Provincial Cycling Network: a Bucket of Paint for the Ottawa Region?

National Peacekeeping monument. where the three routes meet in downtown Ottawa
National Peacekeeping monument, where the three routes meet in downtown Ottawa

Last week at the Ontario Bike Summit, the Ontario Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport and the Minister of Transportation announced the next step in developing an Ontario cycling network. The focus is very much on long distance tourism cycling in the province. The province is planning to fund part of the network from the carbon auction that generated hundreds of millions of dollars. Of that fund, $200 million is set aside for cycling. (Mind you: that same province set aside $ 100 million to widen the Queensway with one lane on both sides for a 3 km stretch)

Serious money

That is still pretty serious money for our standards but Ontario is also a big place. As a comparison, the Netherlands fits 25 times in Ontario. Large parts of Ontario are more or less empty though, but politically you can’t spend the money only in the denser population areas, where you’d get more people on the bike in absolute numbers than say Wawa, ON, mostly known for its 8.5 meter, 4 ton steel Canada Goose. (I always think of Wawa as the place in a Lonely Planet guide book story where a hitch hiker got stuck, met someone, married and never left).

The routes as suggested by stakeholders and the province
The routes as suggested by stakeholders and the province in the Ottawa area (Google Capture)

The reasoning behind the plan

This is what the website states:

Ontario is taking action to implement #CycleON Action Plan 1.0, to help keep Ontario cyclists safe and encourage more people to ride a bike. As part of the plan, the province will identify a long-term aspirational network of cycling routes across Ontario that will:

  • Promote recreational cycling and cycling tourism;

  • Connect municipal cycling routes and places of interest;

  • Identify areas of provincial infrastructure that should accommodate cycling; and,

  • Prioritize future cycling infrastructure investments on provincial highways.

The Ottawa network routes

The rough plan is out now, but details have to be filled in, so let’s take a closer look how it affects Ottawa. I am taking a route coming in from the west and leave east and southbound:

From the west

Let’s start with the routes coming in from the west. The northwest route follows Highway 1, turns into Galetta Side Road and Carp Rd into Stittsville where it connects with the Trans Canada Trail.

Coming from the south west from say Smith Falls, the route follows the 15 to Carleton Place, where it connects with the Trans Canada trail.

Both routes then follow the Trans Canada Trail into Bells Corners, where the trail turns into the NCC Greenbelt north and follows the Watts Creek pathway, eventually crossing Holly Acres towards the Ottawa River all the way to Parliament Hill, winding its way around Major Hill Park towards the National Art Gallery and the National Peacekeeping monument.

Eastbound

At the National Gallery, the route splits east along Sussex towards Rockcliffe and the Sir George Etienne Cartier Parkway (better known a the Eastern Parkway) and then connecting to the Ottawa River Pathway.

Southbound

The southbound route starts at the Art Gallery towards Colonel By (I would have chosen Queen Elizabeth Drive (another parkway), Arboretum and Hartwell Locks instead), down to Hog’s Back, turning east on Brookfield and then on to the on ramp of the Airport Parkway (O lovely, cycling on an express way with your 10 year old), off at Alert Road, around the Hylands golf course and further south on the Osgoode Trail.

Paint, not paths for network in Ottawa region

The Province doesn’t suggest any new off road infrastructure in Ottawa from what I can see. As you have read above, all road surface exists already. There are four types of infrastructure in the province’s plan: On road (existing and proposed) and off road (existing and proposed). The province proposes an on road route on the Airport Parkway. I am not sure what that entails: I am assuming converting the shoulder into an official bike lane? That is about it. So where would that $200 million go? Paint, picnic tables, signs, salaries and toilets?

The least attractive part of the Ottawa part of Ontario's bike network: the airport Parkway. There are alternatives though, but that would require some neighbourhood cycling.
The least attractive part of the Ottawa part of Ontario’s bike network: the Airport Parkway. There are alternatives though, but that would require some neighbourhood cycling.

You can comment on the Environmental Assessment site of the province until May 12 (Update: extended to May 26). The link can be found on this page.

What do you think? Will this plan encourage people to start cycling? Will it entice the French, Italians and Germans to don spandex to come for a multi day cycling holiday to enjoy Ontario?

4 Comments

  1. re: Airport Parkway. Quite ridiculous to propose – especially at the Sawmill creek bike path is parallel to the proposed route. I would rather see the money spent on extending the Osgoode trail north through Lester to Leitrim and then onto Huntclub with an east connector through to Bridlewood / Emerald Woods subdivisions. They would have to think about how to get the bike path over Hunt Club – but even if they had to build a bridge twice they could figure it out (LoL). Regardless, this is way more expensive than paint, but as traffic increases on Airport parkway it will become more dangerous for cyclists unless width is substantially increased.

  2. I very much like the idea of intercity cycling paths. Cycling the Rideau Canal, or Trent Canal, or a Niagara-Welland circuit should be major international draws as well as offering local not-necessary-to-go-to-Europe cycle vacations. But I wont do it if lots of the length is on roads shared with 90kmh trucks playing mirror tag with cyclists.

    Maybe not all the path can be built at once. I’ll accept increments. But only if the objective is a safe, separate route that may occasionally use local streets (not roads) with safety improvements. And significant sections should be water edge. This will necessarily involve some pain for lakefront property owners used to occupying the crown waterfront as if it is there own private land.

    But build the paths, and people will come. With numbers come visibility, and appreciation of the economic impact. People will adjust. Get building now.

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