Advocacy at Work: Changing a Sign in Favour of Cyclists


Access to the Farm is poor, when the gates are closed.
Access to the Farm is poor when the gates are closed.

I have been advocating for better access to the Experimental Farm. It took nearly two years before I finally got a chance to talk to some one. Initially, I just rang the door bell at one of the administrative buildings. You have to start somewhere and I am not a big fan of firing off emails. The lady who opened the door referred me to some internal call centre guy who never called me back, after several phone calls from me. It didn’t go anywhere, as expected in the bureaucracy.

No through traffic on Irving Ave in Ottawa to cut down on traffic taking a short cut to Carling I assume.
No through traffic on Irving Ave in Ottawa to cut down on traffic taking a short cut to Carling I assume. This is Irving north bound.

Central Experimental Farm Advisory Council

Eventually, I had a chance to become part of the Central Experimental Farm Advisory Council (yes, there is such a thing) as a representative for the Federation of Community Associations (yes there is such a thing too). At the same time, I put a document together for Councillor Maria McRae’s office as the Farm is in her ward. The Farm is run by Agriculture Canada, the path by the NCC but the peripheral access infrastructure by the city. Indeed, Ottawa is a complicated city if you want to get something changed. You have to start chipping away somewhere though. After having met with Councillor McRae’s office (Thank you Nicole Espenant), I asked for a meeting with Farm staff in order not to take too much time of Farm Council’s time. I presented all the good stuff that is going on in Ottawa, showed a number of stats and asked for several changes. I learned that the Farm has tried to get Bixi bike stations this year, has added more bike racks and is happy to do something for the community. (that is before they announced lay offs last week). It was a very positive and engaging meeting.

Brand new bike racks waiting to be employed at the Farm earlier this year
Brand new bike racks waiting to be employed at the Farm earlier this year.

Closed gates

Anyway, when the Farm gates are closed, pedestrians and cyclists have to negotiate pretty bad access conditions, with concrete curbs, metal poles, serious dips in disappearing gravel and sharp angles to get around the gates. It is also really too bad that they don’t plow the Farm in winter, as it will be a great connection in the eventual winter bike routes. Which I mentioned. They did bring a plow out at the end of the winter and plowed McGooey Lane three weeks before the last snow disappeared.

proper access to the Farm  from Irving was technically not allowed.
proper access to the Farm from Irving was technically not allowed.

Poor access

Fisher, Merivale and Prince of Wales are the only access roads for the people living south of the Farm, not ideal. There are about 31,000 people living immaterially south and south west of the Farm.

From the north end, Irving provides a nice access from Civic Hospital and Hintonburg residents, but once you get closer to the top of the hill of Irving, approaching Carling, on your way to cross at that enormous intersection, there is a “no through traffic” sign (See picture further above). I asked Councilllor McRae’s office in October last year if that could be adjusted with a “bicycles excepted” sign as it was silly not being allowed to use Irving to have access to the Farm. And let’s face it, every cyclist probably ignores the sign anyway. I never heard back, got already annoyed, but low and behold, last week I am cycling up the hill and there is the sign: Bicycles excepted”. Advocacy is a slow process and you need a lot of patience. There is a lot more to do, but there is a another, albeit small success: the steady wins the race!

There she is, the new bicycles accepted sign, taken  at night coming from a meeting at Citizens for Safe Cycling last week.
There she is, the new bicycles excepted sign, taken at night coming from a Citizens for Safe Cycling meeting last week.
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