Monday, March 8, 2010

Images of Bronson

[Edit: visit for information on the community-driven effort to get the City's engineers to redesign Bronson instead of lazily rebuilding it--with all its existing flaws]

Bronson Avenue is undergoing reconstruction beginning in 2011, all the way from Sparks to the Rideau Canal. It's being divided by the Queensway into two sections, each with its own Public Advisory Committee (PAC)--a group of business owners, community members, and other stakeholders. I'm the Centretown Citizens Community Association's representative on the section North of the Queensway. There are also representatives from the Dalhousie Community Association, the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, councillor Holmes' office, various condo boards, etc.

It will be the PAC's job to inform the consultant of what we'd like to see on the street in the redesign, and it will be the job of the Technical Advisory Committee to ensure our desires are met, and to work with the PAC to work out issues. I am similarly on the PAC (as the cycling representative) for the reconstruction of Somerset from Breezehill to Preston, and next year from Preston to Booth. I've found that to be a very fruitful process, with cooperative consultant who found ways to realize the goals of the community.

Not so much with Bronson. Their Technical Advisory Committee met twice and presented their results to Councillor Holmes, and the Public Advisory Committee hasn't even met yet! The consultant has actually tried to widen Bronson (presumably gaining space by shaving the bricks off the houses?), and has used a 1950's highway-expansion suburban model. Not a good sign so far. Councillor Holmes essentially told the City's engineers to start over, with more pedestrian-friendly engineers.

Anyway, I felt it was important that I familiarize myself better with Bronson, so on a nice day in early February, a friend and I took a walk down Bronson to take photos of the existing conditions. No doubt I'll take photos during and after construction as well.

I've tagged, geo-tagged, and uploaded the photos to a Picasa Web Album at, and I've also uploaded them to Panoramio, which should eventually get them added as thumbnails on Google Maps. It was a very time-consuming process, but hopefully it will be useful during consultation.

Here are some highlights from the photos:

From the top. You can also see Bronson coming back up the hill at Laurier:

OMB supervillains on the Ottawa Tech wall:

Crosswalk/sidewalk near Bronson Centre. Note the precast concrete pavers in the crosswalk and the sidewalk. These should be replaced with something at least as good:

McPhail Memorial Baptist Church. You can see the recently-added elevator, built to match the existing style, as documented on West Side Action:

At Somerset. The on-street grates will be removed, a relief to cylcists. On the right you can see Peace Tower Church, formerly Erksine Presbyterian Church (also, wrongly, known as "Erskine"):

Nightmare sidewalk south of Somerset. A sidewalk snow plow requires 1.8m clearance to pass. Imagine trying to pass this sidewalk in a wheelchair!

I was admiring the decorative work above the side door of this house when my friend pointed out the strangely-placed window--in the chimney!

While the front door did not survive the fire at 346 Bronson, the stained-glass windows next to and above the front door did survive. Dr Tung Le has relocated a few blocks East, to O'Connor. (The above-door window and the sign with relocation details are in the the photo)

My friend also pointed out that Gail's Hair Design is just the front of a building, and that there was a house buried inside there somewhere, which you can just make out here. Auntie Loo's is just a couple houses down.

Lastly, since we're ostensibly concerned with the street, the crosswalk at Catherine. I was rather surprised by the backup of traffic on Bronson all the way back up from, presumably, Carling.

A good chunk of the way through, maybe around Gladstone, it became really tiresome to continue taking photos. Partly because I hadn't brought warm enough gloves, but mainly because Bronson Avenue is so incredibly hostile to pedestrians, with largely uninteresting buildings, narrow sidewalks, and high traffic on many lanes. We made a point of using a side street to get back up to Somerset.

Hopefully the City will actually listen to the input of the community so that Bronson can be less depressing and difficult to traverse by foot, bicycle, and wheelchair.

Don't forget to have a look at the Picasa Web Album photos:

There are some really nice photos in there!


  1. Great Post!

    I'd love to see more pedestrian friendly crossings at Bronson and Somerset... I feel like I'm taking my life in my hands when I cross there.

    And driving down Bronson on the weekends or weekdays at rush hour is horrible. Not to mention that parking spots were added south of Carling last year. Those, coupled with lefthand turns at off-peak hours, makes driving Bronson a huge pain. We often cut through the Glebe down to 5th or Holmwood, just to avoid Bronson. I think that the additional traffic on Glebe side streets was probably not the desired effect of adding the parking to Bronson.

  2. Charles - I tried using Bronson as a commuter cycling route last summer (connecting to the cycling route down by the Tailrace and across the Booth Street Bridge).

    It is not very pleasant. The problem is that Percy street cycle route does not go downtown, so there is no connection between the river path and Percy. I am not sre if this can be addressed as part of the Bronson reconstruction, but it does impact onto the use of that area.

  3. Nanookie - thanks for the input!

    Chris - while Bronson may not be a very good cycling route for commuting during rush hour, we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater--most of the time when I'm on Bronson it's not in peak hours and it's just as treacherous, when it doesn't need to be.

    As for connecting to downtown, there's a vistigial shared sidewalk on Catherine Street from Percy to Bay for cyclists to get to the bike lane that goes up Bay Street. Never mind that there's no easy crossing at Bay, but I think this was before the segregated path on Percy (which isn't plowed in the winter!!!) was installed. Now, I think, you're supposed to go up the path to Flora or Arlington then jog over one street to Bay.

    Of course, most cyclists just keep going up Percy in the wrong direction in the bike lane.

    (By the way, Chris, I have that book back if you want to borrow it)