Just look down: Adventures in the Chinese Zodiac

Pedestrians on the newly redone bit of Somerset in Chinatown between Booth and Preston are in for a real treat. The sidewalk is paved in blocky precast concrete squares with a textured surface finish. For some time, walkers may have noticed some squares marked out like this: These red dots marked where a few blocks were to be removed and replaced by a same size granite square inscribed with a shallow bas relief of a stylized Asian zodiac animal. These make the street great fun to walk with kids, and amusing for adults too. The zodiac is repeated four times: twice on the … Continue reading Just look down: Adventures in the Chinese Zodiac

Paying Attention to Benjamin / Franklin

Innocently cycling along the Macdonald Parkway pathway, I came across this: Upon closer inspection, s/he proved to be alive, kicking, and ready to move. As s/he was headed towards the Macdonald Commuter Expressway, I took it instead down the slope to the shoreline and left it a few feet from the water. For those gentle readers suffering from pathetic fallacy * , do not read on. “Rescuing” Benjamin (or Franklin, depending in which language you read kids books) made up a bit for something that has bothered me for months. Driving on the freeway out of Boston, we saw a giant turtle on … Continue reading Paying Attention to Benjamin / Franklin

Construction on new west-side bike path begins

Survey crews were out in force on Monday marking the route of the new north-south multi-user path (MUP in planner jargon; bike path to the rest of us mortals). The path parallels the OTrain corridor on its east side. It starts at the Macdonald Parkway (aka Ottawa River Commuter Expressway) by the historic Prince of Wales railway bridge and runs south through Bayview Station, through the new tunnel under the Somerset Street viaduct, and further south to cross Gladstone. The section from Gladstone to Young runs behind the St Anthony Soccer Club parking lot and under the Queensway, where construction work … Continue reading Construction on new west-side bike path begins

A new-look turfstone

Back in the 80’s a hot landscaping approach was turfstone. Originated in Germany, it used perforated concrete paver blocks, rather like egg cartons, to provide both a driveable surface and one that would be green with grass growing up through it. The experiment had mixed results. The City insisted that since these were drivable surfaces, they had to go on gravel road bed and the spaces in the grid filled with gravel. Grass was then supposed to grow on this road base. The concrete pavers exposed a lot of top surface to the sun and air, which wicked the moisture … Continue reading A new-look turfstone

Lazy Parker

etc The utter selfishness and laziness of people continues to astound me. We have previously seen pic on this blog of people who park on the sidewalk in front of their destination instead of parking a few feet further on in a vacant legal parking space. In the case shown above, there are several vacant parking spaces in front of the subject vehicle. Nonetheless, (s)he parked with tail end sticking out onto the street. And then turned on the car flashers to alert everyone that the vehicle was where it shouldn’t have been. Fortunately, a traffic officer went by in the … Continue reading Lazy Parker

Digging up the Laurier SBL

Cyclists on the Laurier separated bike lane (SBL) should have noticed some discrete trenching going on in the lane. Apparently using a saw blade, a narrow trench is being cut along the curb that separates the lane from other traffic: The work is being done at night, so trench itself constitutes the evidence. Every so often, there is another cut at right angles, going towards an adjacent building. To keep debris out of the trench until the cables can be installed, a plastic cap is put on: The  fibre optics cable that is being installed by Globility (Primus) and they have pretty much  finished their work on Laurier … Continue reading Digging up the Laurier SBL

Distilling Our Lady of the Condos – part ii

Last winter, Domtar knocked down an elderly mill building on the Islands in the Ottawa River. Great consternation arose, as they did it Without Consulting the Bureaucrats. Priceless heritage lost! Like a dog with a bone, the media and planning pundits worried about the lost potential for a vibrant outdoorsy urban waterfront à la Granville Island or The Distillery in Toronto. Few people seemed to notice that Victoria Island is one of the windiest, coldest, bleakest spots in Ottawa, a far remove from sunny* Granville Island or the spirits factory in Toronto. Numerous calls were made for the Distillery Folks to come to … Continue reading Distilling Our Lady of the Condos – part ii

When condos replace offices …

Vancouver has been “enjoying” a condo tower boom for some years. Early on in the boom, the demand for condos was so hot that existing office buildings were converted to condos. For example, the iconic BC Hydro building (the highrise with no ground floor) was converted. Critics began to speculate that residences would drive commercial uses right off the prime peninsula space, an interesting reversal of the usual community activist nightmare of expanding commercial uses driving out the residential uses around the core. Apartment towers differ from townhouse developments in Barrhaven and Riverside South in that the towers stick up in … Continue reading When condos replace offices …

False choices at Our Lady of the Condos — part i

The site with so much marvellous urban redevelopment potential is back in the news. Our Lady of the Condos is a former convent site running between Richmond Road and Byron. Is it just me, or does this site take on Lansdowne proportions whereby anything aggravates a vocal opposition, so that civil dialogue and compromise becomes untenable in a take-no-prisoners make-everyone-miserable sort of way? Ashcroft is asking for a driveway across the Byron linear park to access Byron Avenue. The alternative is to use Shannon Street. The city traffic engineers become bad guys here, supposedly wanting a full-fledged city street to replace Shannon … Continue reading False choices at Our Lady of the Condos — part i

Veterans on Parade

I accompanied my dad to the Dieppe remembrance service at the cenotaph on Sunday. The sun was hot; the speeches were blessedly cliche-free (mostly). Sitting in the sun gives ample time to consider some things. Most of the vets are old. Very old. Considerations abounded: there were two articulated OC buses to drive people from the NAC garage to the War Memorial. Below, a facilitator rubs sunscreen onto bare hands that have seen too much hot sun. There was a giant duffel bag of Tilley hats to plop onto the heads of those who arrived bare-headed. Water, of course: There was music, including The Maple Leaf Forever, … Continue reading Veterans on Parade

Toronto Now — Ottawa Later

Toronto has new subway trains, now. Ottawa will have its new LRT trains sometime in the future. What Toronto has now has certain similarities with what Ottawa will have in 2017 or 2018. Unlike earlier subway cars that were individual cars hooked together into trains, without any means for passengers to switch cars, the new train cars have open gangways. This is similar to how the articulated OC Transpo buses work. It means passengers can get on any car but then as passengers shift around, the load evens out throughout the train. Passengers feel safer, less “trapped” in one car. It … Continue reading Toronto Now — Ottawa Later

Will your bike make the traffic signal change?

The city of Ottawa puts three yellow dots on the traffic loop buried at intersections, marking where cyclists should stop to activate the signal. I don’t think many cyclists know this; and frankly, I don’t trust these marks to actually work. The one I use the most, at Lanark/Scott, seems pretty iffy to me. Here’s an instructional sign, from another city. It’s a tad ambiguous, since it shows the cyclist at right angles to the line, when in fact your bike should be both tires on top of the line… Continue reading Will your bike make the traffic signal change?

Chinatown Art Installation

The City sets aside a certain small percentage of its major capital projects budget (such as road reconstruction) for art installations. West Siders know the ones: Preston Street granite postcards from the piazzas, West Wellie’s marble veggies, the red chairs in the Glebe. The just-getting-completed reconstruction of Somerset between the OTrain tracks and Booth had a very small art budget. One that had to cope with three distinct areas: Chinatown, the bit of Little Italy around Preston, and the OTrain viaduct-bridge. With public consultation, the decision was made to have two installations: one on the Chinatown hill, and one on the viaduct … Continue reading Chinatown Art Installation

Tree makes way for Bambinos

The Preston street BIA has been planning for some years to install a sculptural bit of landscaping at Preston and Gladstone. Called the Bambinos, it is a concrete installation suggesting family, and a soccer team, and is a gateway to the Italian community. Some serious digging has been going on at the corner of Preston and Gladstone recently. I can only presume that they are installing the foundations for these sculptures.    While preparing a new foundation on the northeast corner, they uncovered an older one. Notice the tree on the crest of the little hill, beside the red stake: Last week, … Continue reading Tree makes way for Bambinos

How does your garden grow?

One of the big fears about high rises is that shadow that they throw. Over the last few years, I have become more observant of shadows. First, a developer built some three story infills in the lot behind my back yard. They are just 20′ from their/my rear lot line. My gardening friends cheered me up: “there goes your sunshine and your garden”, and then consoled me with “but there’s always hostas. They love the total dark dense shade”. Well surprise, those infills throw zero shadow on my garden during the whole growing season (May to September) and only minimal shadow in … Continue reading How does your garden grow?

Signs of Life on Somerset Street

Somerset has been going through a difficult time for the last few years. The rise of suburban supermarkets with an Asian focus has rendered obsolete the mom-and-pop small stores along Somerset in Chinatown. Many have disappeared. Only a few grocery stores are surviving, eg Kowloon Market, which even seems to be thriving and is a bright spot on the street. In the section from Booth to Preston, business has been complicated by two years of road reconstruction. But the sidewalks are back in place, the benches are installed, and at a large vacant storefront this sign has appeared: I thought it noticeable that … Continue reading Signs of Life on Somerset Street

Feelin’ drained on a hot summer day

The aqueduct through LeBreton Flats is a sadly neglected city feature. The last time a maintenance crew did anything around there was just before all the politicians showed up to unveil the plaques declaring this an ever-so-valuable heritage site to be proud of. Then they all skedaddled, never to to be seen again. Alas, the plantings along the aqueduct are totally neglected, the trees mostly dead (even right beside a water supply !) and a few years ago the city decided to run a giant water pipe through the aqueduct water because it was cheap. Heritage smeritage. On Monday, the aqueduct … Continue reading Feelin’ drained on a hot summer day

Treed vs less-treed street

From time to time, social scientists flip pictures at subjects to find out what makes a “good street” or good neighborhood. Time and time again, tree-lined streets hit the emotive jackpot. Why then are so few streets well treed? And if hotter summers are to be the new normal, it’s not to late to plant trees now. Certainly, the residents of Daniel Avenue in Champlain Park can appreciate the complete canopy of dappled shade. What heat wave?   Meanwhile, on the adjacent streets, trees are smaller, irregularly planted, and the pavement radiates oppressive heat at mid-day: Continue reading Treed vs less-treed street