In the summer of 2021, I started biking to work from the west end of Ottawa to the
Byward market. I would take the Ottawa River pathway which offers breathtaking views of the city.
On my way to the market, I had to make a stop at the rideau canal in order to cross and continue my commute. In order to cross the canal at lock station 1-8, the only option available is by walking on top of the lock itself (see picture).
I started thinking about the numerous challenges that this represents. To begin, the steps at each side of the locks prevents it from being used by anyone with a wheelchair. The steps themselves do not have handrails and the low metal bar on each side of the lock makes it rather vertigo induced experiences for the people that cross over.
I also started thinking about the many people who may not be physically able to lift the bicycle across, particularly as E-Bikes are rising in popularity as well as people who are carrying bags, children and groceries who are likely frustrated because the passage is so narrow.
The more I would take this route over the summer, the more I would see lines of people, often tourists, that are eager to discover the rideau canal but are frustrated as the limited width only allows for one person to cross at a time. While this was in a time of pandemic, I can only imagine how many more people there would be in a regular summer.
It got me thinking about how much more everyone would enjoy the rideau canal if there was an accessible, safe and enjoyable way to make it across.
I believe that offering a safe passage would encourage Ottawa residents to use active forms of transportation instead of their cars in a way to reduce carbon emission. The increase in foot and cycling traffic would also be a huge plus to the shops and restaurants in the Byward market.
While I do realize that there are logistical issues and the heritage status of the rideau Canal that must be taken under consideration, I believe that a pedestrian bridge or a modification of the lock structure would be a great solution. To draw inspiration, there are many cities around the world with Canal's that use various footbridges to allow for passage for example Montreal with the Lachine Canal.
As the portion of people using active transportation are only set to increase, I believe that this is an example of a critical item that would help the Rideau Canal become a sustainable location for the next 10 years.
When the Rideau Canal opened, it offered an incredibly easy passage for boats, let's make sure it offers easy an passage for people as well.