Sunday, July 24, 2011

Citizen Ruth

From reading a few articles on the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lane, I couldn't help but notice the high level of whining from members of certain groups about it. Apparently, the installation of a simple 1.3 kilometre segregated bike lane meant the end of the world for some people despite reality. The details are not as important as the response to some of those complaints...which is where I came into the scene.

The city of Ottawa, like many other modern cities in the world, has provisions in place to assist people who are in wheelchairs get from their homes to work, doctor's appointments, schools, shopping and any other place. However, the segregated bike lane here in Ottawa has meant that some of these people would have to be picked up and/or dropped off in a slightly different location than what they're accustomed to. This, it seems, has been interpreted by some as yet one more adaptation they are forced to make and that this forcing victimizes them even further. That's the part I can't understand, especially since a minor change like having to be dropped off 50 feet from their "usual" place doesn't actually prevent people in wheelchairs from being able to get where they're going.

This is where I threw my hat - or bike helmet -  into the ring - as it were.

I am a person who has a disability. In fact, as I write this entry, my left leg is not working and so I am not out triking today despite the beautiful weather. I have actually been in a wheelchair and may very well wind up there again. So, I am very empathetic to issues around disabilities, access to services and mobility in general. However, more than anything, I detest the endless whining I hear from certain groups of people. I don't mean just people with disabilities but any group in particular.

So, I wrote a letter to Ottawa's mayor and all city councillors showing my wholesale support for the bike lane itself. One of the councillors wrote back to me, asked me to submit a letter to the editor of a newspaper and to, otherwise, continue showing my support for this bike lane.

So, I did.

I wrote a letter to the Ottawa Citizen...and got a phone call from one of the editors there. Apparently, my letter of support and written by someone with a disability provided enough of an interesting take on the issue that they sent out a photographer to both take a picture of me on my trike and to make a small video. The main caption on the item erroneously identified me as someone who is in a wheelchair but both the letter I wrote and the video that was made clearly indicates that I am NOT currently in a wheelchair...but that I have been in one.

I am not heartless or flippant about the issues facing those of us with disabilities. I am not out triking today, despite the gorgeous weather, because my left leg isn't working properly. However, I will not gripe and slobber endlessly about it as much because there isn't anything that can be done about it as it annoys the hell out of everyone else.

Luckily, the weather is only supposed to get a little damp for the next couple of days but I am quite sure I will be back out on my trike in short order...and, yes, taking advantage of that awesome segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue.


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