The Garden City Plan

An article in the St. Catharines Standard discussing the city’s “blueprint for the future” caught my attention this morning. The draft of the City’s new official plan is available online and makes for quite an interesting read. Of particular interest to me were the following points:

1) “The City will balance the provision of a safe, functional, and attractive pedestrian and cycling oriented environment with an acceptable level of vehicular traffic” and “The city will encourage alternative forms of transportation that promote energy conservation and a healthy lifestyle.”

2) “The City should establish a minimum 1 %, and work towards a target of a minimum 3 %, of the capital budget of all major public buildings and structures, for the provision of public art.”

There are, of course, many more things discussed in this document, but I find these two particularly encouraging!

There will be a series of open houses and presentations in the coming weeks so that members of the community can find out more about the plan and have their say.

Notes from the Great Car-Free Experiment

The Great Car-Free Experiment continues and I’m happy to report that things are going well. Of course it is easier because I am attempting to get around in pleasant summer weather and I am on a summer timetable. I have, however, decided to take this experiment into September. I’ve been walking, biking, busing and car-pooling my way through August, and I want to see how long I can keep it up. I just cancelled my fall parking permit, so I guess that means I’m committed to this project.

The City of St. Catharines just announced another set of bike lanes, so this is certainly good news on the car-free front. The biggest challenge I’ve had with cycling around this region, however, is the lack of bike racks. I’ve been really surprised to discover just how hard it is to find a bike rack at retail centres. So far this has been the single biggest deterrent to getting around by bicycle. Today, for instance, I had to go to the grocery store — I could have easily biked, but I opted for the bus because I wasn’t sure if I’d find a place to lock up my bike in front of the grocery store. I thought I’d encounter more difficulties with the traffic, but that hasn’t been an issue as the drivers in this neighbourhood have been quite courteous. But bike racks? I didn’t anticipate this to be a problem. Come on people — there are all sorts of bike rack options out there, let’s work to make this region a little more bike-friendly!

Oh, and while I’m at it — how about making this dream of a regional transit a reality? I was chatting with a friend about going to see some plays this fall and I realized that it is easier for me to get to downtown Toronto (a distance of about 107km) to take in some theatre than it is for me to get into the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake (a distance of about 20km). What the heck?!

Buffleheads, Backyard Beauties & Bike Rides

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The weather has turned lovely and spring-like in the Niagara region, and I’ve been trying to get outdoors as much as possible. Throughout the winter we’ve been having occasional “Quack & Quaff” events — essentially, we go down to the lake and look at the ducks (that would be the “quack” part) and then head up the street to our favourite pub for a pint (or two). Over the past couple of weeks though, the weather has been so lovely that we’ve been going down to check out the duck action just about every day. (I’m not commenting on our beer consumption here). I’ve particularly enjoy watching the buffleheads, although I won’t admit to playing favourites. We’ve also noticed a funny little group of 3 ducks — 2 mallards and one white duck — that seem to stick together like glue. They just swim around in a little tripod formation, totally oblivious to the rest of the Port Dalhousie duck population. It is really cute to watch and I look for them each time we go down to the water.

And speaking of avian species, there is much action at the backyard feeders these days. In fact, I can hardly keep up with the demand for seed (although I suspect the fat squirrels in the yard might have something to do with this state of affairs). The typical cast of characters these days include: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, chickadees, juncos, mourning doves, and a couple of woodpeckers (can’t tell if they are the downy woodpeckers or the hairy woodpeckers). There are also robins hopping around in the yard. When we were kids sighting the first robin of the year was such an exciting event and a sure sign of spring. While it is still exciting to see the robins, I was a little startled to discover that so many of them stay put throughout the winter in Niagara. (a side note: the Grackles have returned, but I’m pretending I don’t see them)

One sure sign of spring is the number of bikes out on the road these days. I reacquainted myself with my zippy little Electra Cruiser yesterday and did some errands on two wheels. There are new bike lanes on Lake Street (thank you, City of St. Catharines), so I am much more inclined to use my bike as a commuter vehicle this year.