It was six years ago, in 2010, when Mobycon’s Angela van der Kloof from the Netherlands was invited to speak at the ACT Canada conference, the Association of Commuter Transportation of Canada, in Ottawa. Angela stayed with me for about a week, to save on hotel cost and also because it is more fun to be with people than to sit in a hotel room for a week. She didn’t get a chocolate on her pillow and definitely no turn down service but dare I say the food and the company are better?
After she gave her keynote to an audience of I’d guess about 200 people six years ago, people were stunned. Not because of the numbers or bike modal share (26% BTW in the Netherlands), not because of the photos of happy people on oma bikes shoving their bikes in one of those 5000 bike parking spot garages, not because of the 35,000 km of dyed red bike lanes and paths but because of a story she told that no one had ever heard.
Freedom for immigrant women
Angela told about her passion. It wasn’t a story of speed, of cargo bikes or segregated bike lanes, no, Angela told the story of how she developed a program for women with an immigrant background in the Netherlands to get them out of the house and on the bike. She shared a story of coffee and cookies, of women amongst women, of the freedom the women gained by getting out of the house and the opportunity to get away much further from home than then they were used to. I could see the people think: ”Wait a minute, this is not what cycling is about”.
1970’s bike paths
During that week, I took Angela around for a bike ride to show her where the Laurier bike lanes was going to be and basically, I had not much else to show, other than the 1970’s NCC bike paths. There was nothing to show in the city in terms of cycling infra. I may have showed the Corktown bridge, opened in 2006 after 22 years of humming and hawing. City council narrowly approved the $5 million bridge project in January 2005. Narrowly? Some councillors didn’t think anyone was going to use it.
Fast forward to 2016
This week, Angela was going to speak again at the ACT Canada conference. And of course Karen and I had to take her on a tour again. It was a cool but sunny Sunday morning. We had homemade scones and vanilla infused coffee and mint tea and yogurt for a carb and protein base. We plotted a route along a number of bike infra improvements. Six years later, there was a lot to show. Actually, we realised we couldn’t see it all. A bit of a luxury problem really.
We started just south of the Experimental Farm, crossed the Farm to the Arboretum, cycled along Dow’s Lake and admired the construction for pedestrian crossings on the NCC’s Queen Elizabeth Drive. We took a left turn towards Lansdowne but then a broken and ignored spoke got stuck and broke off the derailleur of Angela’s bike.
Now what? We walked to Alex and Anouk’s house on Ralph, betting they would be home and cleaning. They were. Home and cleaning. Next on the list would have been Mark Blevis and Don –Eco District- Grant for a spare bike. Lesson: know where your bike friends live!
From Farmers market to Adàwe
After swapping the bike we cycled past the very busy Farmers market (October 22!) on our way to the cross rides (‘cross walks for bikes’) at Fifth Ave. We pointed out the future location of the new still to be built and named bridge over the canal, hopefully ready in 2021.
We crossed the canal to check out partly finished Main street with its new raised bike lanes. From there we cycled on the greatly improved Lees east bound bike lane to cross the river over the former railway bridge and further north to the Adàwe bridge. We stopped to take pictures in the middle of the bridge.
The view is really beautiful and Angela really loved the bridge. On average, over 3000 cyclist and pedestrian trips are counted every day. It is not only a safe shortcut, it is also a wonderful place to enjoy views, mesmerize, and if I were a poet, it would be the right place to sit and write.
Fleur tea house and advisory lanes
Back on the west side of the river it was time to stop for food. But not before we took a few pics of the brand new advisory lanes on Somerset East, just before the Adawe bridge. Through Twitter I had asked for some suggestions on independent places for a bite in Sandy Hill and I picked Fleur tea house.
Fleur tea house is an interestingly decorated place with fairly cheap and good food. The wait wasn’t very long; we had time and were a wee cool so it was a nice place to warm up with tea and sandwiches. It is certainly a great half way stop for Karen and I.
Further west on Somerset, closer to King Edward, new parking bays have been painted.
O’Connor street bikeway
Passing eternal construction site Ottawa U, we crossed Colonel By and the canal and headed north on the NCC pathways to City Hall to cycle the Laurier bike lane. At O’Connor, we stumbled into Lana, Alden and Kate who were filming Alden cycling alone on the brand new O’Connor street bike way (#5).
The O’Connor Bikeway connects aforementioned Landsdowne Park with downtown. The last five blocks are not finished yet but the #5 will eventually hook up to the still to be built Wellington Bikeway (#1) that will be running in front of Parliament Hill.
Ah, is the business/government district in downtown ever awful. It is cold, windy and sunless with wide empty bad roads. There is no one around, shops are closed and the plinths are bad.
Nanny Goat and Trillium Pathway
We quickly crossed downtown to see the Nanny Goat bypass and the bike station (without tools and pump), crossed Albert where Angela wondered about the silly pedestrian lights and biked along Albert, while I explained the Senators bid for a Utopian world on LeBreton Flats.
We cycled halfway up the Booth bridge and I explained why OC Transpo didn’t want bike lanes on the bridge. We cycled the very attractive new multi use Trillium pathway along the O-train which dropped us at the new cross rides on Carling. From there we rode back through the Arboretum and the Farm, finalising a 32 km round trip on virtually all bike lanes and paths.
So what did we see that wasn’t there in 2010?
- Crossings at Queen Elizabeth Drive
- New Lansdowne Park
- Holmwood counterflow lane
- Fifth ave cross ride at QE Driveway
- Main street raised bike tracks
- Lees Ave EB bike lane
- Adàwe ped and bike bridge
- Advisory lanes on Somerset east
- New (temporary?) path towards Nicolas at Ottawa U
- Laurier bike lane (route #2)
- O’Connor Street Bikeway (route #5)
- Nanny Goat Hill bypass
- Booth street bridge slow trombone boondoggle
- Trillium Pathway
- Carling cross ride