Fredericton — It’s going to be a long four months for pedestrians in the capital city who have to find alternative routes to and from work during the closure of the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge.
The bridge, which connects the north and south sides of Fredericton, is undergoing renovations that will render it out of commission until mid-January. Noting how this will inconvenience hundreds of people who rely on the bridge daily, Mayor Mike O’Brien has come up with a plan.
“Frankly, I didn’t think people would be this upset over the bridge closing, but here we are,” said O’Brien, wearing swim trunks and doing lat stretches at the side of the river by Picaroons. “So in the mornings from 7 to 8:30 a.m. I’ll be swimming across the river as many times as I can, carrying people on my back to the side they need to be on. In the afternoons the rides will be from 4 to 5:30.
“Please form an orderly queue, and yes, there will be a weight limit. I’m strong but I’m not a machine!”
O’Brien, who said he’ll wear a wetsuit when temperatures drop, added that he’s anticipating this plan to benefit himself as much as Frederictonians.
“This is killing two birds with one stone — I can help people get where they need to go, and I get an amazing workout. I’m going to have a killer bod by January!”
Locals are pleased with the mayor for stepping — or swimming — up.
“I get that the upgrades are necessary, but the bridge closure would have added a full hour to my commute,” said Barker’s Point resident Beth Hammil, who works at the Regent Mall. “You can’t walk or bike across the Princess Margaret Bridge, and the Westmorland is so far out of my way it’s not even worth it. Thankfully we have a mayor who really seems to get that, and who cares about his constituents. God love him!”
“I feel kind of weird about climbing onto some politician’s back and wrapping my arms around his neck, but it is what it is,” shrugged Matthew O’Donnell of Nashwaaksis. “I hope I don’t get too soaked before work. I guess if I bring a change of clothes it should be okay.”
O’Brien said that, for anyone who feels awkward about the unconventional arrangement, they should simply try to imagine him as a boat, or as a paddleboard — not as a mayor.
“I’m just a vessel. Don’t think anything of it,” he added, easing into the chilly water and shivering. “But if you want to take this into consideration when you’re voting in the next municipal election, I won’t discourage you!”