A Disappointing Day for Transportation Safety in Ottawa

Even after a cyclist was killed outside of City Hall on May 16, and over 200 gathering outside City Hall a few days later to demand safer streets, it was not enough for councillors to take a stance and adopt Vision Zero policy.

On June 12, City Council discussed the motion brought forward by Councillor Catherine McKenney on May 22 asking for the city to adopt Vision Zero policy and framework for eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injury while promoting safe, healthy, and equitable transportation. The motion asks staff to report back with recommendations for the Road Safety Action Plan with respect to traffic lights, putting vulnerable road users first,  options to eliminate ‘revert reds’, criteria to eliminate ‘beg buttons’, criteria for the elimination of right turns on red in the presence of bike lanes, identify the floating bike lanes and criteria to turn them into safe segregated bike lanes, and review requirements and costs to impose a city wide 30 km/h speed limit on residential streets.

The push back from some councillors was concerning. Councillor Stephen Blais, also chair of the Transportation Committee, pushed back and moved to refer the motion back to Transportation Committee. The general question surrounded the reason why Ottawa needs Vision Zero if road safety is already on the agenda. John Manconi, General Manager of Transportation Services asked council to refer the motion, reassuring council that staff already supports Vision Zero, and that referral to committee will give staff more time to find funding to implement the measures proposed by the motion. He reiterated that “Vision Zero is just a brand.”

Councillor Leiper reminded his colleague of the death outside City Hall, as well as two more cyclists being struck by cars that morning, and requested a clear direction in what we want to see in the Road Safety Action Plan. Councillor Menard pointed out that if the motion is referred, then it will delay the actions to make streets safer. Both urge council to vote against the referral. In her closing statement, councillor McKenney reminded us that our roads are unsafe, and delaying meaningful action on Vision Zero sends a message to road users and the public that we “normalize deaths on our streets”.

Before Council voted on the referral motion, Mayor Watson pointed to the City’s $80 million investment in cycling infrastructure, reminded his colleagues that “we can’t just get rid of beg buttons”, and urged council to vote to refer the motion to allow the public to have a say.

Council then voted to refer the Vision Zero motion back to transportation committee, with 15 yays and 9 nays. The nays were councillors McKenney, Leiper, Menard, Fleury, Kavanagh, King, Deans, Meehan, and Gower.

A second motion by councillor Leiper to allocate the federal gas tax towards cycling infrastructure was also referred to the City Treasurer to be considered with other competing priorities. Councillor Laura Dudas moved the motion, which passed 19-5. The nays are Leiper, McKenney, Menard, Kavanagh, and King.

City Council also discussed in depth the ramifications of the latest LRT-Stage 1 delay on current OCTranspo services. Councillor Allan Hubley moved to freeze transit fares until the LRT Stage 1 opens, and councillor Diane Deans provided an amendment to reduce fares by 30% from July to September 2019, funding to be taken out of Rideau Transit Group’s contract. In a passionate speech, councillor Deans criticized OCTranspo’s poor and unreliable services and disrespect for transit riders. “The very principle of fairness would suggest that we should not be charging full fares for a partial or unreliable system,” she says to Council. Mayor Jim Watson on the contrary refers to the fare reduction motion as “one of the most ridiculous motions” he has ever seen.

Councillors Brockington, Cloutier, Blais, were among those who objected to the fare reduction, citing the financial costs ($29 million lost in fare revenue), the low likelihood of RTG covering the cost of fare reduction, and that it doesn’t help improve service. The vote to reduce transit fare failed 6-18, with councillors Deans, McKenney, Menard, Chiarelli, Kavanagh, and King. The vote to freeze transit fares until LRT opens passed unanimously.

Apply today! Outreach Canvasser [posting expired]

Do you enjoy being outdoors?

Are you passionate about environmental issues and comfortable communicating with others? 

Ecology Ottawa is seeking self-motivated environmentalists to join our door-to-door canvass team! Our outreach canvass raises awareness of our issues on the doorstep, and raises funds to support our projects and campaigns.

Overview:

  • The hours are 4:00pm to 9:00pm weekdays, number of days a week flexible (option for weekend days as well).
  • Great summer/student job for the right person.
  • No experience necessary, all training provided.
  • Must be interested in learning how to fundraise for social change

Challenges:

  • It’s all weather and outside, you have to love the hot days and the rain.
  • Some people find it hard to deal with rejection — not everyone is as interested in what we do as you are.
  • You need to be reasonably fit – we walk a lot!

Rewards:

  • Learn great transferable skills — communication, people skills, fundraising.
  • Gain confidence in yourself that can last a lifetime.
  • You can make good money, get exercise instead of being stuck in an office all summer, all while helping grow a grassroots organization. 

Please send your resume and cover letter to: 
erik.pervin@ecologyottawa.ca

Ecology Ottawa is the city’s leading grassroots environmental organization. We are working to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada and our environmental Canvassers play a critical role in helping to build a truly city-wide voice for the environment at City Hall.

Joint Letter by Thirteen Community Groups: We need Vision Zero now!

Dear Mayor Watson,

We are writing in the aftermath of the tragic death of a cyclist on Thursday, May 16. While the cyclist’s identity remains unknown at the time of writing, many in our community are grieving his loss and the death of yet another vulnerable Ottawa road user.

This grief is giving way to deep frustration. Years after the City of Ottawa’s declaration of a Complete Streets policy and implementation plan, it remains clear that our streets are largely hostile to cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. Even within several metres of our city’s flagship separated bike lane, another vulnerable road user has died.

The word “accident,” however well-intentioned and commonly used, is inappropriate in these circumstances. This cyclist’s death – just like the death and severe injury of dozens of Ottawa residents each year on sidewalks, in bike lanes, in crosswalks, at bus-stops or on buses – is a product of inadequate policy and poor transportation infrastructure design.

As a city, we can and must do better for vulnerable road users of all types. Fundamentally, this means policy that systematically prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists over motorists. It means making the hard decisions that lead to design improvements – improvements that prioritize safety for vulnerable road users above all else. We must make our streets safe for our city’s children, elderly and mobility impaired. We must make it safe for people walking to school or work, biking to appointments, trying to get from home or work to a bus-stop, taking transit, and otherwise trying to live their lives safely in a car-centric world. We firmly believe that our city benefits when it is safe and accessible for all who reside within it. We can stop the injuries and deaths.

In light of the above, we, the undersigned, call on the City of Ottawa to enact a strong Vision Zero policy. Around the world, cities are implementing Vision Zero policies designed to eliminate injury and death on their streets. From their examples and lessons learned, we can develop a comprehensive policy that is ambitious, coherent and uniquely suited to the Ottawa context.

We urge the City of Ottawa to follow suit as quickly as possible. As you know, Councillor Catherine McKenney has given notice of a motion on Vision Zero to be put toward council on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Her motion will include substantial measures to make our streets safer, such as:

  • higher safety standards for infrastructure;
  • more segregated bike lanes;
  • reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h in residential areas;
  • eliminating right turns on red; and
  • altering traffic signal to give cyclists and pedestrians priority over motorists.

At the same time, Councillor Jeff Leiper has proposed a motion to dedicate the $57 million one-time federal gas tax infrastructure transfer to making our cycling network safe. We believe that more funding for vulnerable road users is essential for improving road safety in Ottawa.

We see both funding and strong policy as vital to eliminating severe injury and death on Ottawa’s streets. We urge you to show leadership in boldly implementing an ambitious Vision Zero vision for our city.

Respectfully yours,

Robb Barnes, Executive Director, Ecology Ottawa

Sam Boswell, Ottawa Transit Riders Group

Jean Mullan, Co-President of Bel-Air Community Association

Érinn Cunningham, Bike Ottawa

Michelle Perry, Healthy Transportation Coalition

Neil Thomson, President of Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association

Annie Boucher Rimes, President of Lincoln Heights Parkway Community Association

Stelios Togias. President of Lindenlea Community Association

Liz Bernstein, President of Lowertown Community Association

Sybil Powell, President of McKellar Park Community Association

Heather Marie Scott, President of Pineview Community Association

Marilyn Read, Secretary of Overbrook Community Association

Jeff Westeinde, President of the Zibi project

Volunteer Opportunities – June 2019

June has arrived and things are heating up at Ecology Ottawa! Join us by signing up for one or more of the volunteer opportunities below.

1. Bring trees to every corner of the city

This summer, we aim to give away 12,000 native tree seedlings to Ottawa residents across the city. We need volunteers to table at community events and engage with people, as well as volunteers to help us ‘bag and tag’ our tree seedlings in the office to prep them for events. To sign up, email: living.city.campaign@ecologyottawa.ca.

2. Canvass with us to promote green infrastructure in Britannia

We need your help going door-to-door and discussing green infrastructure with residents, handing out splash guards, and downspout redirects. You will gain communication and community outreach skills, and no experience is needed. To sign up, email: greeninfrastructure@ecologyottawa.ca.

3. Make climate change a priority in the upcoming federal election

In the last three years, Ottawa has seen catastrophic floods predicted to occur only once every 100 years. We have 11 years left to take bold climate action before this becomes the new normal. 

The upcoming federal election is a chance to create a movement for change, one that will transition us to a clean economy and resilient world. We can’t afford to wait. The time is now.

Join us to make a difference this election. To get started, join us for a volunteer training

4. Come to our Blair station bike and walk audits

We are working on a project to improve active transportation connectivity at Blair station, and we need your help! Together with a group of volunteers, we’ll walk and bike predetermined routes near the station and take notes on what we encounter along the way. Both audits take place on July 6, 2019.

Join us for our upcoming active transportation audits by clicking here.

5. Hold Ottawa City Council accountable with the Council Watch team

We are bringing back Council Watch, a campaign that keeps an eye on environmental decisions made at Ottawa City Hall. We’re looking for volunteers to attend council and committee meetings, track councillors’ votes and write blog posts. If you have been looking for an opportunity to engage in municipal affairs and local politics, this might be the opportunity for you. Email vi.bui@ecologyottawa.ca to get involved. 

2nd volunteer training!

Interested in getting involved in the Federal Election campaign? Did you miss the first volunteer training? Here’s your second chance! 

Join us on June 5 from 6-8pm at the Ecology Ottawa office. You’ll be given all the tools you need to help make a difference this election season. 

Make sure to RSVP here: 
https://www.ecologyottawa.org/electionsvolunteertraining2

Can’t make it but still want to get involved? Email alison.gu@ecologyottawa.ca!

Strategy Summit: Ottawa Energy Collective Impact 

Time to roll up our sleeves and create some strategies to help Ottawa meet its climate targets!

Be a part of the funding strategy and strategic partnership forming process as we solidify the community led plan to help reduce emissions from buildings by 80% by 2050!  This work will culminate in a variety of funding proposals to federal, provincial and municipal programs all aligned to the same vision –  a Vibrant Ottawa Built Together! We need you as leaders of building and renovation companies, non-profits, progressive financiers, Invest Ottawa, The City of Ottawa planning and finance, to join us in this great work for the future!

We want to lower GHG emissions and kickstart the Green Retrofit Economy in Ottawa!

When: June 5th – 9:00-4:00

Where: Jean Pigott Place, Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave

It’s time for Ottawa to adopt Vision Zero

On May 16, another cyclist lost their life on Ottawa’s streets. It happened just metres away from City Hall, and right next to Ottawa’s flagship piece of bike infrastructure, the Laurier bike lanes. This tragedy – like so many pedestrian and cycling fatalities that happen throughout the year in Ottawa – was avoidable.

While it is common to call these events “accidents,” the root causes of these instances are bad policy and design. The May 16 tragedy was a product of the choices we have made in building and designing our city. We have built our city around the car – prioritizing ease of travel and speed for car users. Every decision has trade-offs, and a recurring consequence of our current system is severe injury and death for pedestrians and cyclists.

This must end now. Ottawa can choose a better way forward – one that eliminates severe injury and death from our streets. Click here to demand action from your councillor and the mayor today.

Cities around the world are adopting “Vision Zero,” a road safety project that aims to eliminate severe injury and death on streets. Started in Sweden in 1997, the Vision Zero concept has moved to countries, regions and cities around the world. In Canada, cities like Toronto, Edmonton and Surrey have been leading the way in adopting Vision Zero, and re-designing their streets for safety in the process.

On May 22, Councillor Catherine McKenney urged council to adopt Vision Zero, and delineated what that policy could look like in the Ottawa context. Some measures Councillor McKenney proposes include:

  • Ensuring any road reconstruction includes infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists that meets the highest safety standards;
  • Installing segregated bike lanes or cycle tracks;
  • Reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h on all residential streets;
  • Eliminating right turns on red lights, or wherever there are bike lanes or heavy pedestrian areas; and
  • Altering traffic signals to give cyclists and pedestrians priority over motorists.

On Wednesday, June 12, Ottawa City Council will vote on Councillor McKenney’s motion. It is urgent that council and the mayor hear from residents across our city, demanding that council step up the fight against severe injury and death on our streets.

Councillors and the mayor need to hear from you. Click here to email your councillor and the mayor, and click here to phone your councillor today.

Cove: It’s time to support and re-define Ottawa’s electric bus pilot project

On April 24, Ottawa Council declared a climate emergency. Even a few months ago, few people would have expected this move. The objection to the word “emergency” by some councillors took on a dark irony the next day, when a state of emergency was declared due to almost unprecedented flooding in the region.

For some councillors, the main priority was making sure the motion was not merely symbolic. If the city was going to declare a climate emergency, there would have to be action associated with it. Coun. Catherine McKenney had already submitted a request to city staff to study the environmental and financial impacts of an electric bus pilot project for OC Transpo in February, giving people concerned about the environment, public health and public transit hope that an electric bus project could be a first step following the declaration.

Last week, OC Transpo replied to McKenney’s request saying it does not recommend an electric bus pilot project for Ottawa, arguing that it would be more cost-effective to focus on the LRT system and monitor electric bus pilots in other cities, such as Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary. The cost of purchasing buses, retrofitting infrastructure to allow charging and training the workforce to support new technologies were all listed as reasons not to move forward with a pilot project. It would be better, Transpo said, to wait until the mid-2020s when a large portion of the existing fleet needs to be replaced anyway.

The cost of purchasing buses, retrofitting infrastructure to allow charging and training the workforce to support new technologies were all listed as reasons not to move forward.

The position omits one very important element of the pilot project: capacity building. A pilot project does not function solely to determine which electric bus model is best suited to Ottawa’s size and temperature range. It is also an opportunity to build the capacity for electric buses that will be needed in the long term. Infrastructure retrofitting and retraining programs would be expensive aspects of a pilot program: but they are necessary, and they will still be necessary in 2025 regardless of which buses are recommended by other cities.

Looking to the future, the transition to electric buses is going to become an even more pressing issue. As we get closer to the ecological tipping point where the disastrous effects of climate change become irreversible – which the United Nations says is only 11 years away – we will be forced to make large-scale changes to the systems we use every day. Delaying the pilot project is not a way of saving the city money, it simply reduces the timeline for an inevitable project.

When it comes to climate change, some politicians and decision-makers question whether we can afford to implement the programs necessary to create a green economy. It is far past the time to start asking if we can afford not to. This is one of the great rhetorical questions of the climate crisis. But I don’t mean it in a rhetorical sense; I am asking, quite literally, if our city can afford to delay the expenses required to mitigate climate change into the future.

Putting off this pilot project is like saying the housing market is too expensive, so instead of buying a fixer-upper now you’ll wait five years and buy a mansion. Rather than shutting down any hopes of an electric bus pilot project, why not change the scope of what a pilot project could mean? The route planning, infrastructure building and worker training will all have to be done at a community level – Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary can’t do it for us – so why not start it now?

Vicki Lynn Cove is a writer and activist based in Ottawa. She is a member of the Youth Climate Ambassadors and is working with the Healthy Transportation Coalition on the electric bus campaign.

This piece was originally posted as an Op-Ed in the Ottawa Citizen. To read the original article, click here. 

Photo of an electric bus is courtesy of Graham Hughes, via The Canadian Press 

Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale 2019

Version française ici

SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019, 8am-4pm
680 Bank Street
Kunstadt parking lot

It’s our favourite time of year again… Soon the entire Glebe will be abuzz with lawn-hawking like you’ve never seen. It’s this annual mecca of bargain-hunters from near and far that gave birth to Ecology Ottawa’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale!

SignUpToVolunteer

ABOUT

We look forward to another Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale engaging Ottawa residents, greening up our tree canopy and have a lot of fun doing it.

At this year’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale, on Saturday, May 25, Ecology Ottawa’s amazing volunteers will distribute 1,000s of free tree saplings at the event and to shoppers throughout the neighbourhood! We’ll be giving away young seedlings, having conversations with people about local environmental issues and create a community hub at 680 Bank Street (in the Kunstadt parking lot) with music, trees and other entertainments. 

Our energetic volunteers will fan out throughout the neighbourhood all day, giving away 1,000s of free trees! Be on the look out for smiling folks in green hard hats.

We encourage you to come get your free tree at our event headquarters at 680 Bank Street (in the Kunstadt parking lot). In addition, we will be providing the public with access to portable washrooms, a hand washing station, and a water bottle refilling station—part of our commitment to the community.

Entertainment

  • 8:00am-12:00pm – DJs Hobo and Sweet Cheeks (DJs Hobo & Sweet Cheeks are Pawel Skorupski and Jose Palacios, founders of Kitchen Party. A wildly successful monthly dance party held in Ottawa, Canada.)
  • 12:00pm-4:00pm – Neighbour DJs

VOLUNTEER FOR THE EVENT

SignUpToVolunteer

Volunteers are at the heart of what makes the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale such a successful event. Help us organize and pull off the city’s biggest free tree giveaway ever.

Volunteering for this event is a lot of fun, and opportunities are available for folks of all ages. Food and refreshments will be provided. And yes, volunteering for the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale can count towards your high school volunteer requirement!

We are currently seeking volunteers to help with the following roles:

  • Distribute free trees to folks at our venue and throughout the neighbourhood,
  • Staff the Ecology Ottawa information table to answer questions about our programs, projects, and priorities,
  • Monitor waste from the event and make sure it is sorted properly (recycling, green bin, garbage, etc.),
  • Help set up the site before the event,
  • Take down tables, tents, barriers, etc.,
  • Pick up and drop-off donated or borrowed items from the event,
  • Baked goods donations to feed volunteers and to sell

We need your help the most on Saturday, May 25th, from 6 am to 6 pm, as well as the day before and the day after.

PLEASE COMPLETE OUR VOLUNTEER FORM and we will follow-up with you shortly. This will greatly help us coordinate the more than 100 volunteers we expect to sign up.

SPREAD THE WORD

Last, but not least, please tell all your friends, family, and colleagues in Ottawa about Ecology Ottawa’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale. We greatly appreciate you helping to get the word out.

  • Share our event with your friends on Facebook
  • Tweet about the event on Twitter

Thank you all for your incredible support and for helping to make this event the best and greenest ever! We hope to see you on Saturday, May 25 at 680 Bank Street (in the Kunstadt parking lot).

PARTNERS, SPONSORS, AND SUPPORTERS

On behalf of Ecology Ottawa and the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale, we would like to thank our generous past and present partners, sponsors, and supporters. We would also like to thank the Glebe Community Association for organizing the community-wide Great Glebe Garage Sale. And the biggest thanks of all goes to the generous donors and tireless volunteers who are the lifeblood of this event. Without all this support, the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale would not be possible. THANK YOU ALL!

Major partners

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Join us for audits of Baseline and Blair LRT stations

In Ottawa, 40% of city-wide greenhouse gas emissions stem from transportation. This means addressing climate change must involve making our commuting patterns less greenhouse gas-intensive. When light rail transit (LRT) comes online, it will put 70% of Ottawans within five kilometres of a major transit hub. This provides an opportunity to scale up sustainable transportation through integration of active transportation (cycling and pedestrian) connections to LRT.

Our LRT project aims to identify opportunities to improve active transportation access points to light rail transit (LRT) stations. This project will result in widespread public engagement, as well as a research report focused on two stations (Baseline and Blair). This report will contain recommendations on opportunities to design and build active transportation infrastructure in order to make sustainable transportation safer and more accessible for all users.

Ecology Ottawa will be conducting four active transportation audits (one by foot, one by bike) for both stations. With a group of volunteers, we will walk and bike predetermined routes near the stations and take notes on what we encounter along the way. Our hope is to learn more about the challenges and opportunities for travel to and from Baseline and Blair stations.

Join us for our active transportation audits by RSVP to the links below
Baseline station walk audit  – June 1, 10am – 12pm  https://www.ecologyottawa.org/baseline_station_walk_audit 
Baseline station bike audit  – June 1, 1pm – 3pm https://www.ecologyottawa.org/baseline_station_cycling_audit
Blair station walk audit – July 6, 10am – 12pm https://www.ecologyottawa.org/blair_station_walk_audit 
Blair station bike audit  – July 6, 1pm – 3pm https://www.ecologyottawa.org/blair_station_cycling_audit