We've been counting down the months for what feels like ages, and now it's here: Canada's 150th birthday year. And what a year it promises to be!
The formal schedule of events is packed, with big names, big ideas and big parties. But just as important are all the small ways that Canadians have thought of to celebrate this special year. Ottawa will see more than its share of special activities, and more than a normal number of visitors. We are all in for a treat.
I'll be participating in a lot of big, official activities, and plenty of smaller, local ones too. But my special project for Canada's 150th involves promoting Ottawa as a great place to cycle, whether for local residents exploring the region, for tourists getting beyond the main sightseeing attractions, or for people who choose to come here just for the biking.
The City of Ottawa has just produced a series of 15 suggested cycle routes, complete with maps and a host of helpful information. My "15 Capital Rides for Canada's 150th" project involves riding one of the routes each week, and telling everyone about it. Better yet, I'll be inviting guests and accepting suggestions for what to enjoy along the way — all the best eats, pubs, views, music and more in the Ottawa area.
I am still in the early stages of planning the website, and the ways I will photograph, film, blog and generally share what I am seeing and learning. All I can say for sure at this stage is that I'm open to suggestions regarding destinations, special guests, etc. I'll start in May with one of the shorter rides (the shortest is 15 km) and build up to the longest ones (over 100 km).
Bank Street Renewal plans now public
Several hundred residents attended an open house in December to see the initial design plans for the renewal of Bank Street from Riverside Dr. south to Ledbury Ave. When work gets underway in 2018, it will mark the third major north-south street renewal for Capital Ward residents in less than a decade (the others are Bank Street in the Glebe and Main Street). That means it's our third opportunity to re-imagine the way our streets can work, look and feel.
With a Complete Streets policy now firmly in place, the City of Ottawa aims to make this section of Bank more attractive and safe for all users, not just motor vehicle drivers. While car traffic will undoubtedly remain the dominant mode on this stretch of the road, that need not and should not be an obstacle to calming traffic speeds, improving the attractiveness of the streetscape, and making roadways and intersections safer for walking, cycling and riding the bus.
While initial feedback from some business owners and residents focused on perceived restrictions to certain kinds of movements and street-facing parking, the majority responded positively to the improved safety measures — notably at tricky intersections — and plans for wider sidewalks, full cycle tracks and trees. Nobody expects this to become an urban street along the lines of Bank St. in the Glebe and Old Ottawa South, but it can be much better than the stark stretch of strip malls that evolved through the 1970s and 1980s.
Some are surprised to learn that Capital Ward extends that far south. But residents of Heron Park, a neighbourhood bordered by Bank on the east, are very much aware that I support the kinds of positive changes described in this first design proposal. I believe it will bring more customers to businesses, and improve safety and a sense of community.
As one of three councilors whose wards are directly affected by this project, I welcome your views on the plans, which you can view at capitalward.ca/bank-renewal.
Canada Games bid
I am excited that Ottawa is bidding to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games. This is a special multi-sport event bringing thousands of younger athletes to the host community — along with a lot of their friends and family — on their way to the "big leagues". For this reason, the Games have a unique energy and flavor, as I've learned through my participation in multiple bids and planning for Canada Games in the 1990s.
Even better, Capital Ward would be at the centre of the action: The Athletes' Village is planned for Carleton University, and venues would include Lansdowne, Brewer Park, the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club, and uOttawa and Carleton sports facilities, among others throughout Ottawa.
The host city will be selected by April, following a site visit by a Canada Games evaluation team. Let's show them what great hosts we can be!