Thursday, October 28, 2010

Redefining Success

A new way of thinking is struggling to be born. It is defined by cities with fantastic public spaces and smaller private living spaces; by walking, cycling, and taking transit more, and driving less; by living sustainably, and not off the backs of future generations; and by your health, relationships, and leaving this place a little better than you found, not how much money you have.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Follow-up to Active Communities Pledge Campaign

Candidates who have taken the Active Communities Pledge in Vaughan:
Ward 1: Robert Irwin, Basil Marcello, Peter Meffe, Marilyn Iafrate, Teresa Chiappetta; Ward 2: Tony Carella, Darlo Di Giannantonio; Ward 4: Mary Ruffalo, Sandra Yeung Racco; Ward 5: Bernie Green; Local and Regional Councillor: Joanna Cacciola-Lionti, Robert Craig, John Ross Harvey, Krystof Klabouch, Deb Schulte, Carrie Liddy; Mayor: David Natale.

Here is the follow-up article:

Vaughan candidates take up riding challenge

By Adam Martin-Robbins

October 22, 2010

Several candidates in Vaughan’s municipal election race have committed to transforming the city into a bike-friendly community. Sixteen out of 45 political hopefuls — but only a few incumbents — have risen to Shawn Smith’s challenge and taken the Active Communities Pledge. “It’s a great sign that people, especially some of the new people, are supportive of cycling,” the Maple resident said. “I think of all the municipalities, Vaughan has the most or second most (signatures).”

The pledge is an online initiative by the Share the Road Coalition. It asks candidates across Ontario to support Bill 174, which would require motorists to give at least one metre of clearance when passing cyclists, commit to making their municipality a bike-friendly community by applying to the Bike Friendly Community program and promote “active transportation” such as biking and walking.

Mr. Smith e-mailed candidates at the beginning of October inviting them to take the pledge.
Regional council candidate Deb Schulte took the pledge then went one step further. Her supporters joined members of the Woodbridge Cycling Club to ride around Vaughan Oct. 17 for a first-hand look at the challenges cyclists face when peddling throughout the community.

“We are not a suburban city anymore,” she said. “We are turning into a urban city with real urban problems and if we’re going to get congestion under control, we’re going to have to look to all of the options.” There are also health and environmental benefits to having a city that is easy to travel around on foot or by bicycle, she said.

“It works elsewhere so it could work here, if we got it done properly,” said Ms Schulte, who was born in England and has travelled extensively for work. “It’s really about health; it’s for trying to provide another option for people and building a more complete, holistic city. And it’s not that difficult to do, that’s the frustrating part. It really just takes a commitment. We have a plan already. We did the plan years ago but where’s the political will to make it happen?”

When it comes to providing infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, Vaughan is lagging far behind cities such as Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and towns such as Markham, Mr. Smith said.
“Vaughan certainly needs better pedestrian and bike infrastructure: a network of sidewalks, pathways and bike lanes that take you anywhere you want to go,” said Mr. Smith, an avid cyclist who regularly rides to work. “It is too often treacherous for those who choose to travel in Vaughan by bike or two feet.”

Mr. Smith said the city has failed to consider the needs of cyclists and pedestrians when designing and building roads. He points to the McNaughton Road extension, which was built “with only the car in mind,” and the Teston Road Hwy. 400 interchange, where an opportunity to add bike lanes was missed. “There are many other things that can be done from encouraging businesses to have end-of-trip facilities, like showers, so people can bike to work to promoting the Safe Routes to School program so parents feel comfortable letting their kids bike and walk to school,” Mr. Smith added.

Candidates can take the Active Communities Pledge right up to Oct. 25. A list of those who have signed on is available at

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Discover more on your bicycle

My family recently spent a few hours cycling the Bartley-Smith Greenway from our home in Maple all the way to the north part of Toronto's G. Ross Lord Park. The Bartley-Smith Greenway is a hidden gem in the City of Vaughan. The newest section, from Jacob Keffer Parkway to the end of Planchet Rd has yet to be discovered except by a few keen nature enthusiasts like myself. There were almost no footprints and we didn't pass a single soul. The section south of Langstaff had some joggers, dog walkers, and families out for a stroll, though once south of Steeles Ave in Toronto, it got noticeably busier. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a park, thoroughly enjoying the splendors of this beautiful Fall day.

The challenge to political candidates has been made in Vaughan. Let's build a bicycle friendly city! [from Vaughan Citizen, Oct 10, 2010, pg 5]...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cycling at the Speed of Life

This morning I participated in a "Ride for Change" bike ride through Vaughan organized by the Deb Schulte Campaign to show support for cycling. Deb has a history in athletics and is very pro-cycling. She would like to build a city that includes everybody, including cyclists - whether they cycle for transportation, or for leisure. Deb is one of 13 municipal candidates in the upcoming Vaughan election who have so far taken the Active Communities Pledge to show their support for making Vaughan a bicycle friendly community.

An article in the National Post on Saturday, July 24, 2010 entitled "Gridlocked in Suburbia" noted a recent MoneySense survey that ranked Vaughan dead last out of 179 Canadian cities in the category of "walk or bike to work", relying on Statistics Canada data that found less than 2% of the population used either method. The City of Vaughan and York Region need to get moving with implementation of their bicycle master plan.

York Region is planning to issue a bike map in 2011. I have taken the liberty of starting my own online cycling map of Maple. The green lines are good cycling routes, yellow take caution, the red need improvement, and I've also added some comments about pedestrian issues at various locations.

Vaughan certainly needs better pedestrian and bike infrastructure: a network of sidewalks, pathways, and bike lanes that take you anywhere you want to go. It's not a war against the car... it's about getting more people on bikes. It is too often treacherous for those who choose to travel in Vaughan by bike or two feet. Pedestrians and bicycles should be considered in all future road planning, and not just leave it up to the developers to decide. The 4-lane McNaughton Rd extension that was built a few years ago, which passes the Maple GO Station, was clearly built with only the car in mind. Also the Teston Road / 400 interchange that I rode through today.

My favourite part of the ride today was seeing Keele Street teeming with bicycles on both sides of the street. Amazing! Perhaps, some time in the future, Vaughan will be like that every day. The culture will have to change, and it starts with our City's leadership. Until then, I cycle on, and I can't help smiling along the way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The beauty of autumn

(Hiking the King City trail system with my family on Thanksgiving weekend)

As a birdwatcher, photographer, and nature-lover, autumn is like a dream for me. Crimson, auburn, and golden hues are ablaze, a cool fresh breeze sweeps a flurry of leaves across my path as a breath in deeply. Ahhhh, I love autumn. A feeling of nostalgia hits me: I recall, as a child, pressing leaves between wax paper, and hiking a leaf-covered forest path, swishing beneath my feet. We have but 100 autumns to enjoy, if we’re lucky. Do you have your eyes closed to the beauty around you? One of the biggest legacies of our provincial goverment is the Greenbelt. Get outside and live it. Be like a three year old and discover your world again for the first time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

World's Longest Traffic Jam... 100km and 10 days

Chinese authorities are battling to end the world's longest traffic jam, a 100-kilometre-long gridlock stretching from Beijing to the northern province of Inner Mongolia.

The jam on the main north-south motorway into the Chinese capital has lasted 10 days and has been blamed on the construction of a road that will not be finished until next month.

Trucks joining the back of queue in Inner Mongolia were travelling at an average speed of only 3.5 kilometres a day.

The jam has spawned a thriving local economy with opportunists and some extortionists selling fruit, nuts, water and instant noodles to the marooned drivers, many of whom spend their time playing cards.

China is undergoing a huge expansion of its national road system.