When right is wrong

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Making sense of Ottawa’s two-way, one-way streets

After hauling a heavy piece of equipment down my street by car last week, I’m happy to report downtown Ottawa’s network of one-way streets is functioning marvelously.

When right is wrong

One-way streets are great. When I see a black-and-white arrow perched innocently at an intersection, I can’t help but whoop with anticipation – I know many of Ottawa’s tourists and senior citizens agree, since I see many of them screaming out their windows as they putter along.

Come to think of it, most of them are headed the wrong way at the time. At this point I typically slow down and wave, usually to let the police cruiser fly by. I figure city employees are as eager as I to welcome new blood to our fair city.

But I’m sure once they straighten themselves out they must enjoy Centretown’s layout, especially when visiting my house. It sits smack in the middle of one of the city’s many hives of uni-directional promenades, and getting around couldn’t be easier.

Matter of fact, I live on what must be the only functional two-way one-way street on Earth. It’s a lovely, tree-lined little paradox named Flora Street. Not only does it run one-way in two different directions – depending on what point in the street you’re at – but virtually every neighbouring street runs one way, too.

Most one-way streets in Canada, and Ottawa, were converted from two-ways during the inter- and post-war period thanks to the rise of the automobile. Many of them are old and narrow and unable to accommodate two-way traffic, unless that traffic assumes the form of ass and buggy.

Last week, as I loaded the car, my westward destination was easily visible from my front porch. In front of the house Flora runs east, however.

No problem, I thought. Ottawa is a beautiful city. The sun was shining. I’d enjoy the day.

I left point A, drove past the speed hump and took the first right at Lyon. We’ll call that point B.

After another couple of speed humps I took a hard right at Catherine, point C. I took a moment to admire the warehouse-style architecture and thriving employment centres dotting the street before arriving at Bronson, point D. After another right pirouette, I readied my flicker and prepared to turn into Flora – point E – to deliver the merchandise.

But Flora was now running west, it seemed.

No matter. In my haste, I’d forgotten of Flora’s two-way one-wayness. I tried turning down the next available street, MacLeod – which made sense, since one-ways are supposed to alternate – but was rejected again, this time at point F.

After another right at Gladstone, point G, and a right again at Percy, point H, I wheeled another right at Flora, point I, and arrived at my destination.

Indeed, the lie of the land around my place means lots of great sightseeing opportunities for visiting friends and family. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten a call from my parents, their voices raised to a fever pitch, asking why Parliament keeps changing locations. Or which genius designed the street layout, and how can they all get together.

I think that’s sweet.

It’s the little things, after all, that make our city a great place to live.

Geographic location: Ottawa, Flora Street, Canada

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