Saturday, February 5, 2011


(Or, Can't We All Just Get Along?)

I can't believe that the whole discussion and ruling and furor over the Laurier bike lane has gone by and I haven't said much recently. Or maybe I can believe it: it seems like there's not actually a lot to say that isn't being said, and I had a hard time keeping up with all the meetings that I couldn't be at. But I opened the Saturday paper today and found, in the letters to the editor, a desperate plea from a Laurier Street condo-dweller. They're going to remove all our parking! Won't someone think of the children and the little old ladies?

"But now the bikers come," he writes. "They are young, gainfully employed and dynamic. Most are members of bike and social clubs, and all are well organized. They are represented by city councilors who are like them, and who share their desire to make Ottawa an example of "greenness" in the province: the Copenhagen of Canada. They plan to converge on the city core to enjoy all of its benefits."

Against this Spandex-clad invasion force of apparent non-residents bent on disrupting our way of life, he pits a condo-dwelling population of frail, unorganized senior citizens who enjoy a quiet life of walking in the park, visiting with their grandchildren, and responsibly investing in their condos so as to reduce the burden on the taxpayer when they have to sell and move to a retirement home. (I'm still fuzzy on how that last bit works.) He alone, with his letter, is standing up for the rights of these dear old folks in their autumn years, because they can't speak up for themselves.

Seriously, you should read the letter. It's epic. EPIC.

Okay. Bike lanes will not destroy civilization as we know it. Parking is not a human right. People are pretty good at this adapting thing. Hey, we managed to get used to being agrarian rather than nomadic without too much of a hassle. Some of us even adapt to living in zero gravity without too many hiccups. I think a change in the setup of a street will probably, in two years, have been forgotten about. And/or worked around.

And, for the zillionth time - you just can't categorize a whole group of people - especially when you're talking city politics. This letter-writer's "cyclists" are a faceless mass of overprivileged (male) yuppies in Spandex, who oughta just stay in Kanata where they belong instead of coming in to our downtown core and imposing their self-righteous "greenness." And his "residents" are helpless frail little grannies who will be left, cut off from civilization and human contact, by the no-man's-land of a segregated lane in front of their condos.

In reality, of course, things are way more complicated. Part of the reason I haven't really felt like I can weigh in on the project that much: sure, I agree with some arguments and disagree with others, but on the whole the issue is so complex that I can't feel like I have a solid position. I really wouldn't want to work for the city's transport committee, required to listen to and consider as many different opinions as there are people involved. The bike lane will happen, or it won't, and I for one will wait and see what happens, rather than try to predict any outcomes.


  1. Oh, there is so much to write. I only had so much space in my reply letter to the Citizens, so I'll abuse the comment space here to satisfy my need to object to Mr. Asselin.

    - Nobody is eliminating parking on Laurier, they are retaining 44 spaces. The 122 spaces that are removed from Laurier are moving to Nepean and Gloucester St. There will be more free and 24hr parking

    - As Eric Darwin showed, they have lots of available parking in their own lots

    - This claim that most cyclists are part of organized groups is BS. If you counted the 170 CfSC members and what are maybe 200 OBC members, you'll still end up with a small portion of my estimate of 20,000 cyclists in the city. 100% of condo owners are members of a condo organization.

    - The seniors seemed really well organized to me... they rented a bus, had condo board reps speaking, building owners, and had many speakers.

    I think anyone who was there would have noticed how many cyclists there were who didn't approve of the lane at all. And this other letter in the Citizen shows that the residents aren't unanimous in their position either:

    - A

  2. Alex - oh, yeah, all of that: I'm with you on all points. I was almost as annoyed by the notion that the people in the condos were helpless and voiceless just because they're seniors (ageism, anyone? Come on, if anything the seniors I know are BETTER at standing up for themselves) as I was by the assumption that I'm a highly organized, rich, privileged member of some kind of cycling lobby group.

    The hyperbole you hear - on all sides - is really quite daunting.