It was the best city for a kid of my generation, growing up.
I could hop on my bike and pedal anywhere my legs would take me. I would roll through the town houses where I once lived to meet up with my friends, who still lived in that development off Chesterton Drive. My family had moved out of those town houses but didn't stray far, had gone to a bigger house on Chesterton.
We would bike through Parkwood Hills, down the steep hill of Tiverton Drive, along Meadowlands to Prince of Wales Drive, ending up at the little plaza where we would pick up snacks at the Becker's convenience store (now a Mac's), or get ice cream at the Baskin Robbin's (now gone), or, when we wanted a full meal, at the MacDonald's.
I often rode my bike on my own, would go through Hog's Back Park, follow the path that led to Vincent Massey Park, past Billings Bridge, and let that path take me all the way, following the Rideau River, to downtown. The Byward Market, War Memorial, NAC, then along the canal to the Arboretum, Carleton University, and then back up to Hog's Back and home.
Ottawa was safe when I was a kid. I could do that and not once be worried about my safety, beyond the few cars I encountered downtown. I stuck to many side streets, where I was given lots of space.
Ottawa isn't safe anymore. Not for my kids. I wouldn't want them to cycle the distances I did. Stabbings in the Byward Market. Murder outside the MacDonald's near Hog's Back. A shooting in the townhouses off Chesterton Drive.
It's been a record year for shootings and we just saw our twenty-second homicide. Not a lot, by many city standards, but for Ottawa, it's a lot.
I never thought I'd worry about this city. Growing up here for most of my life, this was a kid's paradise. But now, it seems lost.