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Monday, June 18th 2007


If they Build it...we will drop by and check it out!

By Ruth Merkis-Hunt


Ottawa is a growing city with new subdivisions popping up here and there. The city itself is girdled with a large greenbelt and so that means that many new neighbourhoods are being built outside that protected area…it also means that anyone wanting to tour through new neighbourhoods must drive there. We’re not in the market for a new home but we do like to see just what’s being built –  we are social scientists after all.

We’re also environmentally conscious and so the thought of wasting precious fuel just to go and take a look at a housing development didn’t work for us, especially since, as I said, we aren’t looking to buy. Thankfully, we had another option…our quadracycle. So, we decided to spend this morning travelling down via quadracycle to a new subdivision.

It being a Sunday morning, we didn’t anticipate having to negotiate too much automobile traffic but we decided to leave early in the day anyway, just to make sure. Luckily, we’re early risers anyway so departing at 7:30 in the morning wasn’t anything special.

We live in a modest townhouse in the city’s south end but the new subdivision we wanted to take a look at was about a further 15 kilometres south. Armed with our map, GPS and some bottled water, Adam and I drove away along paved roads towards the new subdivision known as Riverside South. The temperature was about 20C and, at first, overcast. This made for very comfortable conditions and a very pleasant trip.

As predicted, automobile traffic was very light and so we had no challenges getting to Riverside South. As expected, too, what few others we saw driving past us stared at us on our quadracycle, as though we were aliens. Next time, I’m wearing antennae!

Our trip took us around to the south of Ottawa International Airport, which we live near anyway. We stopped for a little break before turning south on Bowesville Road, through some farmland and taking advantage of the downhill run towards Earl Armstrong Road. A quick right turn and we were heading west on the compact dirt/gravel road which would take us into Riverside South. I gotta say that the condition of the road itself was absolutely marvellous, despite it not being paved asphalt. The quadracycle had no problems whatsoever going along the road and Adam and I found it to be one of the most enjoyable trips. But, it wasn’t long until we got to Limebank Road. Heading straight through on Earl Armstrong (the map incorrectly indicated that we would have to make a quick right on Limebank before turning back on Earl Armstrong) it was only a matter of a few hundred metres before we arrived at Riverside South and the chaos that is a construction site.

We had recently seen the film, Radiant City, a docu-drama about a family’s experiences living in a house in a new subdivision. Actors played the roles of a “typical” new suburban family, and the film highlighted the implications of what can be described as unchecked urban sprawl. Problems such as lack of public transit and nearby amenities like shopping centres and schools are explored in great detail in this film, the main practical one being that residents are necessarily very car dependent. In this time of rising gasoline prices, not to mention the environmental impact of driving everywhere because that’s the only way there is, building new homes away from the city itself just seemed to make less and less sense to either of us. In the case of Riverside South, there is also the constraint of having to build beyond the greenbelt so the problems of connecting to the rest of the city are even more stark.

Despite the presence of huge piles of construction materials, we had no problems at all getting anywhere in Riverside South. The sun was beginning to emerge partway through our venture and that itself provided a bit more warmth. In places like new subdivisions, there is often a sense of colourlessness, as though one were on the moon. The emergence of the sun from behind some mid-level clouds made the whole scene look a little more colourful so the lawns and flower gardens that some residents had were quite nice to see.

To be fair, we did see a city bus, although it was fairly empty, it being still early on a Sunday morning; but I couldn’t help but sense a certain loneliness to the area.

After a short while, we began our return trip, retracing our route. This time, though, we remembered that we had to pick up some grocery items. So, we rode back and then pressed on to our nearby grocery store. Naturally, when we parked our quadracycle in a parking spot, that attracted visitors who had parked nearby. While I ran in to get some milk, bread and bananas, Adam stayed with the quadracycle itself and spoke with a few people who were curious about our quad. After the ubiquitous, “Wow, did you guys build this yourselves?” (no) and “Does this thing have a motor?” (no), we handed out a number of cards directing people to our website. It is our hope that we will see more and more quadracycles on the roads soon.

It’s an easy commute from Riverside South!

Have a look at our photos from this trip.

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