Signs going up, campaign rolling on

Beautiful

The campaign gets going - who wants a sign?

To say I’m a happy camper right now would be an understatement.  Signs have started going in the ground, requests have started popping up, and hopefully the word “Siscoe” gets permanently imprinted in the minds of voters over the next 33 days of canvassing, talking, walking and planting.

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Bike Lanes and our roads

I am a multi-modal transportation advocate.

Having grown up in Ottawa as a young man, I’ve seen the benefits of an effective public transportation and biking network.  I believe that having a viable inner-city transit system that allows people options on how to get around is not only good for the overall well-being of a community, it is also a social justice issue; lower-income individuals need to get to work and buy groceries, and personal vehicles are not always at their disposal.  We all pay taxes that build the roads; we should all have access to use of those roads in one form or another.

I’m also a user of different modes of transportation.  Although I work in Niagara Falls, I have taken the opportunity when it presents itself (mostly when teaching summer school) to bike to work from my home in West St. Catharines.  In addition to being another form of exercise, it saves me money on gas and wear-and-tear on my car, and it’s nice to slow down and take my time when I can.

For these reasons and a variety of others, I am a strong believer in enhanced public transit and increased bike access on the roads.  When the specifics of existing roads allow for it, and where it is warranted, I think the inclusion of bike lane is a positive step forward.  When new road construction occurs, I believe adequate space should be left to allow for bike lanes to be installed.  I believe cyclists should be able to get from one part of the city to another in a convenient manner, just like drivers of automobiles.  In short – I think we should be following the Garden City plan, approved this year, which says the following in Part C – Section 5.3 (all emphasis added is mine):

2.    Cycling
1.     The City shall require, provide, and maintain a continuous, well signed, clearly visible, and attractively landscaped network of cycling trails.
2.    This network shall provide links between major activity areas.
3.    The City shall provide bicycle parking at public facilities and shall require such facilities as a condition of approval for all major private development, where feasible.
4.    The integration of cycling and transit shall be promoted by providing bicycle parking at major transit stops and terminals where feasible.
5.    Cycling routes shall be separated from motor vehicles on major roadways where feasible. Where not possible, shared use roadways and bicycle route roadway markings and signage will be provided.

I think the Official Plan says it all, and better than I could.  The key now is electing a Council that is going to have the long-term vision to see this idea through to completion.

I believe I’m an excellent choice to help make that happen.

The Wine Route in St. Catharines – an opportunity to showcase

Fantastic news today from the Wine Council of Ontario – beginning (hopefully) in 2012, the Wine Route will be running through downtown St. Catharines.  The Burgoyne Bridge replacement project may cause some delay, but the bottom line is we need to start planning for this immediately.

This dovetails nicely with the article from last month in the Standard, highlighting the improvements and revitalization that is taking place the St. Paul St. area.  The Creative Cluster Master Plan is a good, solid document – a real path forward for downtown.  The next Council needs to take the lead in pushing forward with the recommendations that have not been fully implemented yet – a definitive marketing plan, continued greening and streetscape improvements (with a greater push to take advantage of the streetscape improvement grants), and a continuation and enhancement of incentives to entrepreneurs.

Let’s find a way to get a Wine Museum built.  Not with taxpayer dollars, obviously – but why not approach the various wineries and the LCBO about building a Wine Superstore that incorporates all of the best that the Niagara region’s wineries have to offer?  Rather than simply being A stop on the route, why not work towards becoming THE stop on the Wine Route?

There is a vocal minority who think we should cut our losses, that downtown will never be revitalized, that tourism will never be a viable part of our city’s economy.  I am not in that camp, and I refuse to let the naysayers have their way.  We need to keep striving to show off what we have, and this development is a huge step in the right direction.  With the introduction of the wine route, the development of the performing arts centre and the possibility of building a wine museum/Niagara winery superstore, we have an opportunity to turn downtown St. Catharines into the cultural centre of Niagara.

Let’s do it.

Road Diets – err, maybe not a great idea

EDIT: To move a point at the bottom of this post to the top, I will reiterate – bike lanes on non-primary arterial roads and in residential neighbourhoods are a good idea.  Bike lanes in on major car/bus/truck routes that require reducing lanes of traffic are not.

FURTHER EDIT: I’m probably not going to budge much on this idea.  As a cyclist I agree with making roads accessible to all modes of transit, but not every road needs a bike lane.  It’s not practical.  And I just can’t can’t get behind road diets on heavily accessed industrial roads.  It’s just not safe.

***

It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who disagrees with the idea of ‘road diets’.  Something tells me this letter writer in today’s Standard represents a bigger number of motorists in the City than some may think.  The tone is a little more confrontational than I might take, but the point should be readily apparent to all.  And it’s a valid point:

We don’t live in a bicycle friendly culture! Due to high rates of theft, a bike commuter needs to travel with chains and locks — an inordinate amount in the case of a better bike.

Because of the deplorable road conditions in the city, it’s difficult to navigate them with a car, let alone a bicycle.

And yet, John Bacher, in a recent letter, argues for more bike lanes in the city — the so-called ‘road diet’ ( Bad decision on bike lanes, Aug. 28).

As a motorist and a bicyclist, I find the bike lanes to be superfluous. Constricted motoring lanes only add to traffic jams that already exist at peak times. Idling cars and commercial vehicles equal more carbon emissions.

Of course, ‘eco-radicals’ would argue that if motorists are inconvenienced, they will become bicyclists. Ain’t gonna happen!

The vast majority of motorists are courteous — I don’t need a bike lane to feel safer.

As for low-income folks, most already qualify for free bus vouchers from various social service agencies.

For those of us who are fed up with the road diet, the upcoming municipal election would be the ideal time to let John Bacher — and those of his ilk who are current councillors and council aspirants — know that he is not welcome at the city council table.

Philip Dyck St. Catharines

As another motorist and cyclist (I bike to work in Niagara Falls when I have the chance), I think bike lanes in residential areas and non-primary arterial roads would be a good idea. You can’t, however, put major traffic routes and industrial area roads on ‘road diets’ – as the writer says, traffic will only get worse. That won’t get people out of their cars, though – it will simply lead to more carbon emissions and road rage.

Kudos, again, to Councillor Secord for asking for the bike policy to be revisited.

A whole new meaning to running for council

Marty Mako and Mathew Siscoe aim to bring awareness to the need for an active lifestyle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 15th, 2010

St. Catharines, ON – Marty Mako and Mathew Siscoe are ‘running’ for council in more ways than one.  The city council candidates for Port Dalhousie and St. Patrick’s wards respectively will be taking part in this weekend’s “Run for the Grapes” half-marathon, part of the Niagara Wine Festival, in an effort to show leadership in physical fitness in the community.

“St. Catharines has taken a lot of flack over the last few years for a perceived ‘lack of fitness’, and Marty and I thought this would be a good way to lead the effort in combating that negative image.  We both deal with health and fitness on a daily basis, we both love to run, and we’re both running for council, so we thought the ‘Run for the Grapes’ would be a great fit” said Siscoe, a Physics teacher and high school football coach.

“I interact with a lot of young people every day, and my message to them is always that being active is the single best thing they can do to stay healthy.”

For Mako, a Health Promoter with Niagara Region Public Health, increasing awareness about the need to stay active is his day job.  “Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer are the leading causes of death in Niagara.  Although they are among the most common and costly health problems, the good news is they are also among the most preventable.  Making healthy choices such as being physically active every day, eating healthy foods, and living tobacco free goes a long way to prevent and help control the effects of these diseases.”

According to Mako, along with combating chronic disease, increasing physical activity levels has been shown to reduce blood pressure, prevent back pain, improve your mood and self-esteem, and even prevent osteoporosis.

Given the bad press that has been attached to St. Catharines in the past – the city was dubbed ‘Canada’s fattest’ in 2001 – the pair of council-hopefuls think the ‘Run for the Grapes’ half-marathon provides a unique opportunity for them to be active role models while they work towards positions of leadership in the community.  “I got into my job because I’m deeply committed to building a healthy, active Niagara.  This is important to me personally and professionally.  We’re not saying that everyone needs to run a half marathon in order to be healthy.  We just hope our efforts will inspire others to get active, their way, every day.  Every step counts.” said Mako.

Siscoe is in full agreement on that.  “We need to lead by doing; no matter what the issue is.  If you can’t expect that from your community leaders, then why should they hope for you to do the same?  It’s important that civic leaders be the change they want to see.”

The 33rd annual Standard Run for the Grapes half-marathon starts at 9am on Sunday, September 19th from Montebello Park in St. Catharines.  A 5k race will begin at 9:15am.

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A worthwhile debate on tree bylaw

A good article in the Standard today regarding the proposed Urban Forestry Bylaw.  I made my viewpoint clear in my submission to City Hall back here, and expressed that pretty succinctly to the reporter when contacted:

Several would-be councillors have already come out for and against the idea of a private property tree bylaw. We contacted St. Patrick’s ward candidates for their thoughts.

Teacher Mat Siscoe has posted his opposition to the bylaw online, arguing homeowners deserve the right to make changes to their properties “with minimal interference from the city.”

I also tried to be pretty clear that this seemed like a bit of a no-issue – I don’t believe there’s been a rash of old, large trees being cut down, so I’m not sure why the City feels the need to start infringing on property owners rights to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.  We all see the value of trees on our lots – they’re not just nice to look at, they actually add monetary value to the property.

Given the state of trees on public property, it seems to me the City has its priorities misplaced.

The need for transparency at Council

How did your City Councillor vote on the last budgetary issue where taxpayer money was spent?

The truth is, unless someone asked for a recorded vote before it was taken, you won’t find out.  Votes at Council are done by visual inspection, and as a regular attendee at Council I can vouch for the fact that sometimes Councillors don’t even raise their hands.  While I’m sure to some this would seem like a small issue, there are taxpayers in the city who want to know who is making what decision when it comes to their money.

So I have a simple message to voters; if I am elected, I pledge to ensure that at any vote I am involved in that deals with spending taxpayer’s money, I will ask for a recorded vote.  While it may slow the proceedings down, I think it’s important that a record be formed so that voters can keep tabs on how Councillors vote to spend their money.