Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bad roads and good intersections

I just discovered that the CAA has developed a site where you can vote for the worst roads in Ontario. While I'm sure I don't have roads anywhere near as bad as they probably have in, say, Kenora, I have been keeping a tally of the worst roads in Ottawa, back in a bottom drawer of my mental filing cabinet. Some of the worst offenders:

Somerset where it turns into Wellington, just on the west side of the train overpass. You know, down in front of the Giant Tiger. Bone-jarring, that.

Bank, anywhere south of Billings Bridge. I know because I travel it every day. It's big, it's fast, and there are unexplained long gouges in the pavement that seem placed so that they'll grab your tire and yank it sideways. I am thankful, every day, for Mike's burly 2" tires. What kind of crazy person relies on 3/4" racing tires in the real world?

The same goes for Heron Road, also part of my commute. The potholes on Heron are easily an average of two inches deep, and they appear and disappear like mushrooms, overnight. The drain covers are surrounded by them. You feel like maybe the entire road around the drain will suddenly crumble away, leaving only the metal cover and whatever cartoon physics is left holding it up.

And, construction or no construction, burning summer heat or driving nasty autumn grit, the snarl of crap at the bottom of the escarpment where Albert Street turns into Scott, near Lebreton Flats, is unnavigable, unpleasant, unfriendly, and full of buses and trucks and chuckholes and gravel and misery... oh, and it's also apparently a posted, city-approved bike route.

My least favorite pothole in all of Creation is the one on Heron, heading up the hill from Bank. It's exactly at the point where the right-turn lane fades into the street itself. It's at least three inches deep. And it's right where, if you're pedaling up the hill, you have to move out into the actual traffic lane, where people accustomed to the Parkway are accelerating away from the light and up the hill. So you're pushed by the curb into traffic. The road is narrow. It's popular with trucks. And just as you have to get close to the cars whizzing by you, your wheel rattles over a chuckhole the size of a salad plate. Not fun. I'm tempted to go down there late one night with a bucket of filler and fix it my own damn self.

However ... I do have a surprising favorite intersection.

I know, it looks kind of hellish, doesn't it? But it's actually, once you get to know it, one of the sanest intersections I know.

Coming up from bottom right is Alta Vista, which is pretty and residential and has a bike lane down its entire length. (Cue angelic choirs here.) The big road is Riverside Drive: ignore it, we just have to cross it. You come in along Alta Vista. Merge left across two lanes once your bike lane runs out. Now you're in the innermost of a double left turn lane. You stay to the left, because the lane you're in becomes a through lane, and slip into the outermost of another double left turn lane onto Riverside... but then you don't quite turn left, you make half the turn and then swing right onto (hooray!) the paved bike path. Then you just have to cross Hurdman Transitway Station (the big parking lot at left) and you're on the Eastern River Path, and it's all joggers, wildlife, and senior citizens feeding the ducks from there on in.

It seems like any intersection that involves a bicycle and double turn lanes should be scary and senseless - but somehow once I got the flow of it, it became almost dancelike. And the traffic stays out of your way, and it's pretty calm. Only once did I have a driver go into some sort of weird fit, banging on his horn and swearing at me for taking up the lane... before then turning right onto Riverside, which confuses me. Since that means I wasn't in his way at all. But I figure he was probably just having a really, really bad morning.

For one thing, he wasn't just about to turn onto a pathway lined with Michaelmas daisies and people out walking their basset hounds. Poor man.


  1. Ummmmm...I'm one of those people on 3/4" tires. We're still friends though, right? :)

    -Dr. J

  2. You're a brave, brave man. All I can say to that. :-)