The construction on the bridge, or the Hillsborough Speedway as I refer to it, has meant the end of riding my bike across to Charlottetown during rush hours. In fact it’s probably unsafe for the majority of cyclists who might use the route to make the trek to work.
We had long since planned that I would ride a bike to wherever I needed to be during the days that Sheryl was in need of our car. There is nowhere in the city that I can’t reach by bike in less than 30 minutes and if I can reach the entrance to the bike trail unscathed, it feels pretty safe. Bridge construction aside, it hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned, as I don’t particularly like riding in the rain, and with two active kids and all the errands that I need to run, we drive more than ride.
The bus has proven a great alternative, particularly on wet days. No where have I seen a happier group of bus drivers; they talk to the passengers, help them whenever they can, and know the regulars almost by name. I have seen some forget their bus pass and the bus driver wave them on, because they know them. It’s the exact opposite experience that I had riding the TTC in Toronto for the 10 years I lived there. It’s also an efficient time box for the type of work I do in the downtown – 9 to 4 is plenty of time to accomplish something. It’s a great stress free alternative to the car if you can make it fit into your schedule (which can be difficult when you have active kids who also require near daily trips to the grocery store).
The current construction on the bridge forces cyclists to ride as close to the edge of the road as possible, which is always full of garbage and gravel, and when I rode across last, there was only a few inches between handle bar and mirror. At one point I had a long line up of trucks behind me when on the bridge proper, because thankfully they realized it wasn’t safe to pass. I’ve seen the same with other cyclists.
It would be safe to say that the bridge is a product of an era when the car was the primary stakeholder in urban design. The recent construction of the Shoppers Drug Mart in Stratford, whereby it’s location is far enough away from the other buildings to require all but the most dedicated walkers to drive, indicates that this era is still alive and well. There is still a great deal of work to be done to make it attractive for people to even consider replacing their cars for bikes in Charlottetown’s bedroom communities.