Hot Start for 42nd Edition of Ottawa-Gatineau Summer Sunday Bike Days

Not only the road, but also the paths along the canal see heavy bike traffic.
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Sponsoring bike activities doesn’t hurt your company’s image.

Where some cities in the world set aside -if you’re lucky- one day a year for a car free cycling experience, Ottawa has its Bike Sundays for 42 years already (and inline skating, walkers and runners, although the latter two are vastly underrepresented) . That makes it probably the oldest Bike Sunday initiative in the world. And not for one Sunday, but all Sundays between Victoria Day (somewhere around the 20-25th of May) until Labour Day, usually around the 4th of September. That probably comes down to 14-15 Sundays a year. Since 1970.

Kids today, cycling commuters tomorrow. She may never even own a car, considering the cost of fuel. Young urban people in the US chose more and more to forego a car and travel by public transport and bike instead.
Not only the road, but also the paths along the canal see heavy bike traffic.

No one outside Ottawa knows that the NCC has been organising 50 km (31 miles) Car Free Bike Sundays on their parkways for a long time. Jan Gehl is raving about Bogota’s Bike Sundays but doesn’t mention Ottawa’s history of cycling. Often I think that Ottawa is way too quiet about what we are doing with cycling and Ottawa’s Board of Tourism should tie more of our cycling advantages into promoting the city. Who doesn’t want to come to Ottawa for a conference a day or two early, if they know they can spend all weekend cycling all over town exploring the many neigbourhoods?

Colonel By Drive is also used by foreign dignitaries arriving from the airport heading towards downtown. We yet have to see the first one by bike though. Perhaps the Dutch or Danish Prime Minister? A CBC reporter nearly fainted of excitement a few years ago, when she saw Barack Obama’s motorcade on this route.

The first Bike Sunday of 2012 is off to a good start. With temperatures soaring to nearly unchartered territory (32C or 85F) for this time of year, many people chose for an early start. There were lots of people out, lots of kids on their first bike, and a few people carrying dogs in little baskets on their bars or luggage carrier. We saw a couple on a tandem and a handful of Bixi bikes.

Every year, my wife and I tell eachother that we should “one day” try a tandem for fun.
A handful of Bixi Bikes too, now in their second year in Ottawa.

What do you think: does Ottawa do enough to promote cycling as an advantage to visit Ottawa?

Pictures: Urban Commuter Ottawa. Sign up for blog delivery through your email in the top right of this page or below the comment section on your mobile.


  1. I think that Canadians’ self-insecurity hurts them in all respects. The Sunday Bike Day is an exellent and pioneer move in sustainable transportation and enjoyment, yet, not many outside of Ottawa, let alone of the country, know of it. Instead, everybody praises the Ciclovia in Bogota, as being the original move to cycling Sundays. Both the Government in Ottawa and Tourism should set the record and the dates of the original plan straight, and promote with pride the idea and its history for other cities and countries to know.
    In Ottawa it originated in 1970 and in Bogota it was founded in 1976.

  2. There is definitely more that can be done tourism-wise! For example, now that the Bixi bikes are out, the museums that have stations should update their “getting here” web pages. None of the national museums (National Gallery, Museum of Nature, War Museum, Civilization) have updated their sites to advertise their prime Bixi stations. And biking is always last on the list for “getting there”. : (

    I’d love to see more itineraries planned around bicycle transportation. The pathways are great, but there are so many interesting neighbourhoods a short jaunt away on a bike to explore.

    Promoting the pathways alone is a bit dated – like when my dad used to take our family on scenic drives on Sundays.

    When our family visited from Australia, we took them biking “to” places – a picnic at Dow’s Lake, a stop at a lock station etc. The destinations and using our bikes to get to them was a complete experience.

    I could go on… I used to work in the tourism field!

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