Walking and cycling play a vital role in any efficient public transit system, because they allow people to get from the major bus stops to their destinations. Mayoral candidate Jim Watson thinks the city has done well trying to encourage cycling, but he thinks more can be done.
Obviously cycling is something that we should be investing in. The city, to its credit, has been putting some money aside through the capital budget, but we have a long way to go in terms of our cycling infrastructure compared to cities like Montreal. Everything from cycling stands, parking, to segregated lanes, to the fact that I think we still need to put more resources and emphasis into education, in terms of both motorists and cyclists themselves.
Watson said he supports the pilot project for a segregated bicycle lane in Ottawa's centre. And although he realizes that businesses may have problems with some of their on-street parking being handed over to bicycles, Watson thinks that's exactly what a pilot project is for: To find out what, exactly, a more permanent change would mean.
I’d like to see the pilot project go ahead, with the segregated lane. I’m not privy to what the recommended lane is going to be, I think we have to heed the legitimate concerns of the business community—if it means, for instance, they’re going to lose a good portion of their parking, and they rely on their parking for customers, are there ways that we can accommodate both the parking and the cycling, as they do in some municipalities? But until we actually have a pilot, we’ll never know what the impact is going to be, one way or another. I’m prepared to support a pilot project. Is there a street better than Somerset that would be less disruptive to the business community? There may well be, and I think we should keep an open mind and determine if we can reach a compromise between different interests.Watson sees walking part of another issue for Ottawa: The reality that as our city's population ages, proper maintenance of the infrastructure for pedestrians will become more pressing.
I was talking to a seniors’ group the other day, and we’re trying to always get seniors to be physically active and living in their homes, yet the design of the sidewalks in many instances in Ottawa is very dangerous for people to go walking in wintertime. The steep slopes at the driveways, I don’t think they’re well-designed, and the actual maintenance of the sidewalks is not as good as the road maintenance. Roads are often bare pavement, and sidewalks tend to be a secondary priority for the city.
Still, Watson cautions that money for these projects has to come from somewhere.
We have some challenges, it all takes money, and it has to be prioritized against everything else.