|(photo yoinked from westsideaction.wordpress.com)|
But I can’t hate Bronson. Bronson is like the hard-luck cousin of Ottawa streets. The fact that its hashtag on Twitter is not #Bronson but #RescueBronson might give you an idea; the street grinds along through life, rusty, dirty, broken and cracked, the curbs crumbling, the sidewalks sloping and collecting mud, clumps of grass and water, and the asphalt slowly decaying into truly epic potholes. It doesn’t even get the more or less frequent patches that my other high-pothole zone, Main Street, gets. It feels, as you rattle and swerve and swear your way down Bronson, as though everyone has just given up on it as a bad job. Bronson feels unloved. And then there’s the matter of those spooky, garish painted children mounted on utility poles as decoration, in an attempt to create a sense of community among the elderly brick houses, shop fronts and poured-concrete apartment blocks. I tried to hate Bronson; I felt like I’d snapped at a kicked-around dog that was still trying to wag its tail.
But one of these days I will have to ride down Bronson with a camera and get pictures of the appalling state of the pavement. Last weekend, as I was biking to my friend’s, and home again, I spotted a bunch that would be great candidates for a Gallery of Awful. Some, to use my Pothole Rating System from earlier this year, would count as Intensity 10. At one point a foot-wide, at least 6-inch-deep circular hole had been drilled around some sort of cap – pipes, or something – and left there, in the middle of where bikes need to be. (I came across that one after dark: exciting.)
Around Carleton, as I said, the bike lanes appear and disappear uncomfortably; I come up the ramp from Heron onto Bronson, where there are Transitway lanes, major ramps to major arteries, and where there is no bike lane and you have to be in the far left lane if you want to continue on Bronson and not be forced onto Riverside. After that, it’s a matter of getting past Carleton in a bike lane littered with the sort of high-speed obstacles you might expect – I’ve seen carriage bolts, dead animals, chunks of tire, sheets of rusted metal, and broken glass – and with the occasional off-ramp, like the one onto Colonel By just past the canal, that forces you to figure out when and how to cross a right-turn lane to merge into the suddenly appearing bike lane. But then the bike lanes peter out entirely and you’re on your own through the west end of the Glebe, where the pavement dissolves into defeat.
Underneath the 417 overpass, you dive into a dark tunnel with potholes so frequent and varied you’re forced to run over them, because you can’t be certain the drivers can or will swing out to give you room. Coming up to a light, with cars just to the left of me, I was forced through a pit in the pavement at least three inches deep – there was nowhere to go to avoid it. Avoiding the holes involves putting your head on swivel mode and trying to watch in front and behind at the same time: and sometimes having to hit major holes head on because of a truck rattling past too close for comfort. Arriving at my friend’s house, I was rattled in bone, body and mind, with a thumping headache beginning in my jarred skull and my adrenaline levels spiking. “God,” I said as I gave him a hug, “I hate Bronson."
But I’m sorry, Bronson. It’s not your fault. I didn’t really mean it.