One cyclist death is too many. Yet the killing of people on bikes in our city continues, most recently with the tragic death this week of Nusrat Jahan on Ottawa’s flagship “protected” bike lane. A devastating loss for her family, friends, and our community.
Many people are not letting go of this. From the #ottbike community, to the leadership of councillors Catherine McKenney and Jeff Leiper, to members of the media who are keeping this visible–people are calling for action, investment, infrastructure and legislation (e.g. protected intersections, separation of truck and cycling routes, truck sideguards) to make our streets safe for everyone.
What you can do:
Read this post by Graham Larkin of Vision Zero Canada.
You’re invited to submit photos that celebrate how people in Ottawa are making the city more sustainable.
From EnviroCentre, here are the categories for entries:
Healthy, efficient homes
Show us how you improve everyday energy use in your home!
It can be something like changing to LED lighting, using Energy Star appliances, or making grand scale green renovations.
Connected, environmentally-aware businesses
Does your business have a green team? Are you turning computers off at night to save energy? Or providing incentives to staff to take transit or bike to work? Show us what you’ve done or are doing!
Engaged, sustainable communities
What are you, your family, friends or community members doing to make your neighbourhood a better place to live? Are you using your bike to get around or building a community garden? Show us your sustainable community or what you’re doing to create one!
If you’re keen to green your commute, spend active time outdoors and support cycling in the city, why not sign up for Bike to Work Month in May?
Bike to Work Month promotes and celebrates cycling. Beyond the joys of biking itself, the campaign, which is organized by EnviroCentre, provides incentives like prizes for participation.
You can sign up at http://www.biketoworkottawa.ca/en/ and log your bike trips. (My suggestion: You can log work-related trips even if you don’t commute regularly to a workplace.)
You can also start a workplace team, or book a “lunch and learn” workshop on commuting or basic bike maintenance. The website has other resources and links, too.
EnviroCentre says last year during Bike to Work Month, 2,500 Ottawa participants collectively cycled more than 300,000 km, equivalent to seven times around the planet. That’s impressive! Every little bit helps reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gases, and helps make our city healthier and more vibrant.
Catch This Changes Everything again on Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2016 at Carleton University with a screening hosted by Carleton Climate Commons Working Group, 350 Ottawa, Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op and Carleton Cinema Politica.
Also on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, Impact Hub Ottawa hosts What’s next after Paris? Community action for a post-carbon future. Panelists Mitchell Beer (Smarter Shift/The Energy Mix), Mike De Souza (National Observer), Andrea Flowers (City of Ottawa), Graeme Cunningham (Bullfrog Power), Janice Ashworth (Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op) and EnviroCentre’s Carbon 613 will talk about getting involved in creating a sustainable world.
For inspiration on understanding and protecting nature and ourselves within it:
Local conservation biologist and author Robert Alvo launchesBeing a Bird in North America at Octopus Books (Glebe) on Saturday, Apr. 9, 2016. It’s a book that uses humour and science to provide a new perspective on birds.
Celebrated primatologist Jane Goodall will be speaking in Ottawa on Monday, Apr. 11, 2016 about her lifetime of research and her sustainability work with youth. (Proceeds from the event support the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada’s conservation, humanitarian and youth programs.)
The City of Ottawa is hosting Engaging Citizens in Science to showcase groups that are involving people in understanding and documenting nature. As well as speakers Dr. Jeremy Kerr (University of Ottawa, co-founder of Bumblebeewatch.org) and Andy Kenney (University of Toronto, Neighbourwoods Program), several groups will present their citizen science and research initiatives. It’s on Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2016.
The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club has several upcoming birding and other events. Check details on their website.
For inspiration on making Ottawa a more sustainable city:
Janette Sadik-Khan led New York City’s program to create safer, more liveable streets, and wrote about the experience in Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. She’ll be speaking in Ottawa on Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2016 at Streetfight: NY’s Urban Revolution Comes to Ottawa, a discussion organized by Ecology Ottawa and other groups.
You don’t even need to brave the elements to take part in some of these environment-related activities.
Ecology Ottawa is calling on people to get involved when the city’s Environment Committee meets on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016—in what Ecology Ottawa calls a key moment for climate action in the next 12-18 months. The Committee will be considering a Renewable Energy Strategy, the climate change management plan and a motion that includes strengthening Ottawa’s greenhouse gas reduction target and other measures. (See more here and here.) Attend the meeting (9:30 a.m. at City Hall) and/or contact your councillor and the mayor.
The Environment Committee is also reviewing a report that has implications for whether the city will support harvesting of fruit and nut trees for citizens and groups in need rather than treating it as waste. Find the report here.
The National Capital Commission is hosting The Urban Forest: From Science to Poetry through its Urbanism Lab series. The session will look at the importance of forests in the city for biodiversity and health. Speakers are Dr. Tom Smiley (Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory, North Carolina), Dr. Jérôme Dupras (Université du Québec en Outaouais) and Diana Beresford-Kroeger (author and scientist), moderated by Michael Rosen (Tree Canada). The event on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 from 6-8 p.m. is full (there’s a waitlist), but it’s available live online. (Hope the discussion includes the at-risk South March Highlands.)
There’s another Urbanism Lab event on February 24 on cycling and Sunday Bikedays.
Municipal governments have a lot of influence on the environment. Their decisions affect how we manage waste, use energy, take transportation and nurture green space. Through their actions, or inaction, cities influence air, land and water health, climate change, and the distribution of resources and benefits among citizens.
Urban governments can also be at the forefront of spurring positive environmental change, sometimes even when other levels of government fall short.
Vancouver is one city that has committed to being “the greenest city in the world,” with 2020 as the target date. Vancouver’s plan includes developing renewable energy systems, enhancing sustainable transportation, creating zero waste, strengthening the local food system and taking action in several other areas.
Can its commitment inspire Ottawa? On Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, Vancouver city councillor and deputy mayor Andrea Reimer will be here to talk about her city’s plan. Joining her are Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, who is active locally, nationally and internationally in prompting decision-makers to address environmental and social justice, and Ottawa city councillor and chair of the city’s Environment Committee David Chernushenko.
The event, from 6-9 p.m. at City Hall, is organized by Ecology Ottawa, which in addition to its regular campaigns, promotes environmental leadership and stewardship at all levels of government, including federal.
In May, I’ll be taking on two challenges, both designed to get me outside.
David Suzuki Foundation’s 30X30 Nature Challenge
In the 30X30 Nature Challenge, you pledge to get out into nature for at least 30 minutes every day, for 30 days in May. “Nature” can mean a park, a yard, a path—anywhere there’s a bit of greenspace and some flora, fauna or natural elements to observe.
It might sound like a big commitment in our busy lives, but research shows that taking time in the outdoors can improve health, happiness and community life, and give us a better appreciation of our environment. (This 30X30 Nature Challenge infographic presents some of the benefits.)
If you need ideas for spending time outside, the David Suzuki Foundation has some “daily tips” on their website: think outdoor sports, cloud watching, having a barbecue or digging in the dirt.
I’m looking forward to participating. When I signed up last year, I was going through some health challenges, and I’m pretty sure getting outside helped me feel better and stay centred. Plus, I discovered that while I do spend a fair bit of time outside, making the commitment helped me justify the time I spent—providing a great reason to take a walking break from work, sit on a park bench and read or discover nearby food trucks on my bike. I’m hoping to stay just as motivated this year.
Bike to Work Ottawa
May is also Bike to Work month. In this challenge, you commit to cycling to and from work, whether it’s every day, or a day or two a week. You can join as an individual or as part of a workplace team. (If you don’t have a workplace team you can set one up–the campaign has information to help.) Organized by EnviroCentre and the City of Ottawa, Bike to Work includes a chance to win bikes and other prizes. Stay tuned for events as well. On Thursday, Apr. 30, there’s a Cycle Commuting Forum with advice from EnviroCentre, Ottawa Velo Outaouais and the Ottawa Bike Lanes Project (at MEC Ottawa, 6:30-8 p.m.)
I’ve signed up for Bike to Work, too. Last year I didn’t let working from a home office stop me—I participate by recording my bike trips for meetings and errands on my Bike to Work page.
You can sign up for both challenges any time during May. Hope to see you outside!