Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Oh what a difference a little link makes

Last weekend they finally opened the new ped/bike bridge over the Rideau River at Carleton University, linking the campus to Vincent Massey Park. It's about time: this bridge has been in place for two freaking years. It opened for a single solitary day this spring, apparently by accident when the contractor took down a barricade, and was then thoroughly barricaded and bolted shut for months. Apparently some smoothbrain thought we should all wait to use the bridge until the LRT line next to it was complete, which is infuriatingly on brand for this city. 

Whatever: it's open now. Sound the trumpets! 

I'd been watching for it to open because, ever since last summer, I'd wanted to use it to get to Carleton on Saturdays for a martial arts class. It would allow me to skip having to cross Billings Bridge, ever the bane of my existence (see many, many posts on here for why) and ride through Old Ottawa South (another bane) to get to campus. Now, I can take my usual quiet neighbourhood streets to the Rideau River Path, ride along that to the park, cut across the bridge, and know that it's likely that the only violence I have to deal with that morning will be consensual.

But I hadn't realized, until yesterday, that it has also cut the amount of on-road riding I have to do to get to work down to practically nothing. I headed out of the office yesterday evening  and decided to see how little on-road riding I could manage. If I stay on the Rideau River path till I get to the connection to the Hospital ring road, which has a separated path, I can literally travel 13 km and spend only 1 km total on a shared road or street. (Assuming you don't consider the Experimental Farm roads "roads," which I don't: they have virtually no cars, are slowed to 30km, have no lane lines, and are pedestrian- and farm-equipment priority.) And even then, none of the "streets" I'm on are in any way busy. They're the sorts of streets people walk and play road hockey in.

Even if I get off the river path at Pleasant Park, which shortens my trip by 3 km, I only spend 2.25 km more on streets. And again, really quiet and pleasant streets. 

Contrast with how things were before this bridge existed. I had three main (non-winter) routes: the first two took either the Rideau River path through Vincent Massey Park or the Brookfield underpass, both of which link up to Hog's Back Falls, where I crossed the river and connected with Prince of Wales Drive. I would then have to merge onto this thing. 

I would also have to cut through the Worst Parking Lot In Nepean as the last step of my trip to work: a grim and lawless hellscape with a wide area where there are no lanes, no rules, and drivers crisscrossing from one side to the next to get to the right or left turn lanes. It sucks. 

I need to get from, more or less, lower right to upper left here.
It's . . . an adventure.

OR: I could cut onto Bank Street at Riverside, go over Billings Bridge and through Old Ottawa South to Cameron, then through Brewer Park and Carleton campus to the Experimental Farm roads, and through the farm to the office. This, however, involves the part of the city (the bridge and OOS) where I have probably had the greatest number of adverse interactions with drivers, from punishment passing to tailgating to bullying, shouting, honking, and, at least once, me crying on the sidewalk for a minute. 

Now, though, I don't have to decide of a morning whether I'd rather face Prince of Wales or Billings Bridge. They've both been cleared off my list of problems: at least until there's too much snow down to use the river path, which isn't winter maintained. 

This tiny little link - one 60m long bridge! - is an absolute game changer.

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