15 Capital Rides for Canada's 150th

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For as long as I can remember, the bicycle has been my favourite way to travel. Fast enough to get places quickly and efficiently, but slow enough to be a part of the places through which I am passing. Whether it be for a daily commute, running errands, local recreation or holiday travel, I agree completely with the Queen lyrics: "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like."

As Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and the City of Ottawa embarks on dozens of projects to commemorate the occasion, it seemed obvious to me that my personal project would involve cycling. As a city councillor and a proud citizen of this great and diverse city, I have contributed to the development of Ottawa's cycling infrastructure, to a culture of making cycling normal and to encouraging cycling tourism. That includes the development of a set of 15 cycling routes in the Ottawa region, or as I like to call them, 15 Capital Rides.

Experience Ottawa by bike

My Canada 150 project is to ride these 15 routes over the coming months, between May and August 2017. My goal is to experience this very big and diverse city from the seat of my bicycle, and to share what I see and learn (and eat and drink) with the world. I know Ottawa is a great place to ride, for local residents and visitors alike, and I want to share this with the world.

My rides will be informal. Some will be with family and friends, some with invited guests. Some will be planned, with pre-arranged stops at points of interest, like significant local events, bakeries, cafes, vineyards and pubs (did I mention food and drink?). A couple may even involve overnight stays at an inn or a campground. I say "may" because planning everything in advance would be restrictive. Weather is just one factor that might force me to postpone a ride or two. Then again, if the day is looking just too glorious, I may have to cancel whatever I was planning for that day and just get on my bike and ride.

Capital Rides blog

I'll take photos. I'll tell stories. I'll invite local people to tell me about their businesses, favourite eateries or points of interest. Some might even come along for all or part of a ride. Follow me through the Capital Rides blog.

The routes I follow are available to all. Part of my motivation for doing this is to help publicize the creation of these 15 routes. Most of us could do at least some of them, keeping in mind diverse route length, varying road conditions and skill or fitness levels. The maps indicate level of difficulty and areas where on-road competence is needed. Please review each route before you go and be smart about what rides to choose.

And note the rest stops, bike rentals (including e-bikes) and places of interest. No ride should be a chore!

Share your rides

I have no doubt that many people will have opinions on the routes and related information. I welcome feedback and photos from anyone who rides one or more of these routes, and I'll share some of your submissions on this site.

If you have tips for me on events or places of interest along these routes, perhaps some not yet noted by the mapmakers at the City of Ottawa, please let me know. Especially if they involve food! Did I mention food yet?

Here's to a great spring/summer/fall of riding in the Ottawa/Gatineau region!

David Chernushenko
Councillor for Capital Ward
Lover of Cycling

City to axe vacancy rebate tax program

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Blais motion moved timeline up by year

Somerset House, on Bank, has long been one of the properties that has been demolished by neglect, something made easier through the city's vacancy rebate program, says David Jeanes.

Jennifer McIntosh, Ottawa Community News

Dean Karakasis, executive director of Building Owners and Managers Association of Ottawa, said he’s disappointed with the finance and economic committee’s decision to end the vacancy rebate program.

Karakasis said the program is an offshoot of the nineties business occupancy program, which would give businesses a break on their tax bill for vacant buildings.

“The money was never theirs to play with,” Karakasis said of the vacancy rebate program.

The rebate system would return taxes to business owners through a grant if they met certain criteria.

Other municipalities such as Toronto and Hamilton had already voted in favour of phasing out the program.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt was the only dissenting vote on May 2. The rest of the committee approved the recommendation to phase out the program, which city staff says has paid out $76 million since 2009.

The city’s treasury department recommended the program be phased out over three years, but a motion from Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais moved the timeline to two years.

In advance of the report to committee, staff said there was very little participation on the surveys they sent out to affected businesses. Only 14 per cent were returned.

The current vacancy rate for Ottawa businesses is 11 per cent, which is far more than the usual three or four per cent, says Karakasis.

Councillors and city staff suggested part of the reason for the higher vacancy rate could be partly due to federal government downsizing.

He says landlords are adjusting to changing trends in the commercial market, such as the growth of online shopping and a decreased reliance on physical retail space.

Karakasis added the city should be a partner and working on some solutions.

Today, property owners can claim a 30 per cent tax break for commercial land and a 35 per cent tax break for industrial land if parts of the buildings are vacant for 90 consecutive days.

West Carleton Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who works with the city's business improvement areas, said smaller businesses or “mama and papa shops” don’t get to take advantage of the rebate program.

The BIAs don’t have a clear position because the smaller shops don’t benefit, he said.

The committee’s recommended plan would decrease the vacancy rebate to 15 per cent in 2017 and eliminate the discount in 2018.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko wondered whether getting rid of the program would help fill vacant storefronts in the Glebe.

Chernushenko said the program could mean landlords are more willing to let a space sit idle because they know they can get the rebate.

Causeway offers free bike tune-ups

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May 1 to 19
Mondays to Fridays, noon – 7 p.m.
Ottawa City Hall, Marion Dewar Plaza, 110 Laurier Ave. W.

May 21 – 28, noon – 7 pm
Lansdowne Park, Skating Court, 450 Queen Elizabeth Dr.

Bring your bike for a quick tune-up by a professional bike mechanic from Right Bike. They’ll take a look at your brakes, gears, wheels and tires to make sure that you are ready to ride.

These are quick and free tune ups, so there may be procedures and replacement parts that you will need that are beyond what can be done on site. But that’s okay! The mechanics will tell you what needs to be done and to refer you to a fine bike shop in your own neighbourhood that can help you. Supported by Safer Roads Ottawa. Learn more about rightbike.

Glebe businesses blame rising rent as more chains move in

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'No easy solutions' to changing retail landscape, councillor says

A letter on the door of this closed sushi restaurant on Bank Street in the Glebe shows the owner was in arrears.

A letter on the door of this closed sushi restaurant on Bank Street in the Glebe shows the owner was in arrears. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

By CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, CBC News

Independent business owners in the Glebe are worried that rising rents for retail properties are squeezing stores like theirs out of the neighbourhood, making room for more chain stores that can afford expensive leases.

Gilbert Russell, owner of Brio Bodywear on Bank Street just south of Clarey Avenue, fears that could become a trend that changes the character of the Glebe.

Some Glebe businesses aren't happy with the recent arrivial of McDonald's at the corner of Bank and Fifth. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

"As long as these rents stay high, the only people that can afford it is somebody that has deep pockets because they've got multiple stores, they can stand to lose money on that store, but unfortunately it changes the complexion of the neighbourhood," said Russell.

He points to the McDonald's that recently opened at Bank and Fifth Avenue as an example.

"It doesn't add to anything. Having another business that draws people is beneficial. Having something that doesn't draw people that's generic isn't beneficial. They're not going to come in just to come down to the McDonald's at Bank and Fifth," he said.

"So it's really sort of the absence of that other impact. And at some point if the ecosystem isn't supportive for an independent business, independent businesses leave. If it becomes a fast food strip, it becomes a chain strip."

'They don't stop'

Although the renewed Lansdowne Park and its major events like football games and concerts draw people to Bank Street in the Glebe, Russell doesn't believe they spend enough time visiting independent businesses there, and Miriam Rangel agrees.

"I just feel the people from the Glebe, from the neighbourhood, feel kind of discouraged to leave home sometimes because during the events, hundreds of people pass by, but they don't stop," said Rangel, owner of Cafe Morala, on Bank near First Avenue.

As a result, visitors stop at chain stores and restaurants they know, and Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko recognizes this can be a problem for smaller businesses.

"There's nothing we can do or should do to prevent them [chains] from opening. What we should be doing is encouraging the kind of things that would have the independent business owner and the people that come to them want to be there," he said.