Community Newspaper Columns

Prevention is cheaper and more effective than a cure

September 2013

In addition to serving on the Transportation and Environment committees, I am a member of the Board of Health and Crime Prevention Ottawa. I see firsthand how a preventive approach is more effective and less expensive than responding to problems that have already occurred.

This applies equally to traffic accidents, environmental damage, emerging diseases or local crime. In that vein, I want to share important information on several fronts.

First, an update on safety at Billings Bridge and Riverside, where a cyclist was hit by a cement truck on July 30. Many people want to know what we can do to prevent future accidents in the notoriously complicated and dangerous area around that intersection.

The City began by examining the condition of the road surface, with the goal of repairing potholes and cracks as soon as possible. This will allow cyclists to keep a straighter line, and remove the need for sudden veering out further into the roadway. We also launched an Operation Safety Review, standard procedure after a fatal accident of any kind.

I’ve asked City staff to evaluate whether advanced signals for cyclists and pedestrians might reduce the risks from motor vehicles turning right. I’m also calling for increased funding from all levels of government for the education of cyclists and motorists alike.

Finally, I’m looking at the timetable for major road reconstruction and bridge repairs to see if we can advance some critical infrastructure work. This might include widening the waiting area for pedestrians and cyclists at several corners, improving sight lines for all road users, and ultimately redesigning the Billings Bridge area with proper, separate sidewalks and bike lanes.

Be alert to Lyme disease
Lyme disease is not yet a major concern in the Ottawa area, but it is spreading in Eastern Ontario. That’s why Ottawa Public Health (OPH) wants to raise awareness about this treatable bacterial infection.

Lyme disease is transmitted through bites from infected blacklegged ticks, a.k.a. deer ticks. Early symptoms include a characteristic bull’s-eye rash, headache, fatigue, chills, fever, muscle aches, joint pain or swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause neurological problems, rheumatologic symptoms or cardiac abnormalities.

OPH is monitoring the prevalence of Lyme disease and providing information to local medical professionals on its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites:

  • Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, closed footwear and socks if you’re headed into tick habitat, which includes wooded areas and tall grass. Light-coloured clothing makes it easier to spot ticks.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks, and your shirt into your pants.
  • Stay in the middle of trails if possible.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET, and follow the label directions.
  • Do a “tick check” after spending time outdoors in tick-infested areas. Carefully inspect yourself from the ankles up, and take special care around your knees, armpits and head. Check children and pets as well.

If you find a tick:

  • Remove it as soon as possible. Ticks must be attached to your body for at least 24 hours to pass on the bacteria.
  • If it’s already firmly attached to your skin, use tweezers to gently grasp it near the head or mouth, and pull carefully without crushing it.
  • If the tick was embedded, apply antiseptic to the area and see your healthcare provider.
  • Submit the tick to OPH for testing by calling 613-580-6744. The results won’t be used for diagnosis, but will help with OPH’s surveillance activities.

West Nile Virus
OPH is also monitoring West Nile Virus (WNV), a mosquito-borne illness confirmed in Ottawa again this year.

Most people infected don’t develop symptoms, but some — particularly the elderly or those with weakened immune systems — may experience flu-like symptoms or serious illness.

Even if summer is quickly coming to an end, it’s still useful to know how to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites:

  • Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so don’t let water collect outside your home in flower pot saucers or on toys, tools, swimming pool covers, etc. Change the water in your bird bath regularly and cover your rain barrel with a screen.
  • Avoid going outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear light-coloured, tightly woven long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks, and apply an approved mosquito repellent.
  • Install screens on your windows and doors.

For more information, visit ottawa.ca/health or call 613-580-6744.

Join Crime Prevention Ottawa
Crime Prevention Ottawa (CPO) works closely with local residents, police, school boards, businesses and other partners to reduce crime and build safer communities.

CPO is currently recruiting volunteers for its Board of Directors and its Community Forum. The Board sets the strategic direction and assures sound financial management, while the Community Forum is an advisory body that provides feedback on planning, priorities and emerging issues in the community.

For more information, visit crimepreventionottawa.ca. The deadline for applications is Thursday, Sept. 12.

Lansdowne urban park offers silver lining
Work on the urban park portion of the Lansdowne redevelopment project started on July 15. While I have opposed many elements of the overall redevelopment — and the severely flawed process behind it — the urban park is one component that I support and am sincerely looking forward to using. Landscape architects Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg (PFS) consulted widely on the design now being constructed by D&G Landscaping.

As a member of the Lansdowne Design Review Panel, my goal was to ensure that this site would be developed into something special, reflective of its heritage and importance to Ottawa, with a high level of design quality and integration with the community. I believe the new park, at least, will meet this goal. Its recreational, arts and culture options — meant for local residents and tourists alike — will incorporate elements of Ottawa’s history and the heritage and culture of the Algonquin peoples.

The 18-acre urban park will provide much-needed recreational space in the Glebe, with a Great Lawn, event spaces, an orchard and civic garden. A refrigerated ice rink for skating and curling will accommodate basketball courts in the summer. Children will enjoy play areas with a climbing structure and a beginner’s skateboard park. New cycling and pedestrian connections will improve links between Bank Street and the Rideau Canal to encourage people to visit the park by foot and bike.

Most of the urban park is expected to be ready for public use when the new Lansdowne stadium opens next spring. But some elements, such as the “Beacon” water feature and the final landscaping, won’t be completed until the summer of 2015 ,when the new Lansdowne Park is expected to be fully operational.

Glebe residents are being forced to endure a lot of noise, dust, inconvenience and aggravation thanks to the enormous construction project that is Lansdowne. It’s also a tremendous shame that Sylvia Holden Park and the green buffer it offered along Holmwood Avenue were sacrificed along the way. So I do hope that, in the end, the urban park will prove to be a welcome and valuable addition to the local neighbourhood.

Glebe Parking Garage (a.k.a. The Mobility Hub)
Design work is now well underway on the new Glebe parking garage — dubbed by a politically savvy young resident as a “mobility hub” based on the idea that what you name something can influence what it actually becomes and how it is used.

A committed working group of local residents and business representatives met twice this summer with the selected architects and City staff to keep this time-sensitive project on track. The group agreed the structure must integrate well into the neighbourhood in both its form and function. Though it must perform well as a parking garage, it doesn’t have to look like the stark concrete structures we all associate with car parkades.

I am happy to report that PBK Architects, winners of the bidding process, have been very open to creative ideas. Though nothing is firm at this point, I am enthusiastic about the possibilities.

We have now reached the point where we are seeking broader public input. A Public Open House for the Glebe Garage Design will take place on Thursday, Sept. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave. The architects will present two design options and solicit your feedback.

Home conversion rules under review
Following several inappropriate conversions of single-family dwellings into apartment buildings in Capital Ward, I proposed a complete hold on such conversions using an interim control by-law. This was approved in the spring, and the City launched a review of current zoning with the objective of establishing clearer and tighter rules by which residential infill conversions might be allowed in the future.

While Ottawa’s current zoning rules allow single-family homes to be converted to several apartments, many of us feel the radical changes witnessed on our streets have been simply incompatible and unacceptable.

Over the past few months, City planners have received a steady stream of feedback from residents through ottawa.ca/conversions. In the coming months, staff will continue reviewing existing zoning as well as best practices in other Ontario cities.

The City will host a Public Consultation Session on Monday, Sept. 16, to hear from residents and answer your questions about the study’s progress. This open house will take place at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

As many of the issues around conversions are closely related to those of infill development, staff will coordinate this review with the Infill 2 Zoning Study and will bring the two amendments forward at the same time in next spring.

As always, I welcome your comments, questions or feedback.

Councillor David Chernushenko