Biking along Slater St and Queen St

My goal is to pedal down every Ottawa/Outaouais street at least once. For some streets, once is enough. Like Slater Street and Queen Street, which I rode along yesterday morning. They are not very bike friendly, regardless of the green bike ROUTE signs fastened to the occasional telephone pole. But they ought to be safe to bike down for folks who work there, live there or need to ride down them for whatever reason.

My destination was the old post office at Sparks and Elgin to mail off Christmas gifts. Blue line’s how I got there. Red line’s how I got back.

At the corner of Bronson and Slater there is a very wide graffiti wall. Here’s how it appeared through the frost covered chain link fence.

Jack Frost 1

Graffiti wall along Slater
Graffiti wall along Slater

Slater is three lanes heading east one way. The south side is pretty much a transit way, forcing bicyclists to hug the shoulder-less curb on the opposite side. Drivers instinctively consider this outside lane to be the passing/speeding lane. Pretty nasty.

Slater St
Slater St

I was pleased to turn up Elgin Street and see Oscar sitting outside the NAC covered in a frosty layer. This wonderful commemorative statue by Ruth Abernethy is extremely welcoming. I often see folks sitting on the piano bench beside Oscar, listening to his music coming from speakers placed up above.

Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson

Construction scaffolding and plywood presently surrounds the main entrance of the post office at Sparks and Elgin, caging in this noble sentry.

Caged Lion
Caged Lion

Fortunately these two proud beasts remain on duty at the side door on Sparks St.

Lions on duty
Lions on duty

I travelled down Queen Street on the way home. It felt safer than Slater, perhaps because there was only one lane keeping the traffic calm.

Queen St
Queen St

The narrow space between the parked cars and the traffic presents another very real danger of being doored, i.e. when a passenger of a parked car opens their door without checking to see if any bicyclists are coming, forcing a collision. This is what lead to the senseless death of Danielle Naçu in October 2011. Here is the ghost bike along Queen Street commemorating this tragic event.

Danielle Naçu
Commemorative ghost bike

They knocked down part of Christ Church Cathedral awhile ago along with a few other old dwellings to build condo’s, but retained these facades to be incorporated into the new building. I am often fascinated by the juxtaposition of temporary structures used to retain or protect old structures as shown in this image.

Bracing
Bracing

And finally, a shot of Jack Frost’s handiwork, looking out towards the park at the western end of Queen St.

Jack Frost 2

Christmas Lights in the National Capital Region – By Bike!

They turned on the annual Christmas lights display along Confederation Boulevard last night, so I checked them out! They will be on every night until January 7th.

Orange line is how I biked to Parliament Hill for the launch. Blue is the route I followed to see most of the official sites.

The flipping of the switch was launched with an explosion of mini fireworks.

BOOM!
BOOM!
... as the smoke settles.
… as the smoke settles.

Now the route I’m proposing is full of splendid night time sceneries, with or without Christmas lights. The view from behind the Centre Block across the Ottawa River to Gatineau is one such example. Looking out across the river also gave me my first indication that they’ve considerably scaled back on the number of Christmas lights from previous years.

View across the Ottawa River to Gatineau
View across the Ottawa River to Gatineau

Major renovations are happening on the West Block. Whole sections are wrapped in scaffolding and tarp, creating these internally lit glowing cube structures.

West Block
West Block

One used to be able to bike in front of the West Block, avoiding having to ride along Wellington, which is not a very bike friendly section of road. Hopefully once the the West Block renovations are completed they will lighten up with the crazy security and once again allow folks to access the hill from the west gate. Otherwise, the first opportunity to get off Wellington is opposite Bank Street, just beyond the closed off gates and line up of parked police cars. First left and a bit further along brings you alongside the wonderfully lit Supreme Court of Canada.

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Continuing straight ahead leads to these stairs down behind the Library and Archives building.

Behind the National Library and Archives
Behind the National Library

Riding around behind the archives building brings you to Wellington right where the designated bike lane begins. Now that’s the way to go!

On the other side of Portage Bridge dip down the bike path to the right where there are some great unimpeded views of the Hill.

View of Hill from Gatineau
View of Hill from Gatineau

It’s pretty thrilling where the path crosses under the Alexandria Bridge. The whirring sound of the cars on the metal mesh road way above resonates all around you, while the beams from the headlights flash and flicker down through the steel girders.

Under Alexandria Bridge
Under Alexandria Bridge

Out in Jacques Cartier Park there are a few arrangements of lights, including this droopy bunch of red ones hanging way up in a couple of trees.

JCP
JCP

After crossing back over the Alexandria Bridge I turned up behind the National Gallery to re-visit this piece of outdoor sculpture, made up of a number of streetlights blown over by hurricane Katrina. Love it!

Majestic at night
Majestic at night

In previous years the trees of Majors Hill Park were filled with lights, but this year, nil. S’okay, still a nice ride along the edge of the cliff. Very pleased to discover the terrace above the canal was still accessible from the park to Wellington, affording this dramatic night time view of the Chateau Laurier. The terrace has been previously closed for the winter.

Look up, look way up...
Look up, look way up…

The Cenotaph has lots of cool lights all around it.

Lights at the Cenotaph
Lights at the Cenotaph

Opposite the Cenotaph there is this arrangement of warm lights set against the Conference Centre.

Conference Centrte
Conference Centrte

The city has added Christmas lights to compliment the exuberantly lit walls of their outdoor rink in front of City Hall.

Rink of Dreams
Rink of Dreams

I end the tour with this photo from Confederation Park looking towards the Lord Elgin Hotel.

Lights in Confederation Park
Lights in Confederation Park

The only official Christmas Lights site I didn’t get to was the one out near the Governor Generals Residence. I will have to figure out a safe night time route that avoids the dangerous stretch of Sussex between the National Gallery and the External Affairs building.

Biking to the Great Canadian Theatre Company to see a show

My friend John and I biked to the opening of The Number 14 at the GCTC on Wednesday night. If you are considering seeing this fun show about a bunch of eccentric characters riding the Number 14 bus through Vancouver, and are looking for a safe bike route to the theatre from Centretown, here you go!

We biked down Armstrong Street rather than ride along Wellington. That’s because the bike lane along Somerset over the O-train bridge disappears and is replaced with sharrows where Somerset becomed Wellington. I’m not a big fan of sharrows. They are those double V’s painted on the road that are supposed to tell drivers that bikes…. actually I’m not sure what they are for. I fear they are being adopted as ineffective substitutes to bike lanes. This section of Wellington Street is full of character, but it is narrow and full of traffic too. Armstrong is much quieter.

What a hoot to see this great big old OC Transpo bus from the 50’s sitting outside the theatre! As a tie-in to the theme of the play, GCTC and OC Transpo are doing a cross promotion called ‘From Their Seat to Our Seat’, hi-liting the various bus routes one can take to get you to the theatre on time. Great idea – taking the bus is a fine mode of transpo, after biking of course.

BUS!
BUS!

There are a number of bike stands along Wellington just to the right of where the bus is parked, beyond the frame of the picture.

Ghost Bike Commemorating David Tyler Brown

I’ve been wanting to visit the ghost bike at the intersection of Innes and Bantree. That’s where David Tyler Brown died in a senseless accident in early September. I wanted to pay my respects, and try to shed a little light on how such a tragic accident could occur at this location. Yesterday I needed to go to the Home Depot in that neighbourhood, so I chose a route that brought me past his ghost bike.

I left from La Nouvèlle Scène on King Edward Avenue where a set I designed for the play Albertine en cinq temps was being installed.

La Nouvelle Scène

At the corner of Innes and St Laurent I entered No Mans Land. I encountered only one other person not encased in a four-or-more wheeled vehicle – a guy walking along Innes who definitely looked like he wished he were somewhere else. Here’s what the intersection of Innes and Bantree looks like.

Innes & Bantree

And here is the bike.

Ghost Bike

There is a very well written article here, which describes the bike and surrounding commemorative elements which touch upon the life of David Tyler Brown.

Pictures

I chose a Sunday to ride out this way to avoid the trucks that own this landscape. Here is a panorama taken further down Bantree.

Truckland

Unfortunately my iPhone ran out of juice after taking these images.

I’m a pretty confident biker, but riding through this area was scary, even on a Sunday. The lack of drainage along Sheffield Road created huge puddles that forced me to ride in the middle of the road. I hit a rut while turning my head to check for oncoming traffic at the top of Sheffield Road, which caused me to fall off my bike. I’m OK, just broke my rear light and bell. Stupid of me, really. Being so anxious about the road conditions contributed to my error. Effort is required to make this area safer for bicyclists, such as those who wish to commute by bike.

Needless to say, I was very relieved to get to the end of Walkley Road where I followed a gravel trail.

The route I would recommend taking to get to this area is the one I followed on the way back, hi-lited in green on the above map. Anderson Road and Innes Road on the East side of the 417 have bicycle lanes. Cyrville Road isn’t great, but it’s the safest way to get to the other side of the 417.

Brébeuf Park, and the Case of the Mystery Plaque

On Sunday afternoon I convinced my two friends Peter and Glenn to bike with me to Brébeuf Park in search of the mystery plaque.

Allow me to set the stage. Earlier this summer while hurrying home along the Voyageurs Pathway before it got too dark, I noticed this boulder at the eastern edge of the park with inset bronze paddles. UPDATE, August 2017Sadly the paddles have gone missing and have yet to be replaced.

Interesting boulder

Engraved in one of the paddles is the following message.

HISTORIC PATH SEE PLAQUE 300 YARDS DOWN RIVER

I stumbled down the dirt path that lead to the waters edge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mystery plaque. I couldn’t find it, and the sun was setting fast.

‘Well’, says I to myself, ‘I must return some day to solve this mystery!’. So, having convinced my intrepid friends, off we went, they on their matching one speeders, and me on my trusty old steed.

Three Amigos!

Well, we didn’t have any luck finding it this time either, but we DID discover this graffiti covered concrete pad whose detailing suggested it may once have supported a plaque or two.

Mystery Concrete Pad

I also dug up this web page which, under the heading ‘The Indian Portage Trail at the Little Chaudiere Rapids’ describes the list of names that were inscribed on the mystery plaque, ie – ‘…. prehistoric natives through Etienne Brûle (1610), Nicholas de Vigneault (1611), Samuel de Champlain (1616) and so on.’.

Didn’t notice the stone stairs laid by early voyageurs described on the web page, unless these interesting rock formations are what the author is referring to…. but I doubt it.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!….

We continued carrying our bikes along the narrow path until it joined the Voyageurs Pathway down river. So although we didn’t succeed in finding the mystery plaque, we sure had fun trying!

In Brébeuf Park sits this statue of Saint Jean de Brébeuf after whom the park is named. Look closely, you’ll see he’s clutching a cross AND a paddle!

Pray and Paddle

According to this plaque inset into the plinth he passed through this neck of the woods in 1626. Coincidently, his feast day is tomorrow.

Diplomat Memorial via Fabricland

I caught wind of a new memorial unveiled along Island Park Drive near the Ottawa River so I decided to go have a look. But first I had to shop at Fabricland on Merivale.

It was rush hour and rainy so I chose the route with least traffic. That’s how I wound up biking down Arthur Lane.

Arthur Lane & Fairview Towers

Years ago I photographed images of Fairview Towers from this location and projected them as part of the set design for a play called A Number (three middle images on the right).

A Number

They’ve since added the barbed wire to the top of the chain link fence separating Arthur Lane from the Towers parking lot. I’m glad I found myself re-visiting this alley, as they are in the process of remodelling the building.

After stopping off at Fabricland I worked my way over to the new memorial. It’s visually impressive. I included my trusty steed in the first shot to provide a sense of scale. The second image is probably how the designer would prefer it be viewed.

Memorial

There were no interpretive elements on site to explain the intended meaning of the monument, or it’s actual name, however from various news stories (here, here, and here), it seems it’s main purpose is to commemorate diplomats who have lost their lives in the call of duty. This particular site was chosen because the first assassination of a diplomat on Canadian soil occurred close by on Island Park Drive.