The (car-free) road, collective space, and happiness

Every week, all summer long, Ottawa transforms parts of the city into magical car-free spaces. For 4 magical hours, cars disappear from some of Ottawa’s most scenic roads and cyclists, rollerbladers, runners, strollers, and runners with strollers can happily co-exist on the expansive roads. It feels like a taste of a different reality, so far from the norm where cars rule the road and all other road users are relegated to (if we are lucky) a narrow path. While I can (and often do) wax poetic about the glory of separated bike paths, often on the busy pathways, there is a little bit of tension between these aforementioned active transportation modes, where the fast ones mutter as they pass the slow ones, who glare at the speedy menaces disturbing their leisurely meander. But not for these sacred 4 hours.

Here, we can see “all the people, living life in peace” and we don’t even need to imagine. Because here, in this shared space, there is enough room for harmony. Here on the wide open roadway, the spandex can sail by, while the tots on their push-bikes and training wheels can taste the joy of travelling under their own power, going as fast and as far as their legs and hearts want to go. What freedom!

As you may be able to surmise, I am a big fan of communal moments where people come together to share the same space. It particularly makes me smile when everyone is being active and exploring the beauty of our own city.

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells

While I wholeheartedly agree with H.G. Wells, I would add and important addition. Not only do I “not despair” but I am filled with the most marvellous hope. Hope that we can do better and be better. This hope grows 12 times it’s size when I see a whole family on bikes, knowing that these kids are growing up with the best role models of healthy living. Parents like these rad dads and their daughters, enjoying a sunny Father’s Day ride.

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As I rode down Colonel-By, the sun was shining, my wheels were spinning and I felt, to the tips of my toes, really truly happy.

Tiny, lovely observations

A few points from outside the mean of daily life; a sparkle that darts out of the standard deviation and dares to make life a tiny bit more beautiful.

– It you have not seen this yet, or if you are looking for the motivation to pull your bike out of the shed to cruise around your ‘hood, check out these happy dutch babies on bikes and remember the joy that comes with being King of the World

– Pedal go-carts. I’ll admit, I scoffed a little at first, but man are these fun! Bombing around a quiet subdivision on one of these is quite the hoot, particularly with your boyfriend riding in the trailer behind.

20140616-181419-65659012.jpgHave a great week everyone!!

 

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8 thoughts on “The (car-free) road, collective space, and happiness

    1. Right! It is really exciting to have a city embrace ideas like this. Bike Sunday road closures have existed in Ottawa since 1970 and have become an institution here. A great model for other towns/cities to consider!

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      1. I am originally from Ecuador, and I lived in a small village where bikes were not only for fun, but as a transportation tool for kids and grown ups. It was fun. But, once I arrived to New York and after living in the US for most of my adult life, I realized that not too many people biked. Then, last year, I went to Toronto, Canada and I could not believe how many people were riding their bikes. It was awesome. I do hope more cities would encourage and provide the infrastructure for bikers to safely move from point a to point b.

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      2. Thanks for the comment. That is so interesting! I agree that bikes can be an important form of transportation, but unfortunately, many cities are not built in such a way to facilitate active transportation as safe and feasible, but there are an increasing number of places that seem to be making investment in bike infrastructure, which allows more people to be able to be out on their bikes. Another Canadian city that has just announced massive investment into bike “stuff” is Montreal, which will be a fab place to cycle (particularly in 2 years with new paths and trails). Vancouver still leads the Canadian pack in terms of bike-friendliness. I have not cycled in New York or many other US cities to compare what the experience is there.

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      3. You know what? You are making me thing about moving to Canada:-) The only problem is that I don’t like cold weather and Canada is colder than Maryland. Too bad. Yes, many cities do not have the infrastructure needed for bikers to venture out. I guess I’ll be writing my councilman/senator and see what happens. Btw, when I went back to Playas, full name is General Villamil Playas, I saw that they were still using bikes and mopeds. So cool!

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  1. WHAT!?! Where did this pedal powered go cart come from? Where did it go? Was it magical? Did you keep it forever????? How can I get one? (Maybe one day pops will still help me build one…)

    TELL ME MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. lol!! I know!

      There is apparently a guy in Gatineau that brings them in from Germany. Mike’s aunt & uncle bought two of them (one has a little trailer that can fit 3 very small children or one large one) and they look like pared-down versions of the classic go-cart and are totally pedal powered.

      We are hopefully gonna take them out to the parkway soon and do some races! It is gonna be awesome. They are kinda expensive ($600ish for the basic model) but they are not mechanically complicated and super duper fun.

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