One way street cycling

There are conflicting views about one way streets and cyclists. Some cyclists feel one way streets are designated that way for the convenience of motorists, and being human-powered “active transportation” mode, the rules simply don’t apply to them and cyclists should be allowed to go the “wrong way” down the one way street. Another version of entitlement. Others feel cyclists are sort-of motor vehicles, and for that reason or because of safety concerns, should obey the one way designations. Anyone who drives will have noticed the signs, usually on freeway or limited access roads, that scream out “wrong way – recuillez”, that … Continue reading One way street cycling

Integrated intuitive wayfinding system for pedestrians

These few pictures are from a tourist-oriented city. No, not Ottawa. This is a cross walk, of course. You recognized it right a way. Red, for visibility. With a decorative wiggling line through the middle that invites walkers. Very unrigid. And this is a similar shot, except now we can see both this intersection and the adjacent cross walk. The line leads the pedestrian on to the park and to harbour front area. Note the lack of signs on posts explaining to pedestrians that this is the way to walk. And the line continues through the park, leading us to … Continue reading Integrated intuitive wayfinding system for pedestrians

Just how fast do they go?

Residents frequently complain about speeding traffic.  Signs are only marginally effective, if the engineers design the roads to invite higher speeds. And make no doubt road design is not some innocent bystander in this. For years we have been making our roads wider, flatter, smoother, better lit, and pretending innocence when traffic goes faster. It is faster by design. The first step in fixing the problem is to measure the problem. You can’t fix what you didn’t measure. Some Councillors are buying Speed Boards for their Wards. These boards tell motorists what speed they are doing. There is  evidence that motorists slow down when … Continue reading Just how fast do they go?

Signs of the times

Councillor Hobbs hadn’t much support for her proposal to lower the residential speed limit to 40 kmh. In fact, her only supporter was Councillor Holmes. Where were these other councillors who moan about excessive speedy traffic? At the Mayor’s summit, my seatmate was Councillor Deans who gave a great spiel about the futility of wider roads, too-fast-traffic, etc. But not apparently for a 40 kmh limit. Councillor Cherneschenko? The Civic Hospital neighborhood is organizing to get streets in their neighborhood signed for 40 kmh. Personally, I think they should shoot for 30 kmh. Then add some features to the road that make … Continue reading Signs of the times

Turtle racing on Petrie Island

I don’t recall ever being to Petrie Island before. So it was a bit of an adventure. To get there, it’s a dirt road marked with warning signs of “turtle crossing”. Alas, the speed limit (merely a suggestion, if one goes by the speed of other vehicles ) is 50 kmh so one would never see the turtle let alone the kids that might be walking to the beach on this sidewalk-free bit of exurbia. Part of the beach is named for the Orlean’s family that sailed around the world on Northern Magic, Herbert and Diane Stuemer (and their 3 kids). At … Continue reading Turtle racing on Petrie Island

If you go down in the woods today …

Well, to be more accurate, if you went down in the woods last week — you may have come across some of Ontario’s bloomin’ flower. Here’s a few I found in Orleans: And in the same neck of the woods: And some close ups of a white one: And a red one:   There were a few minor potholes in the patch, indicating that someone(s) has been removing them. The footpath through the centre of the bed also had a lot of tire tracks on it. The thought of mountain bikers careening through this jungle made me cringe. Amongst the foliage, … Continue reading If you go down in the woods today …

What are the alternatives to “too tall” ?

Goldilocks knew she had 3 choices …  At the mayor’s summit meeting held this spring, Watson and Hume were blunt in telling attendees we were in for tall buildings. Lots of tall buildings.  Lots of very tall buildings. It was their tough love moment. But they glossed over explaining why.     Then the Citizen published *  an opinion piece by Sarah Jennings, developer, who argued that we could intensify to the standards of glorious Paris with a eight story height limit on main streets. I thought her argument was as glib as the Mayor’s pretending to tell us it … Continue reading What are the alternatives to “too tall” ?

90 Minutes to a Better City

Every neighborhood has one. A few have several. The rare really lucky neighborhood may have many. I’m talking about guerilla gardeners. People who go out and plant — usually with their own plants — bare spots in the City. It’s a tough love situation, since in many cases the plants won’t be getting ongoing care or watering, there being a general shortage of taps on city boulevards. In Dalhousie, Ida has been responsible for two great gardens on Somerset and the Plant Rec Complex garden at Preston/Somerset. Stephanie and others did the Chaudiere Park gardens. Other gardeners have done their bits, … Continue reading 90 Minutes to a Better City

Putting the pieces back together in the right order

Sometimes streetscaping projects by the City use lots of bricks or other paving blocks to enhance the sidewalk experience. Other times they use good ole’ concrete. I have mixed feelings about both. The biggest advantage of concrete is that it begs to be trowelled off level. No matter how crude the installation, or unskilled or careless the crew, the finished walk is usually usable. In other words, it’s a forgiving substance. Pavers look nice, but because each one is small they are subject to being laid with an uneven surface. Pavers have the advantage of being removable and relayable after disruption. When pavers … Continue reading Putting the pieces back together in the right order


To the casual observer, the placement of the very large ped lighting fixtures along Preston may be annoying. They hop from inner to outer boulevard, from left side to right side of the sidewalk. Sometimes on decorative metal posts, sometimes bolted to wooden utility “telephone” poles. More careful observation shows that that they are grouped in rows, designed to line up, creating a pedestrian corridor. That pattern is reinforced by the trees along the street. A back curb serves to protect the plantings from feet, plows and other intrusions. The columnar fruit trees along Preston were in full bloom last week:   I … Continue reading Promenade

Getting out a bit more

From time to time I think my life has gotten a bit staid. Like, in a rut. So I took an invite to head off to the NAC on Wednesday for a wine tasting of Prince Edward County wines. Now you should know that my wine drinking preferences run to warehouse do-it-yourself wineries where great Merlot comes through at $4/bottle. And I recall being to Prince Edward County once, to stay overnight at an overpriced lakeside “cottage” that did not leave me impressed. So PEC wasn’t high on my “must do” bucket list. But I was open to change my … Continue reading Getting out a bit more

Not your mother’s tulip beds

The NCC tulip beds at Commissioner’s Park at Dow’s Lake are gorgeous this year. And they sure don’t look like the large beds of single colour tulips of your mother’s day. Monochromatic mass displays are so yesterday. Drastic colour combinations are IN. Sometimes the new combinations include perennial beds. And new beds out in the flat lawn areas. The lawn beds can be operated for several years then grassed over and the tulips planted elsewhere. When Ontario banned cosmetic pesticides, it put the kibosh on large monoculture floral displays. Diseases and blights will remain in the soil, or spread unchecked by chemicals. So … Continue reading Not your mother’s tulip beds

When capitalists conspire …

Last April, the Dalhousie Community Association, of which I was President at the time, held its AGM. Hard pressed to come up with speaker to trump the previous year’s John Doran of Domicile speaking on the economics of condo developments, I searched around for an interesting and educational speaker. Enter Ottawa Senators founder, engineer, professor of architecture, etc etc  Dr Bruce Firestone . He agreed to give a talk on urban redevelopment in older neighborhoods, good or bad. He sure doesn’t pull punches.  In fact, he referred to a certain yellow brick condo development as being akin to a brown substance … Continue reading When capitalists conspire …

Miracle on Preston Street

A dozen years or so ago, some nuns in a convent on Primrose Street brought in a fallen apple tree branch. They stuck it in a bucket in their chapel, and proceeded to decorate it with some Christmas ornaments as there was no room for an evergreen in their little chapel room. The bare branches looked suitably artistic. Satisfied with their work, they said their prayers, and headed off to bed. On Christmas morning, they awoke to find all the branches of the tree in full apple blossom. A miracle? Passing by Pubwells on Preston, a chapel to a different sort of prayer … Continue reading Miracle on Preston Street

The O-Train bike path

For some time the City has been working on a multi-user path — MUP — (aka “bike path”) from the Ottawa River beside the Prince of Wales Bridge, south to the Bayview Station O-train platform, then south behind City Centre to the new underpass under Somerset Street, then slightly uphill to an at-grade crossing of Gladstone, thence behind the City signals yard, St Anthony Soccer Club parking lot, under the Qway, and joining the existing NCC path along the east side of the OTrain cut right to Carling Station. The reconstruction plan for Carling includes a signalized crossing of Carling for the MUP. At a … Continue reading The O-Train bike path

Western LRT raises it head

The western extension of the LRT used to have a high-profile, but has been out of sight for a long time. No public advisory group meetings for ages. Some of the low profile is understandable. They were clearly doing some very detailed planning and costing exercises, so that a fully informed decision can eventually be made. Decisions made in haste, or under the barrage of emotional or superficial criticism, are seldom good decisions. Today’s Sun has a story that the Carling option is dead, due to cost. Recall that there are three main route options: Carling, Richmond, or the Parkway. … Continue reading Western LRT raises it head

The neighborhood around 505 Preston (tall towers-ville)

The previous post covered the proposed 45 or so storey condo proposed by Claridge. I’ll post more info on the building as it becomes available. But what about the neighborhood it is proposed to go in? Here is an aerial shot, the dotted circles show the easy walking distance to LRT – OTrain stations; the arrow points to the Carling Station: The area has a secondary plan approved by Council some time ago, and here is what is allowed: Note the intersection of Preston and Carling, identified by the white label Main Street Corridor. The traditional main street designation is … Continue reading The neighborhood around 505 Preston (tall towers-ville)

Claridge, 505 Preston @ Carling

Claridge today unveiled proposals for a very tall condo at the corner of Preston and Carling, facing Commissioner’s Park and Dow’s Lake. This would be the tallest building in Ottawa, taller than Place de Ville Tower C (Transport Canada), and taller than the Metropole condo in Westboro. The 45 storey building is designed by David Pontarini, a prominent high-rise designer based in Toronto. Here is a view from Dow’s Lake:   The podium levels would possibly contain office uses, which is good mixed-use for a building. There are no details yet as to the amount and location of parking. Just a bit visible to … Continue reading Claridge, 505 Preston @ Carling

Measuring the Pedestrian Level of Service

The level of service concept for vehicular traffic has been around for decades. Segments of road, or intersections, are rated by the how well the motorist is served. A number of US states and cities apparently mandate intersection widening when a level of service F is hit. I know very little about LOS, but apparently if you don’t get through the intersection on the first light after joining the queue, then that is level F. It can scarely escape our notice that rating F is frought with connotations of unacceptability, of could do better. Pedestrian sidewalks, however, are made to a standard … Continue reading Measuring the Pedestrian Level of Service