NCC closes popular cycling link after promising to keep it open

Readers may recall the brief brou-ha-ha in late June and early July, when the gate at the north end of Preston street was unexpectedly closed and locked. You can read about it here: (when you get to the link, scroll up a bit to read the post, and down a bit to see the commentary). See also To recap, there is a paved bit of ‘closed’ road running north from Preston and Albert to a legal crossing of the transitway and then connections to the Ottawa River pathway network. It is popular with people walking to work, cycling, walking … Continue reading NCC closes popular cycling link after promising to keep it open

Safe parking

I do my best to pump up the Laurier bike lane numbers by cycling on it as often as I can. A quick trip to the Rideau Centre ended in a bit of confusion, as the sidewalk outside the mall on the McKenzie King Bridge is all torn up. I found a bike rack had been shoved down the sidewalk a dozen yards. While parking my trusty steed, I felt a bit alarmed, since it appears the bike rack is right outside — and blocking — emergency exit doors from the mall. Continue reading Safe parking

Tunnel goes underground

Faithful readers will have seen earlier posts showing the excavation under the Somerset Viaduct, the placing of the new multi-user path underpass precast sections, and most recently, their waterproofing. Here’s what’s been happening lately: This version of the Canadarm pumps cement right to where the workers want it, when cement mixers cannot get close enough. The arm reached right over the hole, and down the outside of the viaduct walls, to pump cement into reinforcing walls on the exterior of the viaduct: Meanwhile, on the inside of the viaduct, workers installed the last of the tunnel waterproofing and drainage pipes, and … Continue reading Tunnel goes underground

To Clem, in Saudi Arabia

Note to reader: After a recent meeting with City staff and consultants, I found this piece of paper on the floor. I wasn’t being nosy, I was being tidy. But I couldn’t help noticing the text. It appears to be most of a letter being drafted to email to someone named “Clem” working in Saudi Arabia. To protect the not so innocent, I’ll report that the author’s name is conveniently missing. –  Ed. “Clem: How is work going on your contract in Saudi Arabia? How I do envy you. To work in an autocratic kingdom must we marvellous. The grand … Continue reading To Clem, in Saudi Arabia

A rooting chance

  In urban environments trees have  a hard time surviving. Much of this is due to the abuse we inflict on them. Even when a tree well is provided, and a grate on top is installed to permit air flow and water flow while preventing the soil from being compacted. Most new tree grates in Ottawa look like the above picture. It does work, but in a limited way. The City long ago came up with a standard that the minimum opening for a tree to survive in was approx. 4’x4′. Naturally, this minimum opening became the maximum opening. Look at this picture of … Continue reading A rooting chance

Rewarding transit customers

Shopping centres and strip malls incur enormous costs in providing “free parking”. The costs of these spaces are buried in the price of merchandise, paid for equally by walk-ins, cyclists, and transit users as well as those who park there. As cities get larger, “free” parking lots attract “freeloaders” who want to park there but not necessarily shop. St Laurent Shopping Centre, for example, has to rope off parts of the mall lots early in the morning and take other measures to prevent their parking lot from becoming a “park and ride”. The shopping mall below, in Cambridge MA (beside Boston) has … Continue reading Rewarding transit customers

Real Estate Porn: the Elm edition

Ah, real estate porn. Featuring objects you cannot afford, splendors you can only dream about. And the opportunity to second guess and dump on the people that did spend the money to do what you wouldn’t have done! There have been many previous posts about the innovative infill houses on the west end of Elm Street. On a single 56×100 lot the developer, Sage, has inserted four houses, replacing one that wasn’t much larger than a couple of shipping containers. From the street, it appears to be two single homes; and from the backyards it appears to be two homes. The four homes have different … Continue reading Real Estate Porn: the Elm edition

Bike repair station

I noticed recently that Ottawa City Hall will be providing some sort of bike repair station at their nifty new bike parking facility. The one shown above is at my son’s university. They were to be found in numerous places around campus. The bike can be lifted up by its seat and inserted into the bent metal pipes to hold the bike up off the pavement so the crank or wheel can be spun. The tools are all attached by a sturdy cable, and are supposed to be placed in the tray behind the red sign but obviously people prefer to let them all … Continue reading Bike repair station

Safe Bike Crossing

A number of Ottawa people get worked up over obsolete text in the traffic act. Those “bike paths” and multi-user paths frequently cross traffic roads, access roads to parking lots, and other road-like surfaces. Sometimes a painted crosswalk is located right there, very handy. And sometimes there’s nothing. We are not at all consistent: Above: Ottawa River bike path, scene 1 Above: Ottawa River bike path, scene 2   Where there is a crosswalk, and the path delivers us right to it, of course we ride across it. Unless you are a real stickler for rules, in which case you dismount, walk your … Continue reading Safe Bike Crossing

Update on Somerset bike underpass

Recall that a bike underpass is being constructed where Somerset crosses the O-Train tracks. Once the tunnel sections were installed, bolted together, then the roof had to be waterproofed: A red coating was painted onto the concrete using rollers. Then workers attached Blueskin to cover each joint between the precast tunnel sections. Quite a rough chopped out hole was made through the 12′ thick Somerset viaduct walls for the tunnel pieces to fit. That space was reinforced, rebars tidied up, and pumped full of cement, now making a handy tool shelf for the workers: At the south end of the tunnel, a worker is starting … Continue reading Update on Somerset bike underpass

See, Hear, but share no evil

In addition to writing this blog to keep my neighbours informed about happenings on the west side of the downtown, the blog also serves to get our local issues out into the wider world. I attend a number of Public Advisory Committees (PACs) for various transportation and planning studies. I share what I learn with my Dalhousie community association, the centretown community association, and anyone else keen enough on local issues to read. That does include some other media and politicians. Everyone at City-run studies knows that I share the info. I make this clear when I start attending new study, … Continue reading See, Hear, but share no evil

Faulty Prescription for Infill Problems

(Above: good looking infills that may not be possible under the proposed new rules) The City is concluding its study of infill housing projects in the downtown wards. They examined every infill built over the last few years, photographed them, and analysed what went wrong. The most obvious problems related to new buildings being too massive compared to their neighbours, too hard paved in the fronts (often leaving no soft landscaping at all) and too many  garage doors that blight the street. So, they came up with some solutions. Alas, I left the public reveal of these solutions feeling rather let down and discouraged. … Continue reading Faulty Prescription for Infill Problems

What should go at street level? (part iii – more good)

Continuing on the theme of what should go on the ground floor of new condo buildings in the downtown neighborhoods, it is easy to criticize the faults of what was built. But what about some examples of good stuff? It’s pretty easy on main streets: put in commercial space. The building is going to be there for a 100 years or more, the downtown neighborhoods are most likely to get busier, and such space will be in demand for much of the next century. Domicile’s Piccadilly building on West Wellington is pretty typical. It is currently two storefronts, but is doored and set … Continue reading What should go at street level? (part iii – more good)

What should go at street level? (part ii – the bad)

I wrote this post last week for, you should have read it there! It got a number of responses so for this version of it I have corrected and clarified some things. There are also more pictures, because that is the WSA style! Thank you for reading. __________________________________________ What should go at street level? Large property development firms are seldom compared to little domesticated birds. But in some ways they are canaries in the coal mines of the urban streetscape. And the song these messengers sing is not a cheerful tune for downtown pedestrians. Consider this not-so-old  downtown condo: … Continue reading What should go at street level? (part ii – the bad)

What should go at street level? (part i- the good)

I complain a lot in these blog postings. The City did this wrong. The stupid developer did that wrong. Yadda yadda. I even get tired of myself complaining. But some things do work out alright. In the case of the 333 Preston development (Sako is the developer, major tenants include Adobe, Xerox, RBC, Heart and Crown) we have an example of a better quality development. The ground floor is chock full of narrow storefronts, each with a different colour signage and awning. The patio spaces are friendly and often well patronized. There are trees along the sidewalk, and ped-scaled lighting. A row … Continue reading What should go at street level? (part i- the good)

Bus Depots are Dead, thankfully

City committees will shortly be discussing a redevelopment proposal for the site of the Voyageur Bus Terminal/Gare d’Ottawa. Alas, the development will proceed only if Voyageur moves out of the terminal. Bizarrely, some councillors and community activists want the bus station to stay on Catherine Street. They express concern for the price conscious users of the cheapest mode of intercity transport. I think their concern is misguided thinking that is twenty years out of date. In the old bus model, Voyageur had to have a terminal building for passengers to arrive early and line up for the bus. Passengers who wanted a good … Continue reading Bus Depots are Dead, thankfully


This is a followup to yesterday’s post, called Trampled. That public sidewalk shrubs got trampled and mangled in renovations is sad, but then the renovation is a potential good. Less excusable is the downright murder and removal of mature trees. Have a look at this google photo: That mature tree growing by the sidewalk is a maple. It provided a pleasant bit of shade on the exposed sidewalks of the Somerset Street viaduct (overpass over the O-Train track). That it was alive and green last year is shown in this photo: (the tree in question is just above the cyclist’s head and … Continue reading Murdered


At the beginning of August, I featured this pic of a porch renovation on Preston: Now the front garden on the left had the same lush landscaping as the garden on the right. But at first, only the left porch was being redone (you can guess where this is going…). I should point out, for those unaware, that the streetscaping along Preston broke new ground in City-paid-for landscaping and urban architecture. Instead of just “restoring” the usually shitty front pavement in front of houses that had been blighted by decades of a too-wide road, and decades of too many absentee landlords, … Continue reading Trampled

Making a pigskin purse from a sow’s ear

The Skyline  Crown Plaza  Delta Ottawa Centre hotel is finally correcting that awful Campeau-induced blight on the downtown. The Place de Ville complex is fully a product of 60’s thinking: big buildings, on barren plazas, with few or no windows on the ground floors, and utter domination of the streetscape for automobiles. Now maybe Robert Campeau rode up to his buildings in limo, sailing majestically on those ramps leading to hidden-from-the-street front doors. But for the rest of us, those buildings denied the public street and tried to suck pedestrians down into an underground shopping mall. For the last forty years, there have … Continue reading Making a pigskin purse from a sow’s ear

Ottawa Utility installs new furniture

I know too many city-types who straight-facedly refer to anything placed on a sidewalk as “street furniture”. This includes benches, but also lamp posts, sign posts, and wooden utility posts. Ottawa’s local power utility has recently redecorated a bit of the urban house by installing a new bit of street furniture. It is obviously new, sturdy stuff, able to take all the wear and tear pedestrians can give it. Should last for decades. Unfortunately. Honestly Mildred, don’t you think it would look a little bit better moved off to the left, so that no one can miss it? Continue reading Ottawa Utility installs new furniture

A Boring Job

After a year of drilling bore holes along Albert Street in the downtown the City must have a damn good picture of the underlying geology and hydrology. However, His Honor moved the tunnel over to Queen Street, because it’s cheaper, and a whole buncha new holes have to be drilled. It’s a boring job but someone’s got to do it. Below: the drill crew at the west end of Queen Street, on top of the escarpment. The tunnel will be right beside the Juliana Apt Building, and the tunnel will enter at the base of the cliff in a dramatic bit of … Continue reading A Boring Job

Why didn’t they have that when I was little?

Justin Bieber and I are good buddies. Really. I see him several times a week when I walk past a Shopper’s Drug Mart store. He stands in the window, and smiles at me. He must like me. He is a little … flat. A bit two-dimensional. Anyhow, I was travelling recently, and there in the hotel parking lot, right at my (rented!) car door, was this discarded wrapper: It is the card board backing of an electric toothbrush. One that sings a choice of Bieber tunes. For two minutes each, whilst the tyke brushes his or her teeth. Only $14.95 … Continue reading Why didn’t they have that when I was little?

Somerset tunnel: inside view

The new pedestrian-cyclist tunnel under Somerset Street is now complete except for waterproofing and filling in the hole above it. Here are some shots taken from the top edge (Somerset street level) into the hole: The above picture is looking north; the one below is a steeper angle showing the south portion: In pictures on previous posts this week, I showed the holes the run through each tunnel segment. A threaded rod was inserted through the holes, from one end of the tunnel to the other, and then the city tightened a nut at each end, tensioning the pieces together. Here is … Continue reading Somerset tunnel: inside view