A Few Bridges

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Last Sunday I went for a recreational bike ride for the first time since the summer, I think. I ride almost daily as transportation but somehow there has been no riding just for fun. Which just goes to show I’m not living my life right. It wasn’t a long ride, but just wandering around with no special destination or schedule to keep was a balm to my parched cyclist’s spirit.

I decided to take a short ride down to check out the new Walterdale bridge, recently opened after running two years behind schedule in construction.

On the way there I passed another sort of bridge: the temporary track being constructed for the Crashed Ice downhill skating race happening in a couple of weeks.

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Just a bit farther down the hill in speed to admire a mighty heap of snow. When the snow is cleared from one place it has to end up somewhere else, in this case piled up nearly to the height of a nearby bird’s nest.

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On the way to the new bridge I paused for a moment under one of the older ones. This is a very functional, non-decorative sort of structure but there is a pleasantly cavernous or cathedral-like atmosphere in the space beneath it with striking, if severe, linear character.

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The new Walterdale bridge is meant to be a signature feature of the city, and I do think they came pretty close to the mark. The curving East side pedestrian walkway isn’t open yet, so I had to make do with the less interesting west side path but I was suitably impressed with the impressively arched structure. Of course I’ve seen it from a distance but traveling across it is a different matter.

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The river below hasn’t quite opened up yet but the thaw can’t be far off now. In the distance you can see another signature Edmonton landmark ,the century old High Level Bridge. It is an open question what the future of that bridge is, as a recent engineering study reports that many of the components of the bridge have corroded to less than half of their original thickness. The bridge is still usable because it only carries automobile traffic now rather than also supporting loaded freight trains but any eventual major repairs would be very expensive.

On the way home I took the opportunity to ride a little bit of the river valley singletrack, and enjoyed the very good trail conditions and a riding surface well packed down by swarms of fatbikers.

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Instead of riding back up out of the valley I took a trip up the newly opened funicular just because I could.

One last point of interest before heading home was this sign featuring some very sinister looking icicles.

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The Great New Year’s Day Bridge Ride

It was a slow starting day. I was less than lively on the New Year’s morning. Was it the late night? The perry, champagne and scotch? The cold I had felt starting to settle into my head the previous day? None of these things were going to stop me from having a good, long bike ride to start off 2013. The long stretch of frigid temps in the -20C range had finally broken and the afternoon promised a balmy 0C with brilliant sunshine.

After sleeping in and puttering around in kitchen cleaning up the detritus from the night’s get together it was nearly 1:30 before I was finally getting out the door. I had originally planned an ambitious trip through the entire length of the river valley trail system, from Hermitage Park to Terwilleger.  An honest assessment of my energy and the daylight hours available caused me to scale that back to just Hermitage to downtown. To ration my strength a little more I took my bike onto the LRT, riding the train to Clareview a short distance from the start of the trails.

The start of the ride. Northeast Edmonton.

The start of the ride. Northeast Edmonton.

Although the trails were cleared as I expected, I had made one significant miscalculation. I knew that there would be lots of other people using the trails on this beautiful New Year’s Day but I had not realized how many of them would be walking dogs. In the first couple of kilometers I must have encountered at least 50 people and more than a hundred off leash dogs. Progress was slow to start.

The trail choked with dog walkers. A sight to send a chill down the spine of a cyclist.

The trail choked with dog walkers. A sight to send a chill down the spine of a cyclist.

After passing the popular dog walking area I was able to make better time. I passed under a railway bridge, and the two bridges carrying the eastbound and westbound traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway.As I snapped photos of the bridges my theme for the day occurred to me. This was going to be a bridge ride. The railway bridge was made in 1908 only four years after Edmonton was incorporated as a city. The other two bridges were pretty functional affairs but I like the windows in the piers of the first and the simple cusp on the piers of the second.

Not much further along I approached the first of the many pedestrian bridges. I love the fact that at some point in the past the city council decided that building these bridges was a good idea. Having a number of these spans dedicated to non-motorized traffic really adds to the pleasure of using the trail system. This first one leads to the pleasantly post-apocalyptic Strathcona Science Park. While crossing the bridge I looked back and noticed a train passing over the railway bridge which annoyed me as I’d like to have been under it at the time. Looking over the bridge I spotted a number of ducks in the water, apparently content to remain in Edmonton through the winter. I can’t imagine why.

The trails in the science park weren’t  well cleared so I didn’t go far. I stopped at a snow covered picnic table and carved out a spot to have a snack: tea, cookies from my local bakery and a teeny celebratory sip on Macallan 12 year old scotch. On the way out of the park I stopped to help a young couple push their car from where it was stuck in the snow and back onto the road. There is something very satisfying about zipping up on a bike to help a stranded motorist. When my bike becomes stuck I can lift it free with one hand.

From here I crossed the river twice more on pedestrian bridges, the Ainsworth Dyer (Rundle Park) and the Capilano. The trail around Rundle park was cleared to the asphalt and I zipped along a good pace. I also crossed a little wooden bridge but I won’t include that in my total as it didn’t span the river.

I crossed under the multi-laned Capilano Bridge next and then pushed my bike up the stairs to the pedestrian walk way. Although there is a nice simple geometric appearance to the bridge from underneath, the top is completely without charm . It was a dirty, slushy crossing accompanied by the din of traffic.

By now the sun was setting and I started pushing the pace to wrap up the ride. My camera battery was also running out of energy. So were my legs. The last  crossings of the trip were the Dawson bridge, the Cloverdale pedestrian bridge and the Low Level Bridge. As I was snapping pics at the Low Level a couple of cyclists zipped passed and I got a shot one popping a wheelie.

Once back at street level I headed directly home, pleasantly tired. Over the course of the day I had passed under 3 bridges and crossed over 7 more, something I had never done before. Not a bad way to start the new cycling year.