Thursday, June 25, 2009

RG's break, Day 1: Don't Tase me, bro!

On my first day off, I went for a bike ride, took some photos...

...and wrote a letter to the NCC:

I spoke with Sarah around 16h00 about the traffic re-routing situation on Colonel By Drive just West of Bank Street, where a vehicle had plunged into the Rideau Canal this morning.

My complaints were/are that the entire grassy area between the Driveway and the canal was closed off with police tape, and pedestrians and cyclists were told by an RCMP officer halfway through the cordoned off zone to walk/bike on the roadway.

As you can see in the attached photo taken at 14:23:

  • the South side of Colonel By Drive has an embankment that prevents people from walking on that side

  • While pedestrian traffic is barricaded, motor traffic is able to travel completely freely and, aside from the flashing lights on the police/conservation vehicles parked on the grass, there is nothing (i.e. signage, officers directing traffic) suggesting they need to slow down.

  • Colonel By Drive is curved at this part, lowering visibility for westbound motorists who may not expect to share the road with pedestrians or cyclists (and for eastbound motorists to give more room for westbound motorists passing cyclists/pedestrians)

  • There is a long stretch between the near ribbon of police tape and the far one, with nothing to indicate to pedestrians and cyclists where they are expected to go

  • The police officer is stationed halfway between these two ribbons and was angrily accosting every pedestrian and cyclist who walked on the grassy side of the curb, as if it were obvious not to walk on the grass

  • Because the police officer is only confronting pedestrians/cyclists once they reach him, one sees others in ahead walking toward him on the grass, and one assumes that it is therefore permissible to be there.
It would be quite a tragedy if a pedestrian or cyclist were to be injured in a collision as a result of this officer telling them to walk on the unimpeded roadway.

As mentioned on the phone, I think the first priority should be to prevent risk of injury to bystanders, and that would mean putting up pylons, barricades, or police tape providing a safe channel for pedestrians and cyclists to walk on the roadway during the course of the investigation.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I hope this suggestion is incorporated into officers' standard procedures for such pathway closures.

The mountie was particularly aggressive to me, because I wasn't just passing through, I had stopped and was taking photos. "What are you doing?" he snapped at me as I was walking back toward Bank Street. "I'm taking photos," I replied casually. I figured that if those two people with much nicer cameras than mine could be much further into the grass (right behind the metal barricade in the photo below), I could stand by the curb and take a few shots of my own.

"Well take your photo and get out of here," he shouted.

"Je l'ai déjà prix!" I changed back to him, still walking away.

After a few more steps, I stopped, looked back to offer him a glare (he was busy grumbling at another cyclist), turned back away, took this photo of his car, and decided to continue my departure at a much more casual rate.

It was much later when I thought of "Don't tase me, bro!" as an alternate retort.

I understand that nobody was injured in the crash, but an investigation is ongoing and divers are still at work to ensure that the vehicle isn't leaking any fluids.

- RG>

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

RG Takes a Break

Last week, I had meetings just about every night after work, and both Saturday and Sunday I had events early in the morning (including Saturday's LRT technology forum - see Eric Darwin's review of that on West Side Action).

This is not an unusual situation for me, but I'd had enough such weeks recently that they've started to take their toll on me.

I decided that I needed a break, especially with preparations for Bluesfest ramping up. So I decided not to go to any meetings this week and take some time for myself. It also helps that I have time off work this Thursday, Friday and Monday.

And what better weather to have during this break, eh? (Except for the lack of air conditioning at home, which I'll gladly suffer).

We'll see how it goes, though. The last time I took a day off for myself, I ended up getting less done than if I had gone in to work and taken the afternoon off to run errands...

- RG>

Friday, June 19, 2009

On-street rail: a century-old non-problem

In reading the background papers for the LRT Technology Forum tomorrow morning, much ado is made about segregated corridors. That is to say, if you don't put rail in a tunnel or up in the air, you need to put up fences to keep pedestrians from crossing the line, or else chaos will result.

So it's interesting that I came upon a video of Vancouver Streetcar traffic in 1907, which clearly shows pedestrians, cyclists and horse-drawn carriages crossing the streetcar tracks with no difficulty or conflict. (Nor, I might add, signals to tell them when and where to cross)

If they put light rail along the Western Parkway (emphasis on "if"), would tracks with a train passing promptly every 30 or 60 seconds really be as dangerous to cross as, say, the four lanes of constant car and bus traffic already there?

Why don't we have fences along, say, Carling?

Yet another bias in our car-based culture. Cars and buses are safe because they're normal, trains are dangerous because we're not used to them.

- RG>

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thursday Noon: Walk like my life depends on it!

Tomorrow, the City is holding a "pedestrian safety campaign" called "Walk like your life depends on it" at 12:30pm at Lisgar and Elgin.

In other words, all you poor pedestrians should be careful out there with those big bad cars out there. You'd best be staying out of their way.

As this is part of the Integrated Road Safety Program, "promote pedestrian safety practises" likely means they'll be giving out tickets to pedestrians for jay-walking over the next month.


Not on my turf.

I jay-walk, and proudly so. Even though, I live in a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood, the pedestrian network is set up in an awkward, ugly grid. I walk up and down Elgin Street every day, and no matter what pace I walk at, I always arrive at the next light when I'm not "supposed to" cross.

So I cross anyway.

If there is no traffic coming, I'm not going to stand and wait just because a little white man isn't telling me to. [Ever notice that it's a white man that says "go" but a coloured hand that says "stop"?]

I also cross mid-block. On Elgin street this is ideal because the lights at both ends of the block are usually red at the same time, so any cars within the block are stationary.

And surprise, surprise, when I once took a taxi, it didn't have to stop for a single light the entire way up Elgin. Talk about transportation planning priorities.

So a few of us pedestrian advocates are going to "crash" tomorrow's party.

You want to make roads safer for pedestrians?
  • Make crossing times long enough for seniors to cross

  • Set walk signals to go on every light cycle, not just on request

  • Get the light to change immediately at pedestrian crosswalks, not when the light feels like changing

  • Let people cross when there's no traffic

  • Build crosswalks where we need them, like at King Edward and Cathcart

Elsewhere, if a motorist hits a pedestrian or cyclist, they're automatically at fault because they were in charge of the big, fast-moving vehicle. Here in Ottawa, if the pedestrian is too dead to testify against the motorist, the driver usually gets off scot-free. When there are charges, it's usually a minor traffic violation.

Heck, we're ticketing pedestrians for walking in the path of inattentive drivers! What are the police doing about inattentive drivers?

The law was recently changed in Ontario to ban people from using cell phones and other similar devices while driving. Why aren't the Police enforcing this law? Attentive drivers would make the streets safer for pedestrians.

There are plenty of other dangerous--and illegal--ways motorists endanger pedestrians, which are only enforced when someone gets hurt. That is much too late.

You want to encourage people to walk and bike? You want to help me walk safely in my neighbourhood? Drive like MY life depends on it.

Remember, the outside of your car doesn't have airbags.

- RG>

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

McDonald's Fiveniversary

Five years ago, June 16, 2004, back when I had many fewer things to blog and a lot more time in which to blog, I went out with some friends to see Super Size Me with a handful of friends at the Bytowne. After the show, we visited the McDonald's on Rideau. It was the last time I've stepped into a McDonald's restaurant.

Of course, now that I have a job and less time to prepare actual meals, it just means I eat at other fast food joints instead with even greater frequency. Which kinda defeats the point.

I still get cravings for McDonald's food, which is why I cringe whenever I see a parent bring their kid into a fast food place. No, those of us in here are already lost! Save your children and keep them away!

To commemorate the fiveniversary, I bought a copy of Super Size Me from the Elgin Street Video table at the Minto Park Sale this weekend. I don't think I'll watch it.

- RG>

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A partial retraction

On a previous post, "SCANning the flames of open-mindedness", I talked about how I responded by e-mail to the following extract from a draft set of community association minutes:

From the minutes: "[Person] reported on the anti-SCAN meeting at the library where an NDP MPP from Toronto made disparaging remarks about SCAN and neighbourhood watch groups."
With the following comment:

From RG: "I'm quite concerned at this summary of the SCAN meeting. Whatever 'disparaging remarks' might have been made by an MPP from Toronto (boo hoo), there were legitimate concerns raised by the organizers of the meeting about the negative consequences of SCAN legislation which do not seem to have been raised in this report. ...
It was brought to my attention tonight that my "boo hoo" comment was overly broad.

It seems that I overlooked the fact that "disparaging remarks about SCAN and neighbourhood watch groups" can be parsed to "disparaging remarks about SCAN" and "disparaging remarks about neighbourhood watch groups".

Due to my focus on SCAN (and my concern that the minutes extract did not seem to discuss SCAN at all), I saw the whole sentence as being the first interpretation ("...about SCAN"), and concluded that disparaging remarks about legislation is irrelevant, since legislation doesn't have feelings.

It turns out that the remarks referenced in the minutes which where of concern to [Person] were comments by Toronto-area NDP MPP Cheri Di Novo equating the pro-SCAN people (i.e. those encapsulated by the minutes' phrase "neighbourhood watch groups") to Stasi, and [Person] felt it to be very inappropriate, especially coming from an MPP like Ms. Di Novo.

[Person] felt that this type of "Stasi" reference is a bullying type of comment that keeps people from being involved in discussions, and while I'm the type of person who generally ignores insults directed at me when not relevant to the discussion, I agree with her clarified comment: name-calling, especially by an MPP, is not productive to a conversation. (I'm still not sure if it's relevant to an Ottawa community association, but it's an insult nonetheless)

Furthermore, I'm glad I qualified my comments in the same blog entry when I wrote:

The complaints made by [person] are very similar to the common accusation of not being "open-minded". I fully admit that this person did NOT say anything to that effect.


While, again, [person] didn't accuse me of being close-minded, she seems to use the very same arguments and techniques explained in the video:


In fact, after watching that video, I can confidently claim that [person] is being close-minded, and I'd love to see her prove otherwise.
And [person] did indeed prove otherwise.

I'm glad that she approached me so that I could better understand her position.

(Now if only someone can do the same thing about SCAN!)

Also, it turns out the community association did vote to support SCAN, however this was two years ago, so it therefore could only have been in principle, and not the specific legislation presented by Yasir Naqvi. I could (and plan to) reopen the question of the association's support of SCAN based on its negative side-effects. The association amended the minutes to clarify "that the discussion about the anti-SCAN meeting was not presented as a detailed or official report of that event."

- RG>