes by increasing the cost of parking, public transportation and electricity.

Parking prices, transit fares and electricity rates aren’t taxes. They’re prices.

I’m willing to hold off on judgement on this part of his platform until further details arise. All things being equal, lower taxes and more growth would be nice.

Transit
This is a pretty big issue right now, with the LRT, bike infrastructure, Lansdowne and sprawl, there’s a lot to deal with. Unfortunately, despite his (quite true) opening statement, “[g]ridlock in Ottawa has a huge negative impact on our quality of life,” he doesn’t have any sound suggestions for easing congestion.

Further, the very second statement is either dishonest or ignorant. He states:

The Complete Streets Approach to transit, favoured by the current administration, favours pedestrians and cyclists at the expense of cars and drivers.

While it is true that the Complete Streets model purports to favour pedestrians over cyclists and cyclists over cars, the implementation of this model has done no such thing. Ottawa is just in the process of unveiling our first Complete Street, Churchill Avenue. It is a raised cycle track adjacent to the sidewalk with no buffer from the road. Driveways and pseudo-parking lots still intersect the raised cycle track, and there are clearly instances where everyone just has to learn to get along.

In reality, the Complete Streets approach does not favour pedestrians and bikes over cars (even though we should, as these are both the more vulnerable users of the road, and the ones more likely to be using the surrounding neighbourhood as more than just a cut-through). Ottawa’s Complete Streets seek to favour no one. It’s about creating balance between bikes, walkers, cars and buses.

Further, if he is so worried about economic growth, he should acquaint himself with the literature detailing how walkable neighbourhoods help businesses.

Even though Maguire will claim to not be pro-car, he has this to say about transportation infrastructure:

Mike Maguire will focus on relieving congestion for the average commuter in Ottawa, the car driver with common sense solutions. [sic]

That’s pretty blatantly “pro-car”.

Maguire claims that the Laurier bike lanes have created congestion in the downtown core. This is patently absurd. Expanding Laurier back into a four-lane road will do nothing for congestion. Road expansion just leads to traffic increases. This is pretty basic city planning. Only die-hard conservatives with a culture war axe to grind make claims to contrary. Maguire can increase traffic lanes downtown all he wants, it won’t solve congestion (well, until he makes downtown so undesirable that no one will actually go there).

You see, this is where he demonstrates that he does not have the proper knowledge of municipal governance to be mayor.

Maguire seems a little more bullish on OC Transpo than he does on cycling (even though he likes to bike, he swears!). He doesn’t like the current system, and argues for a “hub-and-spoke” system. I’m ambivalent. Generally, I haven’t been swayed by arguments for hub-and-spoke, but I’m open to being persuaded.

Another suggestion, which is a little worse than hub-and-spoke, is cutting away at our sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Oh, he doesn’t say that, but he wants to create more bus lane “pull-ins”, so that buses aren’t stopping on the street blocking traffic, ie cars. As someone who walks, bikes and buses to work at various times, street stopping for buses isn’t a big deal. It slows Bank Street a tad, but not much. It has no effect on Albert or Slater, because those have dedicated bus lanes. Carling has ample space to get around, as do roads like Innes and Merivale. And, really, the further you get from downtown, the less of an issue this becomes.

I don’t think this is a serious policy; I think it’s a statement: Cars come first, buses second. No need to worry much past that.

However, the absolute worst suggestion Maguire has is to open up bus routes to competition–because having one bus line filling our streets isn’t enough. We need multiple bus companies running amok. I get where Maguire is coming from. Generally, competition is good and the government should get out of the way as much as possible, but the infrastructure demands (not to mention the barriers to entry) in the mass transit industry makes it a slightly different beast.

We don’t want multiple transpo garages. We don’t want to worry about multiple fare types, passes and tickets. We don’t want buses getting cute with their routes or their levels of service. As much as OC Transpo should attempt to cover all its costs through fares and advertising (and it should!), there is still a public service aspect to it, and we grant buses a lot of non-monetary subsidies to operate (the transitway, bus lanes, special road laws). The city is a pretty direct stakeholder in the transit system. A wild west isn’t going to help anyone.

Maguire isn’t a big fan of the LRT, and that’s fair. As he says, “[c]urrent projects do not address gridlock on the Queensway or arterial roads, and will not be completed for years.” He’s absolutely right! And, unfortunately, residents regularly get a sold a bill of goods about how improved mass transit will reduce traffic congestion.

It won’t. Additional mass transit will, in the short term, take some cars off the road, but as the roads become clearer, more people will be encouraged to drive (and move to the middle of nowhere while commuting into and through the city). It’s just like adding additional lanes to a road. Build it, and they will drive.

Of course, the ship has kind of sailed. Chewrocka is already underground. Contracts are signed, and the LRT is being built. Throwing up your hands and saying, we’re done! isn’t truth telling, and it isn’t fiscal responsibility. Also, good luck getting council to agree.

Well, even if his promise to scrap the LRT is pretty worthless, at least he understands that expanding mass transit doesn’t actually address congestion issues.

Wrong!

He wants to build light rail, just different light rail. On tracks that are already there. Because somehow this will magically make no one want to drive into the city.

And, though he’s “not for or against cars”, he wants to make it easier for people to drive everywhere. He would roll back the price increases for parking. Free or under-priced parking is good for nobody. It is an incentive for driving, and, therefore, increases congestion. Make no mistake about it, Maguire is pro-car.

And you can’t be pro-car and anti-congestion. It just doesn’t work that way.

One last thing about transit, he promises to do nothing for pedestrians.

Trash
There seem to be two basic elements to Maguire’s trash pillar (which is great imagery for cynics like me), scrapping the Green Bin program and returning to weekly trash pick-up.

Maguire has some interesting slides with a lot of (seemingly sound) back-of-the-envelope math demonstrating that we’re paying a lot for the Green Bin program, and it’s not really achieving what it is intended to achieve (extending the life of our landfills). His arguments are somewhat compelling, but I’m inclined to think that there’s more to it that what he’s presented. Unfortunately, this issue is outside of my wheelhouse (though I recall there being a lot of issues with the roll-out, which meant higher-than-expected up-front costs, so extending the program won’t re-incur those costs).

One thing I will say in favour of the Green Bin program: it’s not just about a cost-efficient prolonging of a landfill’s useful life. There are other environmental benefits to composting and a city-wide program might get more people thinking in terms of not destroying the environment. That’s a good thing… though not necessarily at the cost of the program.

Maguire also claims that we are currently paying as much for bi-weekly garbage pick-up as we paid for weekly garbage pick-up. I find this hard to believe, but if it’s true, then I’m all for weekly pick-up. At this point, Maguire does not have any further details on this on his website, so I can’t judge the veracity of the claim. The site states that more information will come.

Hydro
Maguire wants cheaper hydro. If I combine with his support of driving, his antipathy towards cycling and walking, and his desire to axe the Green Bin program, I’m inclined to think he doesn’t give a whit about the environment.

Maybe that’s unfair. Still, it’s my impression.

Maguire claims that through some really odd accounting (a $200M promissory note from Hydro Ottawa to the City of Ottawa, the sole owner of Hydro Ottawa), Hydro customers are being overcharged. He has a nifty slide show to back that up.

Personally, I’m unconvinced. His argument against the promissory note (which seems to have been issued for no tangible reason) seems thin. I can imagine a perfectly valid reason why the city would demand $200M from Hydro Ottawa (even though it is wholly-owned by the city): getting to be the monopoly provider to Ottawa hydro customers is a damned sweet deal. The promissory note, I would imagine, ensures that Hydro Ottawa pays significant dividends to the city.

This isn’t just a tax grab like he says (though I understand that argument). This is the city selling something of value–the rights to hydro delivery–while maintaining control over an essential service. Maybe it would be better if the government was out of the electricity game, but if that’s the argument, Maguire should make that case. Currently, he’s merely arguing for the city to establish lower costs–and therefore lower rates–for hydro.

Personally, I don’t think hydro is egregiously expensive. I think people who waste hydro (including through heating, cooling and lighting massive homes) are essentially stealing from the rest of us. Their consumption puts an incredible burden on the rest of us in terms of pollution. Lowering hydro rates is merely rewarding environmental degradation. Further, considering how hydro consumption tends to increase with wealth and income, it’s a giveaway to the rich. Conservation is an issue that addresses inequality, and politicians who don’t recognize that are transferring wealth and utility from the poor to the rich.

Contradictions and Summation
Since I’ve wound up at over 2000 words, I think a bit of a TL;DR recap is in order.

Mike Maguire has as his focus a very worthy goal, fiscal discipline. We should concern ourselves with the city’s debt. As much as Jim Watson hasn’t been some crazy-spending liberal, we have embarked on some pretty expensive projects in the past four years. Now, Maguire doesn’t offer convincing arguments against those projects, but having someone hammer on the fiscal discipline bell is useful.

Unfortunately, for Maguire, his campaign doesn’t actually represent fiscal discipline.

He wants to lower taxes and lower spending. OK, if you lower spending more than taxes, you should be able to get your house in order. However, he’s not just talking about lowering property taxes.

Maguire wants to lower hydro rates and erase the dividend the city receives from Hydro Ottawa. He wants to cut the price of parking, selling this precious city asset at a below-the-market rate. He also thinks the city needs to lower bus fare. That’s a wealth transfer to the rich and a way to increase city spending!

At his campaign launch, Maguire noted the very stale anecdote of an Ontario businessman losing a city contract to someone from Quebec (xenophobia is ugly, even just inter-provincially), so he wants to make sure city contracts go to good ol’ Ontario residents, regardless of price. Protectionism is bad enough, but when you’re running on your fiscal responsibility bona fides, it really undercuts your campaign.

Maguire also rails against congestion and gridlock, but he offers no actual solutions. Do you want to get rid of congestion? You’ve got to attack driving; make it expensive. That means road tolls. It means aggressively pricing parking… that is, when you’re not eliminating parking. The carrot of good public transit (or bike lanes) is all well and good, but you really need a stick.

You also need to abandon the suburban bedroom community dream. You need to create real Garden Cities that are self-sufficient. You need mix-use zoning and intensification to make it work. Not only do you need to deter people from driving, you need to make sure that you have the necessary amenities nearby so that they don’t have to drive.

Maguire does none of that. He just wants different transit expansion.

Make no mistake, Maguire’s platform is bad. His heart may be in the right place (and he certainly seems sincere) but his policies are scattershot. There’s no continuity and there’s no clear method as to how his policies would actually get to his goal. Of all the critiques one can make of Jim Watson, he has displayed a competency that just isn’t present in Maguire.

It would not be good should he become mayor.

We Should Narrow Bank Street

The other day, Capital Ward Councilor David Chernushenko explained the city’s reasoning for not putting bike lanes on the Bank Street Bridge. Since I was in the process of writing this when I saw a link to that post, I refrained from looking at it, lest this post turn into nothing more than a fisking exercise. I will, however, read it later. 

Bank Street, as it runs through urban neighbourhoods, should be adopt the Complete Streets model. It should be two lanes with a segregated (preferably raised) bike lane and expanded sidewalks. Such a shift would manageable and would merely reflect the current realities of life on the street. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on the section of Bank from the Queensway south to Lansdowne Park, but will touch on the other sections.

There are a number of reasons to adopt this measure:

It’s mostly about pedestrians

When we debate implementing a Complete Streets model, the discussion tends to turn into a car vs. bike battle, but the pedestrians on Bank Street deserve better than the status. The Glebe (and Old Ottawa South) has the charm of an urban village. It is just that charm that the city is leveraging for the Lansdowne re-development (which they dub an “urban village). But this dynamic is predicated on the walkability of the neighbourhood. The Glebe has a significant walking culture. Sidewalks are regularly packed with shoppers, patrons and neighbours. And that’s the problem, they’re packed.

The sidewalks throughout the Glebe are ridiculously narrow. There is no space between the sidewalk and storefronts. The sidewalks are cluttered with bike racks, store signage, light posts, hydro poles, street signs and parking meters. We see families, couples, people with walkers or strollers, clusters of teens, and other random groups of people using the sidewalks. There often is not enough room for all people (especially when strollers, walkers or wheelchairs are introduced), and this problem is compounded when you include window shoppers. It becomes comically bad when you start adding in cyclists (yes, they should not be on the sidewalk—children aside—but they’re there because of the hazards of the street itself; city planners shouldn’t wish this away; they should understand what’s going on build infrastructure to reflect the actual needs of residents and users).

It’s quite wonderful that the Glebe has maintained this wonderful walking culture despite city infrastructure that actively discourages it. Continue reading

Department of Bad Timing

Starting today and continuing to May 14, city residents are invited to provide their thoughts on a proposed bike path connection* between the segregated bike lane on Laurier and the multi-use pathway along Albert Street. It would seem to require some sidewalk biking, and would put cyclists on the wrong side of Slater. Also, you can’t actually ride your bike all the way. You have to walk across the Slater/Bronson intersection. The route goes thusly:

ewb_flyer_map

So that’s what we’re invited to talk about today, funneling cyclists through the Slater/Bronson intersection. Then this happened:

That’s probably not how the city wanted to kick off this discussion.

[H/T: Cassandra Fulgham]

*To be clear, this isn’t really a bike path nor is it a connection, but I digress.