Thursday, January 7, 2010

More wayfinding

Ah, a new year. Back to Ottawa and back on the bike this week, all kitted up in the new merino base layer and with the pant legs tucked into the boots... and still struggling to find a route to work.

Back in December when the snow first flew I found myself trapped on the back roads of the Cyrville Industrial Park and swore I would never try that again. I had talked over possible routes with other friends of mine who have a decent Area Knowledge modifier (to use gamerspeak) and worked out how many points there are where you can safely or sanely get across the highway. (Bank Street, where you can go under it at Catherine; Lees Avenue, where you can go over it at the Nicholas/Mann snarl; Riverside Drive just before Coventry, which is unpleasant.) So yesterday morning I set off down Heron, re-acclimatizing myself to the slush after a couple of weeks off the roads while I was visiting my family.

I decided to try Lees. So I took my usual route down Alta Vista to Hurdman, only to discover that when I'd walked the bike the length of the Transitway station, the pathway to and from the cluster of apartment buildings at Lees was uncleared: a foot-worn track that you couldn't bike along. I stopped for a moment, and an OC Transpo employee came out to say, "You look a little bewildered." I explained that I was trying to get to Lees Avenue, and she told me, not unsympathetically, that the only way was to walk the bike along the path. So I walked it back along the station to the path entrance, and shoved Mike, clogged with snow, from the station to Lees Avenue: the picture here highlights the amount of my trip that was spent trudging through deep snow. (Good lord, was it really nearly a mile? No wonder I was late for work.)

Lees Avenue was pretty slushy, too, and busy with cars who were all either still in highway mode or about to get into highway mode, since there's an on-and-off-ramp system to the Queensway there. I was happy to get to the other side of Pretoria Bridge, where I could get onto the canal path, and saw that the path had a strip of bare pavement down the middle of it. I  spotted another woman on a bike coming across the intersection. "Is the canal path clear through to downtown?" I asked her.

"I don't know, it's my first time here," she said, "but it's clear all the way back to Lansdowne. From Bank Street to Dows Lake, though, it's blocked off."

"But it's clear to Bank Street?" I said, hopefully, and she told me it was. Oh, happy day: this meant I could take the path home all the way to Old Ottawa South. So I got on the canal path and it was plowed and more or less clear, with little patches of ice or slush, all the way downtown. I crossed the canal at the Laurier Bridge, and took Laurier all the way to where it turns into Charlotte and meets up with Montreal Road. By then I was really tired (snow, deflated tires, and extra trudging took its toll), and the last little slog through Vanier was kind of painful. I was shaky by the time I got to the office, but I can blame some of that on bonking because I hadn't eaten breakfast; I'd gotten into town the night before at 11:30 PM and there hadn't been time to shop for groceries.

But hallelujah, I had finally found a route that I can actually use to get to work! Now, my path looks kind of like this:
I have to say, I used to have some real problems with the NCC. But this makes up for any differences we may have had in the past. I don't know what I'd do without the Skateway, and the cleared and salted canalside path it gives rise to. No cars. No buses. No terror. For at least most of my trip.

Tourism to the rescue!


  1. I'm *shocked* that the city isn't clearing the bike path along the river. It is so highly trafficked!

  2. Yeah, you'd think, wouldn't you? But nope, no dice. I did speak to someone from the NCC this fall who said they might be piloting a project to keep the river path clear westward from downtown, which is the really heavily used end... but as far as I know that didn't happen this year. Maybe with the noise being made about cycling in City Hall right now it'll pop back up on the radar?

    The problem is, too, that the recreational paths are the responsibility of the NCC and the streets are the responsibility of the city, and in the winter I think the NCC pays a lot more attention to anything Skateway-related and not so much to the rest of the path network.

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