Cycling, Community and COVID

As a Geography and Environmental Science teacher, I had been following the science and health news about the COVID crisis starting in early January. However, though I was aware of what was happening around the world, I was still shocked at how swift our lives changed here in Ottawa when the pandemic reached my local community. It began with all our vacation plans being cancelled, often against my will. Then came the business closures, the travel restrictions and the closing of Gatineau Park, the place I consider an essential service for my soul and mental health. However, my family has been relatively blessed and despite these restrictions and changes in our lives, we have stayed healthy and my wife and I are both still employed. This is in sharp contrast to many others who are living with far more devastating scenarios including economic, loss of family members to the pandemic, and true social isolation. As a result, once all the chaos had settled I definitely realized that my concerns were trivial and instead, I decided to focus on staying connected with my students and supporting them as best possible through this new reality of distance or remote education. I also decided that this might just e the perfect time to truly get to know my riding of Ottawa West Nepean. Last year at this time I was just beginning my journey into politics. I had signed up to become a member of our Green Party and I had thrown in my hat to run for the privilege of being the Green Party Candidate for Ottawa West Nepean in the Federal Election. In June I won the riding nomination and the rest of the summer was a blur. At that time I never had the opportunity to really visit and get to know the various neighbourhoods in my riding. There were just too many competing priorities. However, now I find that the combination of less time spent commuting, plus the fact that I no longer have to spend a considerable amount of time shuttling kids to sports and after school/weekend commitments, means I have time to…...cycle and explore. My Mountain Bike is my all-terrain vehicle. It allows me to ride city streets, greenbelt gravel paths, and singletrack trails with ease. It might be a little slower than a road bike but its all-terrain, self-propelled capabilities make it my vehicle of choice. During the evenings and weekend mornings, I have taken to going for rides exploring neighbourhoods that now seem more accessible and safe. The lack of cars on the streets are a real blessing. As well because I cannot cross the bridge to my beloved Gatineau Park, I have been exploring trails in the local Greenbelt that I never knew existed. These local rides are actually connecting me to this community in a way I never expected. Riding through neighbourhoods from Carlington to Crystal Bay, from City View to Prince of Wales has me truly appreciating the wonders of our riding. We are indeed fortunate to live in this amazing city with its abundant green spaces, vibrant neighbourhoods, and amazing connectivity via bike paths and roadways. My goal has been to cycle through every neighbourhood in the riding so that I can get a true feel for the riding I live in. So, if you see me cruising down your street on my trusty steed my Canadian made NORCO Mountain bike, give me a wave and say hello.

Once this crisis is over I hope I can visit and actually stop and talk issues with the residents. However, for now, I am just riding through. Sincerely Dave

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