Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Omand's Creek Bridge

The two pictures below were shot on Saturday, March 27.  The  water is ice covered and about 6 inches over the surface of the bridge. Last weekend the bridge was just barely above water.  Fisher Hill is just to the left of the bridge and Toboggan Hill lies just to the right.  The trail approaches the bridge in a pleasing  switchback and visually compliments the lay of the land.  The present design is easy on the eyes and minimizes the environmental footprint.  The annual flooding is little more than a nuisance, an inconvenience, so why build a new bridge?  

We need a new bridge because the present design does not meet minimum standards of accessibility.  We measure the advancement of society by how well we treat the weakest and most vulnerable around us.  If the present design is accessible to only 60% of society, than we have achieved a 60% success rate; hardly a standard of excellence.  If a new bridge increases accessibility to 90% or higher, than we are that much more civilized, that much more caring, that much more humane of a society.

We need a new bridge because the present one is inaccessible to those with mobility issues. The approach is too steep for the elderly and for those in wheelchairs.  Even if a wheelchair could make it to the base of the bridge those damn poles on both ends of the bridge would block access!  When we make Global Design changes to improve access for a few, society as a whole benefits.  The elderly, the sick, the weak, the parents with strollers, the children with training wheels, the tired, the young, the obese... we all benefit and we become a stronger society.  Some say that there should be limitations to accessibility.  Some say wheelchair access is a nobel goal, but only to a certain point. Try telling that to a parent of a child chained to a wheel chair.  Look them in the eye and say Your child has rights, but they are different than mine.  

We have an opportunity to make our community better.  We need a new bridge not because the present one floods out every other year.  We need a new bridge because the present one does not represent an inclusive society.  It rejects a large percentage of the population as insignificant.  It is not accessible to 100% of our citizens and for this reason, it is wrong to do nothing.  We can do better. 

The picture below was taken on Sunday, one day after the above two pictures.  The bridge is completely flooded, only the post is sticking out.  The water will continue to rise for another week and then at least another three weeks for the water level to return below the bridge deck.  And then.... the mud!  

In deciding which bridge is right for the neighbourhood the following are some of the key points that were considered at the open house:
  • Universal Design:  Does the plan meet accessibility standards such as a maximum 5% path slope?
  • Tree Protection:  Does the plan maximize the protection of the trees in the final design and construction?
  • Existing Park Use:  Does the plan protect the existing park use including tobogganing?
  • Flood Protection:  Does the bridge met 1:100 year flood standards?  
  • Bridge Integrity:  Does the plan protect the long term integrity of the bridge? Does the plan provide sufficient deck width for snow clearing and mitigation of slip hazards in spring and winter?

There were originally 5 designs being considered.  At this point they've all been rejected.  There is a new "secret" proposal being discussed,  but I'm not aware of the details.

Option A:  At-grade bridge south of the park.

Option B: Angled bridge from street to river.

Option C:  At-grade bridge central to the park.

Option D:  Park upgrades.

Option E:  Upgrades to existing bridge.

Friday, March 26, 2010

They designed a Hummer Bridge; we want a Prius!

Omand's Creek bridge spans an enchanted little creek, thick with tall grass prairie, nestled in a quiet valley that meanders through my neighbourhood.  The valley is an urban oasis for off-road cyclists, birders, fishers, and family tobogganing outings. The bridge is flooded most springs for about 3 to 6 weeks forcing cyclists, walkers, and runners to detour up to Portage Avenue for ... what else... a "portage". The portage adds about 6 minutes to my run and about 15 minutes to an average walk. These pictures were taken last Sunday and shows the creek skimming just below the bridge.  Last year at this time the bridge was completely submerged for weeks.  As the water subsides it leaves a sludge of thick river gumbo that hardens like concrete.  I wouldn't call the bridge flooding a major issue, but it sure is inconvenient.
The shot below shows the breadth of the creek from Raglan Street across to the local toboggan hill used by generations of local families. My family has been in the neighbourhood since 1947.  I have fond memories of my dad and my uncle taking me and my sibs tobogganing on Sundays while my mother and grandmother prepared the Sunday feast.  We returned home exhausted and famished!  No video games for us. Fast forward several decades and there I am taking my son and his friends tobogganing on that same hill.  Yes it's just a hill, but it's also a sacred keeper of fond memories for generations of families.
The City of Winnipeg received a one time only $20 million gift from the federal government to improve active transport (trails) in the city.  The money must be used to connect neighbourhoods and the downtown area with improved trails.  The money must be spent by March 2011. One million has been earmarked to replace the Omand's Creek Bridge with a new span above the 100 year flood mark.  Sounds good?  
Actually no. 
The proposed design for the new bridge would destroy the natural beauty of the creek and valley (see below). The bridge would span from the very top of Raglan Road to the top of the Toboggan Hill effectively wiping out all access to tobogganing.  The proposed bridge is a monolithic structure completely out of sync with the environment. It's 3 meters wide and straight as an arrow and looks more like a bridge for cars and trucks, not pedestrians and cyclists. It's such overkill it would be laughable if the consequences weren't so serious. To fully appreciate the impact you need to stand on the top of Toboggan Hill and imagine a 3 meter roadway spanning the creek to Raglan Road.  It's a Hummer bridge and the residents want a Prius!  The neighbourhood came out in strength last week to voice their objection to such a design.  Fortunately, this design is now off the drawing board.
I'll post more on this issue in the coming days.  Ya'll come back now.

It's a good day to be alive, but you already know this.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Speed Workout

We had a wicked speed workout yesterday evening at The Formal Garden loop.  Seven sets of 4 and 2's feels like a half marathon when finished.  Four minutes intense hard, followed by 2 minutes recovery, times 7 sets.  My total mileage for this workout was about 6 miles including some warm up drills.  It's great to finish the workout with the sun  just dipping below the horizon as opposed to solid black in previous weeks.  The speed workout is followed by about 30 minutes of core work.  Totally spent at the end.  A bowl of hot, homemade soup waiting for me at home... mmmm, hits the spot!
We start Hill workouts next week.  Kudos to Erick at City Park Runners for organizing these workouts!  

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marathon by the Numbers and Outing Closet Runners.

For the average 150 pound male running a 3:30 marathon, 26.2 miles of running means...
  • 50,000 strides
  • 50,000 footstrikes
  • 25,000 heartbeats
  • 4,000 litres of blood circulated
  • 4.5 kilograms of sweat
  • 3000 calories
(source: 26.2 Marathon Stories, page 172)

With a blog entitled "See Mike, See Mike Run, Run Mike Run" I would never be accused of being shy about my running pursuits (achievements and failures).  I run because I feel as close to heaven on Earth as one can possibly be on this old planet.  Why be shy? Shout it out.  

I learned in yesterday's Globe and Mail that not all runners share my enthusiasm.  Apparently there's a whole community of "Closet Runners" ... people who run in the cover of darkness, or on deep, long forgotten trails.  They don't want to be outed, as if they're ashamed or insecure.  Personally I can't relate, but I was intrigued.  You may find it interesting.  Go here...   I'm A Closet Runner.  

If you are a closet runner (or if you know of one) you have no idea what you're missing.  The running community is entirely welcoming of all runners regardless of shape, size, weight, speed, lifestyle, baggage, creed, skin colour...   Don't be shy.  Join a group.  Celebrate the success together.  Embrace the failures with a kindred spirit.  And for goodness sakes, don't run alone. It's darn right dangerous!

As I look beyond my computer screen to the great outdoors I see thousands of branches, millions of fingerlings, thick with hoar frost. The air is silent, void of movement.  The melting snow is crusty from the night's chill.  Gotta go run the Hypo.  It's a blessed day to be alive!

See Mike
See Mike Run
Run Mike Run
Hypothermic Half Marathon
February 28, 2010
2 hours, two minutes, and change.
(Photos courtesy of Scott and Millie.)

Mike ;>)