Unheralded bike-ped bridge under construction?



We hear a lot about the proposed ped-bike bridges proposed for the Rideau River at the east end of Somerset; and over the canal at Fifth. And that’s ignoring the problem-plagued bridge over the Airport Parkway. And the not-yet-existant Hickory Bridge over the OTrain that was supposed to open LAST December.

But there may be another one in progress that certainly slipped under my radar.  Out behind the War Museum on LeBreton Flats was a rickety old bridge surface over a dam-type structure in Ottawa River. The surface had holes in it, and has been fenced off from usage since the Museum opened.


Now the channel that leads the water to the hydro plants and former Eddy-Domtar mills is being repaired. At its western end the former bridge structure has been removed and new pillars are being installed on the river bed, as pictured at the top.

The longer term plans for the original Museum and now for the Isles-Domtar redevelopment includes a new ped-cyclist crossing of the channel. Presumably this will go atop the pillars being installed.

Does anyone know if the ped-cyclist bridge surface is being installed now, or for much later?



Here’s a from-a-balloon picture that shows the Isles viewed from the Gatineau side, and the right-most bridge right behind the Museum is the one being rebuilt now:

baloon shot

Preston extension about to leap the Aqueduct on the Flats



Preston Street is being extended from its present northern terminus at Albert, out across the Flats to the current transitway. This is supposed to open in January 2015, ie 2-3 months from now. After an intersection with the current transitway, it will cross over the aqueduct on a sort of culvert. The steel pieces of the culvert are out there now. They will be placed in the aqueduct to prevent the roadbed from filling the canal and crushing the giant water pipes there.

The historic aqueduct starts at the Ottawa River just west of the War Museum entrance at Vimy Drive / Sir JAM Parkway. The waterway runs east through the Flats, closely parallel to the transitway. There are five stone arch bridges over it.


It ends at the headwater of the Fleet Street pumping station, and then exits through the tailrace — where the kayak course is — to rejoin the Ottawa River at Richmond Landing.

I presume those metal arches will be placed on the exposed bedrock shown in the pic below. It will be interesting to see what care they take of the historic armoured stone walls on either side. When the City installed water pipes here back in 2006 or so, they weren’t exactly gentle or respectful of the historic designation.





Here’s where the Preston extension begins: the drawing shows Albert street across the bottom, and the Preston extension running northward across the Flats, starting out in the same rough alignment as the ped-cycle road surface there now (which is shown “ghosted” to the left of the new road surface):

preston xtension 1

Note that there will be a off-road bi-directional cycle and ped track on the right or east side of the new road.  Just before the new road reaches the existing transitway, it crosses the future alignment of the new LRT guideway (the guideway and Preston extension will never be in the same place at the same time…)

The next plan shows the intersection with the transitway and the crossing of the aqueduct:

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Preston will then intersect with the Sir JAM Parkway at the Vimy intersection that is already there. The City has been bustin’ to widen the Parkway, that’s why the “parking lanes” out there are such minimally disguised traffic lanes. By January 2015, the parkway there will be four westbound lanes in front of the museum, and two eastbound lanes (like now, but located where the south side parking lane now is).

preston xtension 4

Booth will be closed for a few years to allow for construction of the Pimisi Station and rebuilding Booth between Johnny Macdonald and Albert as a four lane arterial, in the Bronson Avenue school of design.

The whole Preston extension is a temporary road. Throwaway infrastructure.   (In order to be permanent, a $20million bridge up over the LRT and Aqueduct would be required, and the City wants to stick that bill to the NCC when it develops that part of the Flats).

The Preston extension will be rolled up and trashed in mid 2016, when Booth reopens, and then the LRT guideway will be cross the “former” Preston extension.

The Preston extension actually has a city street name approved several years ago, that extension not being named Preston (as the current street numbering starts at Albert and increases going south on the existing Preston) nor Vimy, (where the numbering starts at the SJAM parkway and increases going north. Does anyone remember what street name the city chose?


Naked Streets invite Trouble

Naked Streets are ones stripped of the many motorist-oriented clues such as signage, curbs, and lighting that allow/encourage motorists to speed up (because they create certainty) and which transfer the risk of driving onto pedestrians, cyclists, and adjacent residents.

By removing signs, etc, the motorist is now supposed to have to pay more attention to his surroundings, reading the clues, and adapting behaviour to the specific environment.

I have seen many of these “in action” in Europe.  My current opinion is that they may work where pedestrians outnumber motorists, but once there are a fair number of motorists then the cars “push” people off the street to the perimeter zones (provided they aren’t convenient parking spots).

I have been particularly harsh with the Imported From Toronto naked street concept for Sidney and Adeline Streets in the new Preston-Carling realm study. Three 40 storey condo towers, plus a nine storey tower, plus a 18 storey tower (and this still leaves one lot vacant for yet another tower) will all be accessed via the same street, which will have no curbs. This means a car every few seconds at rush hour. Pedestrian sidewalks will be marked out with different colour paving stones, visible at least six months of the year.

Will these really be pedestrian friendly streets?

The new, revitalized Lansdowne Parke urban space has quite a number of these naked streets (in my day, streaking was done on the football field). They will have cars and delivery vehicles accessing the stores and businesses there. And the entrance to the condo garages are off these naked streets.

So how well do pedestrians fare at Lansdowne Parke? Well, even when the new streets are decidedly unbusy, as the stores aren’t open, nor the condos occupied, Ottawa’s finest decided the ideal spot to park their vehicles wasn’t on the unused roadways, but rather RIGHT ON THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALKS.

Naked streets? Pedestrian utopia? Urban Nirvana?

Dead pedestrians.


Seeing Seattle (xiii): simple pleasures on the sidewalk


Expensive, “look at me” sidewalks pavers are fine for some selected special places. But most sidewalks are pretty humdrum things. Trod underfoot, usually cracked, always puddled at corners, and roller-coastered for your wintertime walking adventure.

Sidewalks in Ottawa are the same as most other cities. Large poured concrete squares, about 5′ x 5′. You’d never know where you are by the looking at your feet.

But Seattle had a distinctive concrete tooling, shown in the lead picture. Here’s a longer view:


Sidewalks age over time, and decades on the sidewalk squares look like this:

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A few things really impressed me about these sidewalks. They were somewhat unique to Seattle, and established a sense of place, of not being just anywhere generic. They are cheap to install, just a bit of extra tooling when the cement is wet. They continue to utilize the existing skills of city maintenance crews and contractors (which is obviously minimal) which are limited to almost-self-levelling cement as opposed to the higher skill set required to lay pavers. The pattern is cheap, which is nice for rate payers. And the same sidewalk pattern was used everywhere in Seattle: downtown, old neighbourhoods, new suburbs too.

I think in the long run these will prove to be a better value than the variety of brick patterns Ottawa focusses on when rebuilding traditional mainstreets. Adjacent neighbourhoods here, of course, get the generic 5×5 blocks.

I have seen the odd bit of different pavement tooling in Ottawa. The NCC tried some on Wellington before they used granite pavers that are now being replaced by concrete pavers. The city used a bit in By Ward Market.

But never enough to create a sense that this is Ottawa’s pattern, Ottawa’s look. Maybe if there is another stimulus program, requiring job-ready projects, we could hire people to go out and retrofit our sidewalk squares by cutting the 5×5’s down to 5 x 2 1/2’s.

I was also impressed by the tree grates used in Seattle.

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Note that the above picture shows a pretty large tree planting zone. This tree might actually survive and grow, which would be decidedly unwelcome here, where we like our trees to be small and disposable.


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All of the grates shown are wheelchair and stroller and walker proof.

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The grate below is very small, covering a small patch of dirt alongside a building, where a vine has been planted.

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Here’s a section of sidewalk where the pavers are spaced about 1/2″ apart, to allow rain and air access to the tree roots. Permeable pavement. Not in Ottawa.


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This conspicuous sign taped to a tree alerts work crews and just as importantly tells passersby that the tree is valued, and invites you to “check” on work crews to ensure they are respecting our trees. Note the potential fine for damaging the tree: $27,000. Obvious care >> loved streetscapes.


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More ordinary sidewalk that doesn’t look like Ottawa. The burlap bags are actually solid somethings and are sittable sculptures:

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Seeing Seattle (xii) parade of landscaped overpasses

Yesterday, we saw the “top” views of a landscaped overpass in Redmond, a suburb of Seattle. This landscaping is neither universal nor unique.

But most impressively, along the I90 freeway, there were NINE overpasses in a row with luscious landscaping:

i90 seattle 9 overpasses

Here’s some of the views from the freeway itself:

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BTW, down the centre lanes of numerous freeways were transit priority lanes; stations were located in the centre median space either at freeway levels below the underpasses or sometimes transit vehicles had separate off ramps from the centre. You can see some of these features in the pictures here.

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In several places, vines where planted on the “edge” of the bridge, and allowed to grow dangling down towards the freeway.  The green veil is kept croped by the force of passing vehicles underneath:


Seattle is, of course, blessed with a rainier, milder climate than Ottawa. And also blessed with much nicer infrastructure landscaping.

Look, somebody cares.

Seeing Seattle (xi) sidewalks you’ll never see in Ottawa

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the photo shows a generously wide sidewalk, interlock retaining wall, nice mulched bit of planting between the walkway and the road. Notice too how some surface treatment (sandblasting?) gave it an interesting pattern and texture. But there is something here that is extraordinary.

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there’s a pretty ordinary bike lane on the adjacent road.

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and a spot where the bike lane turns onto a bike path, crossing our sidewalk first. I;m not so sure I like the post, but it probably keeps motorists out.

No, what is special can be seen in this picture:

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Look very carefully. Look at the left edge. Notice the railing. What is on the other side?

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Yup, this whole wide sidewalk, and bike trail, and lush landscaping, is all on an overpass. Here’s what it looks like from the freeway, complete with coordinates if you want to google it.

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Kinda makes Ottawa’s initial foray into overpass planting — on the Somerset viaduct, where trees are in large-ish planter boxes — look rather timid.

So, is this a rare and extraordinary bit of landscaping? Well, not all Seattle area overpasses are landscaped. But lots of the newer ones are. Stay tuned tomorrow …