Monday, February 1, 2010

Whose bright idea was this?

... Or; why the NCC's paths, and the city's paths, are a little like starcrossed lovers kept horribly apart by circumstance and fate.

Witness: the intersection of (according to the street signs) Queen Elizabeth Drive and Queen Elizabeth Drive.

I've been using this intersection every day since I switched to the canal path this December. Coming down Bank Street from the south, I have to cross the Lansdowne Bridge, merge left into the middle of Bank Street to turn onto Wilton Crescent, and then swing round onto what the street signs assure me is Queen Elizabeth. It's posted: "Bike Route," with one of those eternally confusing green signs. (I don't object to the signs on principle, but I'm never sure what they are pointing me toward: the last time I used one as a guide without knowing where exactly it led, I wound up in the middle of an industrial park, thoroughly lost and trying to generally make my way northeast looking for familiar ground.)

At the T-intersection at the bottom of this short little slope is a green sign announcing "Bike Route Ends." Beyond that sign: Queen Elizabeth Drive. Which, for anyone not familiar with Ottawa, is a long parkway that runs beside the Rideau Canal from the heart of downtown southwest past Carleton University. It's scenic, two-lane, fairly well traveled (especially at rush hour), and doesn't have much in the way of stop signs, traffic lights, or intersections. To the right, you can pretty much spot oncoming traffic: to the left, the parkway curves beneath Lansdowne Bridge, making it hard to see what's coming. But clearly, as the sign says: Bike Route Ends, at an unmarked, unposted crossing. On the other side of Queen Elizabeth, the canal path has a helpfully suggestive paved bit showing you that you're meant to cross the street and turn onto the path there.

Every time I get to this intersection in the evening (usually between about 5:00 and 6:00) I stop at the turnoff from the canal path alongside a jogger or two, or another cyclist, or a pedestrian with skates slung over her shoulder. All appearances say, "cross here." But there is no indication to the motorists that there's a good chance someone will be trying to run across the street in front of them, in a relatively unlit area. Add to that the fact that from the canal side of the path, it's pretty much impossible to see cars coming from the right, and that there are cars trying to turn either off or on to the parkway, and that just there, Queen Elizabeth happens to be four-lane, and that this is where the Bank Street entrance to the Skateway is, so at this time of year you also have skaters trying to cross either Queen Elizabeth or its twin brother Colonel By, and, well ... suffice it to say I have asked the air and the joggers near me, more than once, whose bright idea this intersection was.

But the truth is it was no one's idea. The city's "suggested" bike route ends. The city isn't responsible for connection to the NCC path, nor is the NCC responsible for connecting to the city's path. And so, we scurry across Queen Elizabeth in the twilight to get from one to the other. It's like a portage.

No, it doesn't hold me up a whole lot. But yes, it is annoying. And it's a perfect example of the rocky, uneven, jury-rigged solutions that come up where the city routes and the NCC paths meet.

(Click the picture to take a look at the map. Which I screen-captured from the City of Ottawa Bike Path Map, which you can take a look at in full through the link to the left.)


  1. It's stuff like this that keeps me, a novice cyclist, from riding my bike most places.

  2. Totally hate that intersection too. In the winter I have to take my child to day care on the canal side of Queen Elizabeth. Getting across is way too hairy.

    But what could they do to avoid it>

  3. Oh, man. That was my least favourite intersection in Ottawa.

    I love the Zellers. Fantastic yarn selection. But the only way to get to it from my place was to somehow navigate my way from the bike path on one side of the canal to the path on the other side.

    With most other intersections, you can find another way. It may be a couple of blocks out of the way, but whatever. You're on a bike. What's a couple of blocks? But that canal is long, with few bridges.

    Seriously, folks! Some pedestrian bridges, if you please!

  4. Chris: I'm with Shelley - I think pedestrian bridges are really the way to go. At least to get people from the NCC paths to the city streets, if not across the canal itself. I see these danger zones all along the canal, and right now, in the middle of skating season, it's frightening watching people, with skates and small children in tow, dodging across the parkways. Those intersections are at Carleton U, Bank Street, Lansdowne, Somerset, Fifth... everywhere there's a skating access stair, there's a scary unmarked scamper across the road. Pedestrian bridges would be a great idea (as long as you could avoid them being as confusing as trying to navigate those spiral stairs where Laurier goes over the canal, but that's another whole story.)