Although the Hospital Link is not completely finished yet, I decided to go out and take a look recently. The weather was finally a pleasant 20 degrees again, unlike the sweltering 34-36 Celsius (nearly 100F) last week. I had been doing some 20 km and 30 km bike tours with tourists in the heat, and although it is bearable when you are moving, the sun really hits you when you stop cycling.
I cycled there first on my own; later in the weekend I went back with Heather Shearer after a meeting at city hall. We approached the link from the NCC pathways. At Riverside, Heather observed already that the sightlines are a bit awkward for both drivers going S-N and cyclists and pedestrians crossing Riverside. The crossing is just after the crest of a hill. So don’t even think of ignoring the traffic lights: a car might pop from behind the crest at 70 km/h. Before you know you’re flat as a pancake.
After the crossride on Riverside going eastbound, cycling away from the Rideau River, you will enter into Frobisher Lane, a street which has its own raised MUP. It ends somewhat abrupt in a corner and you’ll turn left into a dead end stretch of what is also called Riverside.
The path continues further east next to the apartment building. The property manager I talked to mentioned he has already seen three cars trying to take the MUP. I am sure there will be a bollard placed eventually after the work crews are finished. The path goes down and after the ViaRail underpass, the MUP continues quite nicely all the way to the hospital.
70 million dollars project
The 70 million dollars Hospital Link is a massive and somewhat odd construction, built to alleviate the busy Smyth Rd which is where the entrance to the hospital is. Another reason for the new road is future development in that area. It is a large project, as the link has to cross four lanes of Riverside, the Transitway and the VIARail train tracks. The road crosses over the first two and then dips down to go underneath the train tracks. It is clearly built for growth and no doubt if you build it, they (traffic) will come.
Generous bike infrastructure along Hospital Link
The project has generous cycling infrastructure. It connects to the NCC multi use pathway (MUP) along the river. A MUP also runs along nearly the entire Hospital Link. Nearly, because cyclists following the pathway along the Link have to veer away towards the NCC pathway and then back to cross at Riverside at a cross ride rather than enjoying the rich infrastructure built for motor vehicles. (Note: on your bike you are a vehicle and you can always take the bridge over Riverside if you want.)
Not completely finished yet
It is too bad that the MUP along the first part of the Hospital Link, just after the rail tracks is right at the curb; it would have been so much nicer to keep a two feet strip of grass between the road and the MUP as it has been done further east.
I am a bit concerned about the quality of the pavement. Already there are puddles on this brand new path from watering the grass; this doesn’t bode well for the future rainfalls. (ice, freeze and thaw cycles etc). I am not a road engineer, but I don’t think this is top quality road surfacing…
Better links for Riverview Park to Hospital Link
The new MUP should eventually also create better connections with the neighbourhood just north of the Hospital Link. Kris Nanda from the Riverview Park Community Association told me the community is waiting for the completion of a MUP along the outer part of the Ring Road (where Heather is cycling in the gravel) and east towards the hospital parking lots where there is already a desire line foot path. The path that starts at Station Boulevard in Riverview Park and winds its way through some greenery will than connect to the path system along the Hospital Link.
These MUPs will likely not be the busiest MUPs you have ever seen, but it is a nice addition for a number of people living and working in the area and beyond in Altavista. It is a bit odd to see a MUP running more or less parallel to the NCC pathway along the Rideau River, but I guess it was part of the complete street concept of the Hospital Link. There might be a future path connecting smarter to the river pathways.
Here is a rough indication where the Hospital Link is. In black the new pathway (minus 100 meters on the existing the river pathways): Road nr 19 is Riverside.