Version 5 includes all of the Greenbelt Trail Maps on my ”Richard's GPS Trail Maps” web site. Indeed it includes all my trail maps on the site except for the Stittsville “Jackson Trails” Trail System, which I expect to be included with the next update. I provide them with the tracks for all of my maps and soon will be adding a map of the “Scissons Road Quadrant of the Old Quarry Trail System to the website.
Indeed the Backroom Mapbooks GPS map is the easiest way to use my maps on a Garmin GPS as they are already on the background map and do not have to be loaded. However if you do not have a Garmin GPS, or the Backroad mapbooks GPS map you can download the tracks from my “Richard's GPS Trail Maps” website.
Unlike Garmin, which is primarily a technology company, that purchases it's maps from third parties, likely at the lowest price possible, Backroad Mapbooks is a mapping company that had it start with the goal of mapping all the backroads of Canada and has now extended that goal to include trail systems
There is an old stone house in what was once a rural area and now is within the Emerald Meadows portion of Bridlewood in Kanata. A few weeks ago I biked by it and noticed that, while still standing, it was surrounded by construction and all the doors and windows were missing looking like no attempt to preserve it was being made. I was expecting it to be bulldozed any day but it still stands with construction going on all around it making me wonder if it is going to be destroyed or preserved.
I know as a progressive I am supposed to oppose the transition to community mailboxes (CMBs) for all urban and suburban residents but logic prevents me from doing so. Indeed this only seems to have become an issue when it was announced that downtown urban areas would join suburban areas in the use of CMBs.
Perhaps I see this differently because I live in a community (Bridlewood in Kanata/Ottawa) where 90% of households have always had community mailboxes (CMBs). It was a year or two after we moved here in 1979 that all new households had CMBs so we were somewhat of an anomaly having door to door delivery and I always thought that didn't make sense. There was no difference in neighbourhoods other than the dates our houses were built.
As Canada Post states:
Ten million Canadian households – or about two thirds of all households in Canada – already receive their mail at a centralized point away from their front door, such as at a community mailbox, a mail panel in an apartment building or condominium, a rural post office, or a curbside rural mailbox. Of these ten million households, four million receive their mail at a community mailbox. Over the next five years, the conversion to community mailboxes will impact about five million Canadian households – or about one third of all households in Canada – that still receive door-to-door delivery.
I do not recall any great protests when CMBs were introduced in the suburbs and all of the problems we hear about regarding CMBs do not seem to exist. There are senior citizens living in these neighbourhood with CMBs, and houses with wheelchair ramps and the residents choose to live here despite the CMBs and seem to be able to cope.
I find it somewhat insulting to suggest that senior citizens cannot walk a block or two to a CMB. I am just approaching Old Age Pension age and I do over 5 km hikes in the forest with a woman in her mid 80s. We are perfectly capable of walking to our mailboxes.
As for people with mobility issues, mail delivery is the least of their problems compared to grocery shopping, doctors appointments, etc. Much more comprehensive solutions and services are required for them, rather than making postal service inefficient for everyone.
Those that live in neighbourhoods already served by CMBs have already found solutions. And while Canada Post has also offered help in such cases, I expect most people would forego the bureaucratic process required by Canada Post and simply ask a neighbour to pick up their mail.
The fact is there are real issues regarding postal service. With the Internet and email people are simply not using the postal service the way they did before. There is considerably more junk mail being delivered than first class mail although there is a potential for more parcel deliveries.
Having letter carriers walking the street bypassing most houses or simply delivering junk mail is simply not efficient. There have been suggestions of reducing deliveries to three days a week but when we are receiving something important we want it as soon as possible. The alternative of using CMBs has already been proven to work for about 30 years.
The other new factor is the increase in online shopping and the resultant increase in parcel deliveries, Prior to being transitioned to a CMB parcel deliveries either meant the parcel was left on our front step as an invitation to theft or we had to go to a postal outlet the next day to pick it up. Now small and medium size parcels are left in a locked CMB compartment and we only have to make a trip to pick up very large parcels. And all mail is now in a locked compartment rather than an unlocked mailbox on our house like the vast majority of people in our neighbourhood.
However Canada Post could certainly have been more forthcoming and transparent in how they went about this. I recall the announcement a few years previous that all mail carriers would be using vehicles for their deliveries. That did not make sense unless they knew what was coming. They obviously did but did not want to tell anyone their plans. That is when they should have started letting the public and their workers know the direction they were moving.
Jobs are important but inefficiency is not a sustainable way of maintaining jobs in the long term. However, rather than the wishy-washy Canada Post response of we don't expect any individuals to lose their jobs they should have provided a job guarantee for all existing letter carriers. Attrition, retirement and increased parcel deliveries should easily allow that.
They should also make a firm commitment that all new parcel delivery services will be provided by unionized Canada Post employees under the terms of their collective agreements.
But there is something worth fighting over, and I wish there was a bigger battle over this with more public support, and that is the privatization of retail postal services and the transfer of the responsibility for our mail from decently paid full time unionized employees hired and vetted by Canada Post to part time minimum wage retail clerks. That is a battle I can get behind.
While I cannot answer that question I can tell you what our society and its governments have decided cyclists lives are not worth.
Cyclists lives are not worth the cost of installing truck side guards on all large trucks.
Cyclists lives are not worth the cost of developing and installing better mirror or camera monitoring systems for large trucks and all motor vehicles.
Cyclists lives are not worth the cost of designing and building roads that do not place cyclists in the path of other vehicles such as big trucks and then directs those vehicles into the cyclists.
Cyclists lives are not worth the cost of infrastructure that separates cyclists from motor vehicle traffic where appropriate such as on the most dangerous routes.
Cyclists lives are not worth the political will to require drivers, especially truck drivers, to have a legal responsibility to be able to see where their vehicle is going (and who they may be driving into and running over) before they go there.
And most importantly cyclists lives are not worth the elimination of the get out of jail free card that drivers that kill cyclists get for simply saying they didn't see the cyclist.
So what are are cyclists lives worth.
Note: this post does not refer to any specific incident.
Much is being made of a decision by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) managers at Toronto's Pearson airport to allow a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards to comply with their religious beliefs.
Apparently some female CBSA officers feel that they were discriminated against by this decision. I could understand an outrage if female officers were only allowed to deal with female visitors but this was a small exemption made for a special case. Why all the fuss about this when so many more significant examples of religious discrimination are entrenched in our laws and practices in the name of freedom of religion.
For example an employer being allowed to designate higher profile positions for males only and more subservient positions for women only. This is a clear violation of all Canadian employment legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but still allowed in the name of freedom of religion.
What about persons delegated by the state the right to perform legal marriage ceremonies being allowed to discriminate in terms of who they will marry on the basis of their personal religious beliefs.
And much more serious, medical practitioners, such as doctors and pharmacists, being allowed to refuse to provide medical treatment or services on the basis of their personal religious beliefs.
Perhaps one of the most outrageous examples of discriminatory religious accommodation, a clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but constitutionally allowed, is the public funding of religious-based schools for one religious group only (and not even the largest group at that) - a huge government subsidy to one religious group that all political parties are afraid to deal with because of the risk of losing that groups votes.
If we are to be outraged by inappropriate religious accommodation let us be outraged by matters of substance, not by attempts to accommodate a small groups religious preference that has little impact on others' rights.
This post sees the return of the Fifth Column after an interregnum, not caused by a lack of ideas but simply a lack of motivation to make the effort to write them down. Hopefully my posts will be more regular from now on.
Yes, that's right, because only being the very best in the world (well best at that particular place at that particular time) counts, the rest are all losers, so it seems.
Why do we rate the Olympics that way. The way we rate Olympic success should relate to what we want to accomplish, and the way we rate Olympics can have far reaching effects on how we fund sports and recreation in this country. We have already seen, at least in the past, funding shifted from less popular sports to sports that we have a better chance of winning Olympic medals in.
But what if we measured Olympic success by a points system that included all top ten finishes (tenth best in the world is pretty damn good by most peoples standards) with 10 points for first and one point for tenth.
We would get a much better picture of the depth and breadth of our elite athletes than just counting those in the top three. It would even give us a better measure of how we are progressing towards more medals in the future. And we could start doing it now retroactively using the records of past Olympics.
But is that even the point. Is it really justified to spend all this money on a “pissing contest” to prove we (well actually our elite athletes) are better than the rest of the world. What public policy goal does that serve.
We can only justify spending all this money on the Olympics if it serves some public benefit beyond giving Canadian another excuse to spend more time watching TV (while waving the flag) for two weeks every two years.
We can only justify spending this money if it benefits Canadians beyond the elite athletes that participate. We have to be able to show that the funding benefits a broad range of Canadians by funding sports and recreation for more than just elite athletes and by actually encouraging more Canadians to get involved in sports and recreation. That way we will see results in fitter and healthier Canadians with more balanced lifestyles and even reduced health care costs.
We won't know that if we measure the wrong things. Ultimately what we want to be able to measure is whether Olympic programs increase the participation of Canadians in sport and recreation ultimately leading to more balanced lifestyles and improving their fitness and health.
Knowing that we had the greatest percentage of citizens participating in sports and recreational activities would make me a lot more prouder than knowing that a small group of elite Canadian athletes were the best in the world. Now that is a goal to strive for.
You don't have to actually run for office to have an election slogan, do you. Although my wife did suggest I take on our car loving, parking worshipping incumbent whose biggest priority is widening roads through the Greenbelt, I am too happy in retirement to go after a thankless twenty-four hour a day job. But I can still have an election slogan and mine is The War on Cars Starts Here.
Conventional wisdom would say that is a guaranteed losing slogan for a suburban candidate. But is it really.
After all, ask your typical suburban car commuter what they think of their commute and they will almost unanimously say that they hate it. Then ask someone who bikes or walks to work and the answer you will get is that they love it. Those that use public transit may have some complaints but almost all will be happy they do not have to drive in rush hour traffic, especially in the winter.
For some strange reason, even though studies and history has shown that building more roads never eases congestion problems, car drivers think that is somehow the answer to making their commute more bearable.
We do not need any more roads or any wider roads. We are over-serviced as far as roads go, except for two hours a day during the morning and evening rush hour. We spend millions and millions of taxpayers dollars trying to solve an unsolvable problem building more roads that we do not need ninety percent of the time.
The only solution that will really solve the problem for those people that drive to work are solutions that reduce the number of cars on the road, not so-called solutions that encourage more people to drive to work. We need to spend our tax money on alternatives to the hated car commute, on infrastructure for commuting solutions that people enjoy.
As with the Three Rs, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Reducing commuting distances is the most important and effective solution to traffic congestion. We need to design and build our communities with more opportunities to work closer to home, and more opportunities to work from home.
That is where walking and cycling are the best alternatives, but they are not attractive if people feel unsafe. That is why we do not build sidewalks by drawing white lines to separate cars from pedestrians. Give people safe walking and cycling routes, preferably segregated, and they will use them.
Also improving the recreational pathway system will get more people onto their bikes and more people thinking about commuting on their bikes, especially if there is a comprehensive network that allows people to go from anywhere in the city to any destination without having to share major roadways with cars.
Winter is seen as a problem, but if you look at cities with similar climates to Ottawa that actually have good and extensive cleared winter cycling routes and infrastructure the number of winter cycling commuters is much higher than in Ottawa. If you build it they will ride it.
And of course making public transit a comfortable and enjoyable experience will increase ridership. It is already as fast and much less expensive than commuting by car. Indeed, I suspect for the majority of car drives, it is only stereotypes about public transit and psychological barriers that keep people off public transit.
Indeed if we provided secure and sheltered bike parking at the Park and Rides and an improved Bixi Bike system downtown and in major employment areas we could create a whole new commuter class of cycling public transit users, especially with the light rail system, where bike commuters would use the LRT for the long middle portion of their commute.
There is only one way to reduce traffic congestion on the roads and that is to reduce the number of cars on the roads. And there is only one way to do that and that is by improving infrastructure for the alternatives, public transit, cycling and walking.
The War on Cars Starts Here.
Now that I bike all year there is no end to the season but the putting away of the summer bikes and taking out of the winter bike marks the end of a season for me now. (Note: click on images in this blog post to enlarge them.)
As I reflect on the past season I feel a sense of guilt for feeling that I have had one of my best seasons yet, for how can I feel that way when we have lost our dear friend Mario in a tragic traffic incident.
I first met Mario about ten years ago in pre-OMBA (Ottawa Mountain Bike Association) days when MTB Kanata used to organize weeknight Jack Pine rides and weekend rides on what were then called the Kanata Lakes trails, which included the SMH (South March Highlands) trails on both sides of the Terry Fox Drive extension (which didn't exist then) through the forest.
One of my first memories is a road trip to CFMBA (Charlottenburgh Forest Mountain Bike Area ) near Cornwall. During the ride Mario noticed some issues with the trails, so of course, being Mario, he was back again for several weekends doing trail work.
Back in those days MTB Kanata used to sponsor several teams in the Tour Nortel (now CN Cycle for CHEO) and of course Mario was always a big supporter. Here is an image from the MTB Kanata newsletter of one of the few times Mario has actually “gone public” about what he has done. You can really tell he loved riding that bike.
One of my first memories of Mario's patience was a group ride on Outback where he was riding sweep. I remember finding it very challenging but he kept encouraging me even as we kept falling farther behind everyone else. Finally after taking a bit of a secret shortcut that he knew about near the end we finished about an hour, or maybe much more, after everyone else. Rather than being upset with me for holding him back Mario was more happy that I had accomplished the challenge.
And of course Mario was not a fair weather rider – he rode all seasons and loved his winter riding, he even perfected the making of spiked tires for winter riding, which, of course he had to share with everyone else on the OMBA forums.
When I started to volunteer for trail days for a couple of seasons Mario was always one of the regulars and if he wasn't there it was probably because he was helping somebody else with something.
One of my best biking seasons ever was the season that Mario was leading Group D on the Thursday Night Rides. You could not find a better person to lead a group of struggling beginners on the trails and he always tried to provide variety in the trails. As well as the usual SMH trails he would take us on the old Kanata Lakes Trails including the old Lost and Found Trails behind the GFR parking lot and the trails on the other side of GFR. One of his favourite things to point out was the H-tree, a tree along the trail that had grown in the shape of an H. (I have to go and find that tree now). I always loved that about Mario because that is the sort of thing that I would notice and it just re-emphasized that for Mario, like many of us, mountain biking is not the macho stereotype that is all about mindlessly ripping around on your bike, but it is just as much about being in the forest with nature.
The last time I saw Mario was at this year's Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day where our two groups kept leap frogging each other, even though I supposedly had the slower group. He had a couple of slower riders that he thought might fit in better with our group and asked me if I would take them, and of course I said yes. But, being Mario he didn't want to single them out so he asked everyone to express how tired out there were in a number between 1 and 10 and then suggested those that said 5 or less join my group. But nobody wanted to leave Mario's group and that was fine with him, and fortuitous for me as we kept leap frogging and I got to see Mario more often that day than I otherwise would, short little meetings on the trail that I will cherish forever.
Mario would want us all to think positively, particularly about mountain biking and cycling that he loved so much, and he would want us to get out and ride as much as possible.
AS OF DECEMBER 7, 2013
TOTAL KM HOURS MTB KM HOURS HYB KM HOURS WB KM HOURS
4944.75 317.58 860.75 75.63 3244.70 188.27 839.30 53.68
So what do the numbers say about this year's season. The first thing we notice is an increase in total number of kilometres over time, a new record each year, 4451 for 2011, 4754 for 2012 and already passed that on Nov 21, 2013 at 4767, and 4945 on December 7, 2013, well on track for a over 5000 km for the year.
It would be nice to think I am doing that much more biking but the increasing hours is not as great, going from 290 in 2011 to 318 by December 7, 2013. What we also see is a shift from mountain biking hours to hybrid hours, in 2011, 100 vs 162 and in 2013 so far, 76 vs 188. Winter bike hours went from 28 in 2011 to 54 so far this year.
Average speed this season on the mountain bike was approximately 11.3 km/hr, while it was 17.25 km/hr on the hybrid and 15.5 km/hr on the winter bike.
So for various reasons, trail and weather conditions and the fact that I am beginning to really enjoy the long hybrid rides, I am putting more hours on the hybrid, increasing my distance at a faster rate than the same hours on the mountain bike. The number of hours on the winter bike is primarily determined by when the City decides to start and stop dumping salt on the roads and paths.
CN Cycle for CHEO
The CN Cycle for CHEO is the first “event” of the new cycling season. The winter bikes go away at the end of March when the snow and ice are off the roads and paths and while the trails are drying out it is a month of “training” on the hybrid for the CN Cycle for CHEO (previously Tour Nortel) at the beginning of May. I have been participating in this fund raising ride for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario for about 10 years. This year my daughter Jasmine joined me in doing the 70 km route at a pace of about 21.5 km/hr (75.5 km at 19.5 km/hr, if you include to and from the parking lot.). During our training Jasmine was a bit slower than my pace so I let her lead hoping to do a pace of about 18 km/hr, but she led us at a pace of almost 21.5 km/hr, my best pace yet. We both managed to make the 500 Club raising over $500 each.
All of the maps from my project are included on the Backroad Mapbooks Ontario GPS Map and when the next version comes out in the spring all my western Greenbelt trail maps, including the NCC Trail 10 system will be included.
Also during this season I mapped the trails adjacent to the Jackson Trails community in Stittsville, what appears to be an unofficial trail system with an uncertain future.
Also, on a day when I was looking for someplace new to ride I mapped most of the pathways in Stittsville, which I just realized I have not posted yet, so here is the overview map and watch for more detailed maps to be posted in the Hybrid Routes section of my Richard's GPS Trail Maps website in the, hopefully near, future.
Tuesday Night Rides
While, for various reasons I may put more kilometres on my hydrid, the high point of my biking week are the Tuesday Night Rides, also known as TNRs (® Andy AKA FaustCan).
The TNRs are intended to supplement the OMBA Thursday night rides in the South March Highlands but on the easier and more varied Greenbelt Trails. All riders from beginner to advanced are welcome and encouraged to participate. The trails we ride range from easy to intermediate technical.
The history of the TNRs goes back to the MTBKanata Jack Pine rides, and after those faded out, the MTBK Nora's No-Drop rides that I usually led.
The TNRs are a casual and fun experience with a great group of riders, usually led by myself or my co-leader Andy, who, if not kept in check will lead us off onto Untrails. We are always looking for new people to join the group and add to the fun.
To find out when and where the next TNR is just check the OMBA Ride and Event Calendar.
My daughter Jasmine usually joins us on the TNRs and next year my other daughter Maggie, and my wife Christine, might be joining us. I am looking forward to that.
Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day
My last bike event of the year is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day where the the whole mountain biking community comes together to help Trips for Kids Ottawa get kids out of the house and away from the video games and into the bush to enjoy mountain biking, exercise and nature. My daughter Jasmine and I both volunteer to lead groups on the trails for this big event.
Below is Mario leading his group onto the trails at this event that he loved so much.
I first started winter biking in December 2009 on a cheap $100 Supercyle, with studded tires that cost more than the bike, but I enjoyed it so much that when that bike died I replaced it in October 2011 with a used but better winter bike from Cycle Salvation. Later that season in February 2012, I modified itto make it more like a hybrid riding stance. And before the beginning of this season I added a panier rack and replaced the seat with a more comfortable one. The plan was to replace the chain and cassette at the end of this season but on my first ride I notice considerable chain slippage when I tried riding on trails or whenever I had to power pedal, such as going up hard hills. So it was back in to Eric at Phat Moose Cycles to get the chain and cassette replaced and now it is running like new. This is the winter bike in it's current incarnation.
The key to winter biking is keeping warm and I use the dressing in layers technique that I use for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for my winter biking and wear my winter hiking boots instead of my biking shoes,.Winter biking has it's limitations but it does allow me to keep biking regularly throughout the winter.
Because many of the pathways are not cleared at all and others do not get cleared quickly, most of my biking is on the local community roadways, and again, because side streets are not always cleared quickly I have a number of regular routes that involve the collector streets in Bridlewood and Glen Cairn. However, I will sometimes go farther afield such as down Terry Fox Drive to Second Line and back via Old Crap Road, Huntmar Drive and Fernbank Road. Of course I have the advantage as a recreational cyclist rather than commuter to not have to be on the roads during rush hour.
I have also used this blog and my Twitter feed to advocate for cycling issues.
In June I raised the issue of why the Prince of Wales Bridge isn't a bikeway and proposed a relatively inexpensive way to make it happen quickly. Since then the idea has been included in the City's Transportation Master Plan but as a much more expensive project in the distant future.
In July I blogged about Kanata's Secret Segregated Bike Lane, what appeared to be a low cost way to create a segregated bike, lane only to discover it was actually an “at-grade asphalt sidewalk“.
Perhaps my most important cycling blog post of the year was in August when, following a Twitter exchange, I posted Thoughts on Taking The Lane where I outlined the legal justification for cyclists taking the lane and stated:
While I am not one of those “vehicular cyclists”, that oppose cycling infrastructure because they think that the best place for all cyclists is on the roads competing for space with car drivers, I do believe that cyclists have a right to be able to ride on the roads safely. I also agree with the City of Ottawa when they tell cyclists “never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist”.
One of the most important ways that cyclists can ensure their safety on the roads is by taking the lane (riding in the middle of the lane of traffic) when appropriate and necessary
I also wrote a blog post in June relating to a proposal to widen roads through the Greenbelt to save commuters a few minutes in traffic during rush hour where I pointed out that:
Along this route proposed for widening there are two NCC parking lots, P6 and P11 with trail systems on both sides where crossing from one side to the other is already very difficult and dangerous. If any widening of these roads is allowed the NCC must insist that it include a solution that provides safe passage between the trail systems on both sides of the roads at the locations of those parking lots.
My life is good now and I am enjoying my retirement and cycling, especially mountain biking, is a very big part of that, thanks in large part to the friendly welcoming nature of the Ottawa mountain biking community. I enjoy cycling all year round but am especially looking forward to the next mountain biking season and the return of the Tuesday Night Rides.