Cycling in Uptown: we've still got a long way to go

What does cycling infrastructure do for a city? If you were out on Thursday evening, the impact was clear to see. 

Ambrosia Pastry's weekly food truck bonanza was hopping -- and the bike rack was full. The trails were busy with runners, cyclists and walkers. The re-opened, separated cycling trail through Waterloo Park was an utter delight.

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Tasty treats ahoy!

And on King Street, the new bike lanes were a big improvement on what we had, but still utterly short of what we need. Oh, and one was blocked by a pile of boxes.

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Ahem...

I experienced all this on my "Cycle with the Candidate" ride with CycleWR volunteer Jane Snyder. We met Uptown and pedalled off into the night. We visited the intersections that most concern us (including Caroline at Alexandra and the Spur Line at Union) and tried out the new infrastructure Uptown and in Waterloo Park.

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It was not just a lovely night out. This infrastructure is essential. Without a decent grid of lanes that actually connect, cyclists aren't safe. Cycling infrastructure also supports other things, like walking trails, safer streets, and reduced traffic congestion. I'll fight for it at City Hall, and I'll be a vocal advocate for it when dealing with the Region.

*

Before my ride, I asked Twitter what issues people find most pressing in Waterloo. Here's a few of the responses:

Kathy Mortimer said there aren't enough places for kids to ride without an experienced guide. Carly Greco finds that a minimum grid is lacking, with many bike lanes on major roads vanishing at intersections (we're looking at you, University). The PowerShift folks lamented a general misunderstanding of the rules of the road. And Geoff Bell said he'd love to see better maintenance of the on-road bike lanes.

I'd love to hear your main cycling issues. Tweet me @TenilleUptown or drop a note on the "Tenille Bonoguore for Uptown" Facebook page.

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Cyclists count.

Literally.

Happy Canada Day!

There are many things to love about Canada, from the usual beauty, freedom and seasons, to the less-appreciated quirks like butter tarts, Screech and the word "toque".

But possibly the thing I love most is that -- after 150 years as a country -- Canada is still busy with the work of creating itself. Cities are creating new forms of urbanism as we try to protect our farmland from endless sprawl. Citizens are creating new modes of connection in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and #MeToo. Communities are implementing creative efforts to address, and hopefully reduce, the impacts of climate change. This is a country that pushes to be better. 

It's not perfect yet, but no country is. And that gives us all an opportunity. It means we all have a chance to make something in our neighbourhood, in our city, in our country, a little bit better.

For me, that's one fine reason to celebrate. Happy Canada Day. 

 

 

The Grand Porch Party that started it all

  Launching the first Grand Porch Party in 2011.

Launching the first Grand Porch Party in 2011.

When I started the Grand Porch Party back in 2011 — having only moved to the area a
few months earlier — I had no idea what it would become. At the time, it was an
experiment, a way to meet my neighbours while building something unique.

I spent weeks knocking on strangers’ doors, asking to borrow their porches. I reached out to musicians and asked if they’d be willing to play for lunch kindly donated by the Princess Cafe. Surprisingly, people on both sides said yes.

When the first event dawned, we still didn’t know if anyone would come. But as I turned
the corner onto Menno Street, there they were: dozens of people milling about, curious,
open, enthusiastic. My heart soared, and soon, too, did the music.

Since that first “try it and see”, the GPP has become a staple of the summer arts scene.
We gained awesome local sponsors to pay our musicians. We inspired three more
events in Kitchener and Cambridge, so that Waterloo Region now has a porch party
from May through August
. We won the Waterloo Region Arts Award for Best New
Festival in 2013. (Long-time GPP volunteer Anna Beard was kind enough to collect the
award for me — I was busy in the Grand River NICU with my five-day-old twins.)

Closer to home, the GPP ignited efforts to create the Uptown West Neighbourhood
Association
, which is still going strong. It shared music and community with people of all
ages and all abilities. It also inspired anonymous artists to create their own one-day GPP
installations, which appear and then disappear just as quietly as the GPP itself.

Today, an amazing group of volunteers runs the Grand Porch Party, bringing fresh ideas
and new energy. It truly is the community’s event, and I could not be more proud nor
more thankful for the team’s efforts to keep the magic going.

The Grand Porch Party is more than an afternoon of art and community. It is everything
this City can be when communities are empowered to make something bold, together.
And that is why I am now running for Waterloo City Council. I want to bring the GPP’s
spirit of individual empowerment, shared space, environmental awareness and inclusive
access — the vibrant power of community — into Council Chambers.

So if you have great ideas for this City, or you just want to say hi, come find me at the
GPP. I’ll be the one with a wheelbarrow of watermelon and one mighty proud smile at
what this community — and this City — can do.

(Post originally published on the Grand Porch Party blog.)

Why I want to be your next City Councillor

It is with great excitement that I am running to be the next Uptown Councillor representing Ward 7.

Since starting the Grand Porch Party in 2011, I have been an active advocate for a vibrant, inclusive City. I will bring this community-centred approach to Waterloo City Council.

I will advocate for neighbourhoods, support local business, and collaborate for smart approaches to intensification. I will push to make sure Uptown remains vibrant, diverse, and healthy. I want the City's heart to be a place that anyone can call home.

As a journalist, I've explored and explained urban issues, environmental issues and politics from local council to federal Parliament. Every day, I make sense of big concepts and complex ideas. 

As a community builder, I started the Grand Porch Party, co-chaired Open Streets, worked to advance the Region's climate action plan, and collaborated to build stronger neighbourhoods.

As a mom of twins, I know how important accessibility, services, and green spaces are. I also know how important it is to balance a budget and to plan for the future.

This is a critical time in our City's life. I believe that we can build a healthy future, together.

Great family day-trips (that won't break the bank)

With the arrival (finally!) of Spring, I decided to dedicate this week's CBC KW Parenting column to a very important issue: how to have fun with your kids! I snooped around, chatted with people, and took some inspiration from our own family outings to put together this list of family-friendly parks, hikes, and outings. 

For little ones: Guelph, Stratford and Dundas should be on your radar. 

  • Guelph's Exhibition Park is huge, has lots of amenities, and a great playground. Bonus: It's not far from the city centre, where you can also splash about in the wading pool right at the doorstep of town hall.
  • Stratford has parkland all along the river, easy paved trails to toddle along (or push a stroller), ice cream, and washrooms.
  • Dundas has a natural playground on Matilda Street, a big area for running around at the Driving Park, and dozens of waterfalls! Tews and Webster Falls on the escarpment can be pricey, but head to Ancaster and you can visit the Tiffany, Washboard and Sherman falls for the cost of parking.

For hikes: We're spoiled with the GRCA, but if you're after something different, set your sights on Halton. Rattlesnake Point on the Niagara Escarpment near Milton has short hikes, a lookout, and 800 year old cedars. Nearby Hilton Falls has two shortish hikes that have toilets along the route, great trails and a lovely waterfall. BONUS:  You can visit both on the same day using just one ticket. Score!

Accessible spaces: We want to make sure everyone can have a great time. While I couldn't find any outdoor spaces that were specifically autism-friendly, here are a few good options for families needing some extra accommodation.

  • Stait Park in Fergus is fully accessible, including accessible swing, and ramps instead of
  • stairs.
  • The Woodland Trail at Crawford Lake -- near Milton -- is completely wheelchair accessible. (Explore the Iroquoian village while you're there.)
  • At the south end of the Region, Churchill Park in Cambridge has a wheelchair-accessible playground and nature trails.

Special outings: Sometimes, you just wanna bust out of your comfort zone. My girls love the Mountsberg Raptor Centre, a Halton park that gives a "forever home" to raptor birds
that can't survive in the wild. Think owls, eagles, hawks, vultures. You can see them all,
watch a flying display, play in the adventure barn, explore the fields. Has a small snack
bar, but you can bring your own picnic (and good luck getting your kids to leave at the end of the day). It costs around $26 for a family of four (kids four and under free). BONUS: Your ticket gets you into all Halton Parks that day -- go on a hike, too!

Put your bikes on the car and go for a trail ride. The Cambridge-to-Paris rail trail feels a long
way from the city. Riding through Carolinian forest, beside the Grand River. 18km of trail
and three access points along the way. For littler legs, consider the Elora Cataract Trailway between Elora and Fergus. 

Have I missed something? Let me know in the comments! And happy Spring!

Great kids make a great city

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the (very popular) State of the City address by Mayor Dave Jaworsky this morning ... and a group of Grade 5 kids stole the show. Earlier this year, children from across the city submitted their ideas for how to make Waterloo even better. Today, eight boys and girls are spending the day as Councillors (and Mayor). So what do these young'uns want to see in their city? Some ideas were:

  • More art across the city
  • Better access to sports for child refugees and newcomers
  • Outreach and support for homeless people
  • Coordination of garbage pick-up in local parks
  • And the one that got the most rousing response: Allowing backyard firepits   

Suggestions from previous years have been adopted by Council. I can't wait to see some of this year's ideas become a reality. And if these kids are our future, we're in pretty good shape.