If you’re going to be out cycling this Canada Day weekend, you might want to check out the new “Flora Footbridge” over the Rideau Canal. This cycling/pedestrian bridge is officially open to regular traffic as of today, and is located roughly between Fifth Avenue in the Glebe, and Clegg Street in Old Ottawa East.
Being able to use this bridge at the beginning of summer is a bonus since it was originally slated for completion in the fall of 2019. The bridge is a 123 metres long and cost $21 million to build. It’s named after Flora MacDonald, a well known and well liked federal politician who used to live in the area of the bridge.
Money for the bridge came from all three levels of government. However, it is interesting to note that the province’s share was provided under the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program, a program that was recently cut by Doug Ford’s Conservative government.
The real value of this bridge is that it connects two neighbourhoods that had long been a challenge for cyclists and pedestrians to travel between. It should provide an important transportation link for people heading to school, work, social outings, or a variety of other places such as TD Place and Lansdowne Park in the Glebe, and the Lees Transit Station and Saint Paul University on the east side of the canal.
The Flora Footbridge largely owes it existence to the Corkstown Footbridge, which crosses the Rideau Canal between Somerset Street and the University of Ottawa. It opened in 2006 and instantly became a major success story with unexpectedly high numbers of cyclists and pedestrians using the bridge on a regular basis.
What has to be remembered is that the construction of the Corkstown Bridge was extremely controversial. City staff responsible for planning said they could find no evidence that there was a need for such a bridge, and many councillors claimed it would be a colossal a waste of money. It was only narrowly approved by city council, but the Corkstown Bridge went on to become one of Ottawa’s most acclaimed public projects.
What all this says is that most of Ottawa’s staff and politicians have traditionally been stuck with a mind-set that often favours building transportation links for moving cars around the city. To be fair, with the success of the Corkstown Bridge, the city did make a conscious decision to proceed with a number of other cycling/pedestrian bridges over various barriers. These includes the Adàwe Crossing over the Rideau River, the Max Keeping Bridge over the Queensway, the Airport Parkway Bridge, and now, the the Flora Bridge. However, the city has a long way to go before the number of cycling/pedestrian crossings or bridges catches up to all the infrastructure that has been put in place to move cars around town.
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