Archive for the ‘commuting’ Category

Segregated Cycling lanes

Hello all!

With winter finally seeming to have been beaten, it’s time to take this blog out of its seasonal (albeit never planned) hibernation.

There’s been a lot of attention paid in the past few weeks to a pilot project that would see the city create a segregated cycling route through centretown on a trial basis. The Sun was the first to report on it on March 15th (though doesn’t have most of the details exactly right and is pretty slanted against), Centretown News followed up on the 26th (their details are right, but they managed to get some names wrong), and the Citizen has something published today. Note all stories talk about different events: the Sun followed the original presentation to the Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee (full disclosure: I’m chair of RCAC. I write here as an individual), the latter follow Councillor Holmes’ stepping in to propose the creation of a different consultation mechanism.

I think that there’s lots to be optimistic about in this. Given that this will be a bit of a first for Ottawa (at least in the core). My impression, at least based on what RCAC was told, was that the plan was to begin meeting with other community and business groups. What is being proposed here is to make the consultation process more formal. That might slow things down a bit, but I’m not sure that we would have seen any changes this cycling season in any case. It’s more important that we do what is needed to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the process and is able to contribute as much as is possible: it’ll produce a better result, and it will help avoid infighting amongst various road users/business groups/residents.

Now, in The Citizen Holmes’ suggests that downtown was listed as an option, but the cycling plan calls for considerations of larger east-west routes, which is true. I think that the idea of a downtown route for the pilot has more to do with it being an area where there is a good concentration of places to go, local residents, and people commuting in. There’s also already a lot of bicycles. That’s a good mix for a first project, and is probably different than if it were farther from the core.

Council failing on biking

Ecology Ottawa and the Sierra Club issued a report card on the current council’s environmental measures. They say that “Mayor O’Brien’s Council lags behind other Canadian cities on the environment.”

One reason for some of the failing grades: lack of funding for cycling. From the Ottawa Citizen:

[F]our years ago, funding for cycling came in at $400,000 per year and out of all commuters, two per cent rode bikes. Funding for cycling is now zero, and Mr. Doucet said it’s no surprise that cycling rates are stagnant “while other cities have caught up to Ottawa and are passing us.”

You can take a look at how your councillor is doing here.

Transportation Ethics

For fans of the New York Times column “The Ethicist“, Streetfilms has produced a video of an interview with its author, Randy Cohen, in which he makes a firm case for the immorality of urban cars and the ethical imperative to use alternative transportation.

I like how Cohen roots this criticism in a simple, traditional maxim: it does harm to others. In my philosophy studies, I’ve come across many radical approaches to environmental ethics (from deep ecology to eco-anarchism and beyond), and I’m somewhat sympathetic to them. However, I think the strongest case for environmental ethics lies in a simple understanding of ecological harm to others being just as much a violation of liberalism as other traditional harms.

While this approach is less novel and intellectually dazzling then formulating a whole new approach to the world, I think it’s much more likely to attract a consensus. I guess there’s a reason they call him The Ethicist.