Imagine an elderly lady named Betty, living in a senior’s residence in Heron Park. She just witnessed the first snowfall of the season, and soon realizes that she needs to get her winter boots fixed. At her age, she’d rather walk to do this errand, than drive in the snow. Fortunately, she lives near Moneysworth & Best shoe repair at Billings Bridge Plaza, a mere 400m from her residence – as the crow flies.
"This stretch of Bank Street does a notoriously poor job of accommodating pedestrians, especially the elderly, and especially in the winter months."
Unfortunately, Betty is not a crow. If she were to fly directly to Moneysworth & Best, she would have to cross a ravine, train tracks, and the Transitway, to get to the mall. Her actual trip looks very different – and is about twice as long. Because the ravine, the train tracks and the Transitway together have few crossings, her closest way to the mall is via Bank Street. This stretch of Bank Street does a notoriously poor job of accommodating pedestrians, especially the elderly, and especially in the winter months.
Constructing a bridge... could be a life-changer for [Betty] and her fellow residents, who would become able to run errands in a safe, roughly 5-minute walk.
Why is this? Because Betty’s route on Bank Street has a narrow sidewalk, a concrete retaining wall on one side that forces Betty to walk right next to speeding traffic, as well as a steep slope that risks getting icy. There is limited scope for improving the pedestrian route on this part of Bank Street – the slope can’t be changed because it passes under the train tracks and the Transitway. There might be some capacity to widen the sidewalks and add bicycle lanes on both sides, which act as a buffer between pedestrians and drivers, if the median were removed and replaced by a painted line. This solution would have the advantage of requiring slower speeds.
However there is an even more interesting possibility for Betty and her neighbours in walkers and wheelchairs to get safely to Billings. The City of Ottawa has planned to build a footbridge across the ravine which would connect directly to Billings Bridge Plaza via the Transitway station, right from within the Heron Park neighbourhood. Unfortunately, this plan has sat on the shelf for 30 years. What if this plan was given a second chance, especially in light of the new Draft Official Plan?
"Unfortunately, Betty is not a crow. If she were to fly directly... she would have to cross a ravine, train tracks, and the Transitway, to get to the mall."
Constructing a bridge connecting Betty’s neighbourhood to Billings Bridge Plaza and the bus station, could be a life-changer for her and her fellow residents, who would become able to run errands in a safe, roughly 5-minute walk. Her demographic is not the only one that would benefit from this change. There are the youth who’d have a quick and easy route to the bus station to get to school – or their first job. There are the adults without cars who’d be able to walk much quicker to do their groceries or take the bus to work. Not to mention anyone who has an appointment at the dentist or eye doctor on Bank Street, looking for a place to grab lunch by foot rather than by car.
What would it take to blow the dust off this plan and make it a reality? For after all, Betty is not a crow.
~ XAVIER BRADBURY-JOST is a new blog contributor for Walkable Ottawa