Whose Foot is on the Gas?

People routinely ask for reduced speed limits within neighbourhoods and refer to other communities that have lowered speeds to 40 km/hour. People believe that speed kills and those vulnerable road users including pedestrians (seniors and children in particular) as well as cyclists are at risk of injury. They are right, according to City transportation information, “the likelihood of survival in a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian is approximately 15 per cent when the vehicle is travelling at 50 km/h. However, the likelihood of survival increases to 75 per cent when the vehicle is travelling at 40 km/h or below.”

The City is trying some lower speed limits within a few residential neighbourhoods until spring 2021 (Eastbridge, Old Abby and Westvale). The signage will be posted and the lower limits will come into effect in July 2020.

It is fascinating to me that comments on the idea do not centre on supporting a behavioural change, personal leadership or a willingness to adhere to the lower speed. Rather, the comments are about spending “tax dollars” related to “forcing” compliance through street redesign, installation of traffic calming devices and/or police enforcement.

In addition to costing money, these ideas are poor ones.  Street redesign takes years to study, communicate with the neighbourhood, design, and install.  Most traffic calming creates horrible backlash from those who want the traffic calmed, but do not want on-street parking removed in front of their homes or their lands (City easement) used for a roundabout or the pedestrian refuge island blocking their driveway access.  

Information around speed bumps say they increase traffic noise, can damage vehicles and they slow first responders.  Imagine if your loved one is having a heart attack or your house is on fire. According to the October 16, 2017 today.com article by Jeff Rossen and Josh Davis “Research shows that 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to escape a house fire.  Today it is down to three or four minutes. The reason: Newer homes and the furniture inside them actually burn faster. A lot faster.”

Do people really believe police traffic enforcement is our #1 issue in the Region? Geez whiz folks, people are dying from drug overdoses! Further, a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says Waterloo Region is the least safe major city for women to live in Canada.

If you want to help keep taxes at or below inflation rates, if you want to support police services to be delivered where they are needed and if you want to see traffic speeds reduced in your neighbourhood then simply take your foot off the gas.

Diane

2020-2022 Budget Release

On Monday December 9, 2019 the draft of the 2020 – 2022 operating and capital budgets and the 2023 – 2029 capital budget forecast was released (in principle) for Council consideration. Staff will be seeking council’s approval of this budget on Feb. 10, 2020. The budget documents can be downloaded and viewed at the following on-line location https://www.waterloo.ca/en/government/budgets.aspx.

Highlights of the proposed three-year budget include:

  • A net operating budget of $79 million in 2020; $83 million in 2021 and $87 million in 2022
  • For 2020-2022, $2.4 million in budget efficiencies, and revenue opportunities (including budget adjustments from previous years) have been identified and included in the proposed budget submission before council
  • $658.8 million of capital spending for the next 10 years with 58 per cent of spending going toward road reconstruction, facility expansion and refurbishment and park expansion, rehabilitation and sidewalk and trail improvements
  • Base budget and operating impact of capital and growth are increasing 1.7 – 1.9 per cent, which is comparable to the rate of inflation. Service level increases and infrastructure investments bring the average property tax increase to a total of 3.4 per cent for each year which works out to an average annual proposed property tax household increase over 2020 – 2022 of $45.39
  • Annual average utility rate increase of 3.9 per cent which works out to an average annual proposed utilities rate increase over 2020-2022 of $43.70 (including the Region of Waterloo’s portion of $17.88 annual average)

Get involved!
Between now and budget day on Feb. 10, 2020, elements of the budget will be featured as part of the following regular council meetings:

Jan. 13, 20, 27, 2020 – Department business plans are presented to council
Jan. 13, 2020 – City utility rates are approved
Feb. 3, 2020 – Proposed capital budget is presented to council
Feb. 10, 2020 – Three-year operating and capital budgets are approved, a capital forecast for 2023 to 2029, in principle, is approved and a summary of the public engagement results is presented to council

Residents are encouraged to attend these council meetings to learn more about the city’s proposed budget. In addition, between Dec. 10, 2019 and Jan. 11, 2020, the city is hosting a public engagement survey to collect feedback from residents regarding the priorities set through the proposed budget. Visit engagewr.ca/waterloo after Dec. 10, 2019 for more details.

Community building unites us in improving quality of life

Waterloo Chronicle Article – March 18, 2019

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a columnist.  I plan to use this space to explore ways that together, as a city and a community, we can grow as a place where everyone feels like someone really cares. 

I believe that if we truly cared more about one another, then we would care to drive through neighbourhoods at or below the speed limit; that we would want to be the house with the ice-free sidewalk;and that we would see sharing our roads with all road users as an expectation.

I grew up on a crescent in Woodstock, Ontario.  I remember so vividly the “make shift” BBQs that organically occurred, where lawn chairs, children and adults migrated into a neighbours yard.  These get togethers fostered a strong sense of safety and well-being.  We knew when our neighbours were traveling and if we needed to shovel their driveway.  We knew when someone was sick because they had not been seen walking around the block.  We knew if someone had received bad news or a death in the family; then food was made with love and delivered to show both solidarity and support. 

Loneliness and isolation is a growing concern in Canada and we need to find ways to see, hear and talk to one another.  

In 2018, City of Waterloo Council approved the city’s first neighbourhood strategy. This plan “encourages neighbour interaction, empowers residents to lead and commits the city to an enabling corporate culture.”  I am so encouraged by my new colleagues on council who, during the budget conversation, said we need to support this work, fund it and make it happen.  

What excites me the most about the neighbourhood strategy is that it was developed by neighbours for neighbours.  While there is certainly, a role for the city related to implementation, the strategycreates a vision for resident-led neighbourhood community building. Essentially, this strategy encourages the city to support volunteer capacity building and then “get out of the way”.  We need to let those leaders do what they do best and strengthen their neighbourhoods through organizing neighbourhood specific events for people to gather , share experiences, meet one another, make new friends, and learn new things.

On March 4, council approved the Uptown Public Realm Strategy.  I hope residents have a chance to look at this document.  Many citizens participated in building the strategy and it speaks directly to how uptown can continue to transform with a clear focus on creating places and spaces for people to be.  I firmly believe that we need to find ways to interact with each other in such a way that people feel apart of a bigger community.  It is my hope that through implementation of the uptown public realm strategy Waterloo willcontinue to view uptown as a unique place that fosters togetherness, encourages people to go out, walk a dog and enjoy the sunshine. 

Most importantly, I hope uptown, like our neighbourhoods, will be a place where we can find a way, everyday, to pause, see one another, say hello and demonstrate how much we care.

Diane Freeman, P.Eng., FEC, FCAE, Councillor, Ward 4, City of Waterloo 

Career Insight Event – Lester B. Pearson

Professional Engineers talking to students about careers in Engineering

Jason Kipfer of Eastbridge Business Connections, “hit it out of the park” with his home run “Career Insights from Industry Professionals”  event at Lester B. Pearson Public School on Wednesday March 6, 2019.

The day was divided into two parts, where the first saw over 40 mentors providing three 30 minute industry-themed classroom discussions. Students moved from class to class and heard from one of the 12 industry specific panels.

The students then relocated to the gymnasium where they listened to two featured panel discussions “investment in education”, and “the big picture”.

I was thrilled to participate in the Engineering mentors panel along with four others.

Thanks Jason!

Waterloo City Councillor will be criss-crossing the country sharing ways municipalities can fight climate change – Record Article, January 29, 2019

City of Waterloo Coun. Diane Freeman has been named one of four municipal “climate champions” by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. – Peter Lee , Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — As municipalities across Canada work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, a local politician will help guide those discussions.

City of Waterloo Coun. Diane Freeman has been named one of four municipal “climate champions” by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. She plans to highlight local actions to demonstrate ways cities and towns can contribute in the fight against a warming planet.

“I’m very excited. I see a real opportunity for the Region of Waterloo to be showcased across Canada with regard to our climate change efforts as a city and a region,” said Freeman. “And I look forward to working with the stakeholders in our region to be a messenger of their great work.”

That includes local projects like the conversion of tens of thousands of local street lights to more efficient LED technology, the construction of Evolv1 (Canada’s first net-positive, zero-carbon office building) and grassroots organizations such as Sustainable Waterloo Region and the environmental charity Reep Green Solutions.

According to the federation, Freeman and the other three climate champions will “share knowledge and expertise with fellow elected officials in communities of all sizes and speak at events across the country.” They will “aim to inspire and support peers taking climate action in communities from coast to coast to coast.”

Last year, the Region of Waterloo and the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge unanimously endorsed a target of reducing greenhouse gas reduction by 80 per cent by 2050. According to Climate Action WR, the region reduced emissions by 5.2 per cent between 2010 and 2015 — the equivalent of taking nearly 60,000 cars off the road.

UN report released in October found global emissions must drop by 45 per cent before 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2075 to avoid surpassing the 1.5 C increase in global temperatures now considered the “safe” upper limit of global warming.

The problem is more complicated than simply reducing emissions, though, as some climate change impacts, such as more intense storms, are already occurring. A study released in November found that Canadian municipalities need to do a better job developing climate change adaptation strategies.

The three other municipal leaders are Taylor Bachrach, mayor of Smithers, B.C., former City of Ottawa councillor David Chernushenko, and Laval Coun. Virginie Dufour.

Freeman had to apply to the position and submit a resume, and was also interviewed. She won’t be paid for the role but will be reimbursed for her expenses.

First elected to city council in 2006, representing Ward 4, Freeman has been on the board of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Share the Road cycling coalition, where she helped deliver Ontario’s first bike summit. That summit led to the creation of the Bicycle Friendly Community Awards in Ontario in 2010, and the first provincial cycling strategy.

The City of Waterloo is one of three gold ranked cycling communities in the province, along with Ottawa and Toronto. Kitchener is ranked silver and Cambridge is bronze.

Freeman said she has been a champion for building accessible communities by planning, funding and installing sidewalks, trails and dedicated bicycle infrastructure, all of which reduces the municipal reliance on cars or trucks.

She is also a professional engineer and was president of Professional Engineers Ontario in 2010-201

jjackson@therecord.com

jjackson@therecord.com

The on-line article can be found at: https://www.therecord.com/news-story/9148470-waterloo-city-councillor-will-be-criss-crosing-the-country-sharing-ways-municipalities-can-fight-climate-change/

Some December 2018 Updates:

Interested in knowing what is happening on the active transportation front in City of Waterloo? Subscribe to the quarterly newsletter called Cycling the City at: https://tinyurl.com/y7tnw9k9

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More information on Great Events can be found at:

Active Transportation Investments Build Accessible Communities

Cities do not build active transportation corridors for cyclists, they build them for people.  When you take the time to actually spend time on the off-road network of trails and dedicated multi-use trails you will observe that the majority of users are pedestrians; people jogging, walking and individuals pushing strollers, exercising dogs, using accessibility devices like wheelchairs, walkers and canes and overall, people seeking to maintain and improve their health.  The investment in these spaces is not typically property tax supported, but Gas Tax supported.  If you want to take a “pot-shot” at cyclists you could say they don’t pay into the Gas tax, but the evidence is clear; the majority of cyclists are also vehicle owners/users.

When we look at on-road cycling infrastructure here are a few facts for consideration:

  1. Painting a bike lane on a road achieves some important and valuable things including:
    • Traffic “calming” by narrowing the travel lane for cars.
    • Reminding all road users how to share the road.
    • Buffering traffic from pedestrians on the sidewalk. This dramatically improves the pedestrian experience especially on roads that have no boulevard.
  2. Paint is cheap. The City’s budget for road painting is driven primarily by the increase in the overall road network then by painting a few sections with a “bike lane”.
  3. Most cycling advocates will tell you that painting a white line is not considered cycling infrastructure. In many cases, especially on rural roads, the white line is designating the road edge as opposed to creating a “bike lane”.

As someone who had been involved in two motor vehicles collisions, I know that I am only a temporarily able bodied person (TAP), all of us are TAPs.  For many, the Active Transportation corridors provide people with independence to get from one place to another because they are not car owners or drivers.  Imagine telling people 100 years ago that we were going to invest millions to build dead end roads that serve ten homes; they would think we were wasting their property tax dollars for certain.

There are many, many times I see and cycle on roads where there is not a single car in sight, but you know what? The city built those roads. Why? Because it was the right thing to do!