Rogue cyclists take to Commanda Bridge with official opening still unclear


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City officials say the much-anticipated opening of the Chief William Commanda Bridge has been delayed by work on its railings and other safety features.

But that hasn’t stopped impatient cyclists from vaulting the barriers to try out the refurbished bridge and its multi-use pathway.

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Carina Duclos, the City of Ottawa’s director of infrastructure services, said city staff are working closely with contractors to ensure the bridge meets all applicable safety standards.

“Work on the railings, and other safety measures, are taking longer to finalize than initially expected,” said Duclos. She could not say for certain when the bridge will open.

“We are committed to ensuring public safety prior to opening the bridge and as such, we are unable to provide an exact opening date at this time and continue to prepare for a summer opening,” she said in a statement issued in answer to questions from this newspaper.

The multi-use pathway was originally scheduled to be operational in the spring of this year, but is now expected to open later this summer.

A post issued Wednesday by City of Ottawa’s traffic services suggests it will be late August before the bridge can be used by walkers and bikers.

The bridge has been the scene of tragedy in recent years. A 26-year-old man from London, Ont. died in June 2021 after jumping from the bridge into the Ottawa River. His body was recovered by police divers.

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Ottawa’s Vimy Grant, 14, lost his life in a strikingly similar incident the previous year. Grant died on the evening of July 3, 2020 after jumping from the top of the out-of-service rail bridge into the river. He had climbed onto the bridge with a group of friends through holes in a fence that the city erected to prevent people from gaining access to the rail tracks.

His body was found three days later; the coroner concluded he had drowned.

Grant’s shattered family filed a negligence suit against the city.

The rail bridge has since been refurbished in a $22.6-million project financed by the city with the help of $8.6 million from the federal government.

Previously known as the Prince of Wales Bridge, it was formally renamed last year for legendary Algonquin Chief Commanda.

Commanda, who died in August 2011 at the age of 97, spent decades building bridges between Indigenous peoples and the larger Canadian population. He called for forgiveness and reconciliation despite facing hardship and racism in his own life.

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