2013 Draft Ottawa Bicycle Plan in 1500 words

Ottawa delivered its draft cycling plan for 2013 (which is updated every five years)
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Ottawa delivered its draft cycling plan for 2013 (which is updated every five years)
Ottawa delivered its draft cycling plan for 2013 (which is updated every five years)

I read through the draft Ottawa Bicycle Plan last night (update: I improved it a bit here and there on Thanksgiving, removing typos, adding headers and more insight in budgets). A document of nearly 150 pages that outlines the vision for the next 18 years. I think it is a very solid plan, perhaps one of the best I have read. It is clearly written by cyclists with lots of input from the public and Citizens for Safe Cycling, Ottawa’s bicycle advocacy group since 1984. It is all compassing, from infrastructure to education, from winter cycling to fall sweeping. From neighbourhood catchment areas feeding into LRT to the need to define different areas of the city in order to cater to different needs. Borrowing from decades long established cycling design principles in the Netherlands, the emphasis is on multimodal synergies covering short distances within neighbourhoods and connections to other modes of transport given the fact that few people cycle more than 8 km one way in daily life (not counting touring).

A real cycling friendly city

While it is impossible to even attempt to make a summary, I did collect a number of highlights. This is not the document that tells us if and where the next three bridges are coming, but more where the city wants to go in terms of a real cycling friendly city. The plan does a number of recommendations too. The document has lots of graphs to show the increase in cycling, the modal share in several etc. Worth a look. Did you know that for example, the daily cycling trips increased by 40% from 2005-2011 to 43,600 trips? In comparison, City of Toronto Jennifer Keesmaat recently tweeted that 19,780 people commute to work in the Big Smoke. Not an entirely fair comparison though, as the Ottawa count covers all bike trips.

Rough summary of highlights

The bottom line is money and cooperation. Not so much if (there will be money) but will there be enough?  You will notice 70 million dollars set aside and another 40 million for Multi Use Pathways until 2031. However, with council approving Complete Streets concepts in Ottawa (if there is space, they mention though), bike infrastructure in road budgets is not mentioned in this plan specifically, but part of the overall road budget. For example, Main Street’s and Chruchill’s bike tracks are not coming from the cycling budget. The 70 million bike budget also covers education and outreach for example.

Then there are capital investments in for example in ped and bike bridges, and investments to be done by developers. All in all I estimate that you will see a few hundred million dollars going into active transportation over the next 18 years in city budgets. Add provincial money that will come from the Ontario Cycling Strategy and some NCC and Gatineau money too and the national capital region looks like it is heading in the right direction. And don’t forget, if developments go faster, plans will be adjusted, just like the 2008 plan was adjusted because cycling is growing faster than foreseen.

Buyer beware though: councils can change, economic conditions may change, federal and provincial priorities change, so we can’t sit back. Also, many changes will not happen in the next six years. I foresee you won’t see any changes downtown until Lansdowne and LightRail and 417 widening are completed. That means that a possible O’Conner bike lane, the possible Prince of Wales train bridge cantilevered addition, a bike track along Scott and the canal bridge at 5th and Clegg won’t be done before 2020 at the earliest. You will see bits and pieces being implemented. The focus will be on connecting existing paths and lanes into networks, something Citizens for Safe Cycling has long asked for.

Read the draft

Every Ottawa cyclist should read this document. If you have no time, start with this incomplete summary of 1500 words. I just cut and paste it last night, so it is a bit rough around the edges with not much flow. Remember when you are reading this, that it is partly a wish list of the city bike planning department. It works if many people will agree to cooperate in the city, the NCC, the province and feds.

It is still a draft, but likely 99% will make it to the final version. The only typo in the report is -guess what- my name!
It is still a draft, but likely 99% will make it to the final version. The only typo in the report is -guess what- my name!


a greater emphasis on multimodal synergies between cycling and transit, as well as acknowledging the need to select appropriate cycling facilities to match the needs of residents in urban, suburban and rural areas;

The OCP2013 will focus on building comfortable linkages to transit, establishing secure parking facilities at transit stations, and promoting multimodal travel.

The 2011 OD Survey reported about 2.26 million daily trips (all modes) on a typical fall workday that originated from within the City of Ottawa. This is an increase of 3% over the previous 2005 Survey. While the overall travel demand increased by 3%, the daily cycling trips showed an increase of 40% (from 31,100 trips in 2005 to 43,600 trips in 2011) over the same period.

Considering trips originating inside the Greenbelt during the AM peak period in 2011, 3.8% of the trips have a primary mode of cycling (an increase from 2.4% in 2005). Trips outside the Greenbelt have remained at about a 0.7% share of cycling between 2005 and 2011 during the AM peak period.

The OCP2008 included a Technical Annex with design guidelines. In response to the rapid evolution in cycling facility design since the OCP2008 document was developed, City staff have collaborated with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to develop improved bicycle safety and design initiatives. This collaboration resulted in the development of draft technical design guidelines as captured within OTM Book18 and OTM Book12 (signals) documents.

More aggressive targets

With short-term progress in cycling mode share exceeding projections made in 2008, and requests by Council to re-consider targets for cycling growth, the OCP2013 has established new, more aggressive targets for cycling mode share. To account for the wide disparity in urban built form and growth rates across the city, independent targets were set by geographic area.

In addition to providing improved route continuity for the cycling network as a whole, a recommended winter-maintained cycling network has been identified within the urban area.

The mode share goals within the TMP 2013 cannot be met without attracting cyclists who are interested in cycling but prefer to be  separated from traffic. An update to the OCP was necessary to incorporate new cycling facility types that buffer cyclists from traffic using physical barriers (e.g. cycle tracks).

Focus on increasing internal suburban trips

In 2011, about 40% of all trips starting in the outer suburbs during the morning peak period remained in the same suburban area. Nearly all of these internal trips are reasonable cycling distances, but only 1% to 2% were made by bicycle. A focus will be placed upon increasing the internal suburban trips by improving cycling route connections to schools, community centres, employment areas, and other local destinations. The cycling trip target for the outer suburban area is for 3% to 4% of all internal trips to be made by bicycle.

Level of Traffic Stress measures related to cyclists will be calculated and used to inform design trade offs related to the addition or improvement cycling facilities in areas where high cycling rates are anticipated.

It is acknowledged that relatively few residents living outside of the Greenbelt will choose cycling as their main commuting option to down town because of the distance. However, recent data show that 40% of trips originating in these areas during the AM peak hour do not cross the Greenbelt, but remain within their suburban community. In recognizing these differences, this plan will focus on making cycling a convenient choice of transport for internal community trips in suburban areas.

Suburban residents (38% in inner suburbs and 31% in outer suburbs) have indicated that they are interested in cycling but are waiting for more bike lanes and pathways.

Spine networks and feeder routes

Ottawa’s ultimate cycling network features continuous, higher capacity spine routes for direct, longer distance travel, supported by smaller scale feeder routes for local access. These routes will be interconnected with the City’s and NCC’s off-road pathway network. When completed, the Ultimate Network will include 2,529 km of cycling facilities.

An initial screening of the proposed cycling network was undertaken to identify cycling links that would most effectively fulfill the objectives of each investment category.  The segments that contributed to multiple objectives were reviewed and grouped with relevant adjoining segments to identify projects. This list of cycling projects was supplemented with other key projects identified separately, including bikeways, employment node projects, high priority TOD projects and key missing links, to generate a comprehensive list of projects that could be accommodated in the $70-million budget allocated to the OCP2013.

Developers to chip in

New cycling facilities such as bike parking, pathways and enhanced facilities along roadways to new developments can be incorporated into site plan and subdivision agreements as special conditions with costs covered by the developer. In areas of intensification, contribution to the expansion of the cycling network is one way individual developers can mitigate the traffic impacts of their developments.

A number of commercial developments proposed in the vicinity of the TOD areas include cycling infrastructure as part of the development plan (to be funded by the developer) that have been included as part of the Cycling Plan network.

Cooperation with NCC

The City and NCC will work on development of a winter cycling network. For example, the NCC will evaluate the use of a shared cycling/pedestrian winter facility over the Portage Bridge pending review of winter pedestrian levels, and implementation of a regional winter network extending between Ottawa and Gatineau that requires the Portage crossing.

The following areas of collaboration are envisaged between the City and NCC in support of cycling in the National Capital Region:

  • The NCC places particular emphasis on improving connectivity between Ottawa and Gatineau, with an emphasis on green crossings, and providing visitors and residents improved opportunities to explore the Capital’s shorelines with future concepts such as a bike/pedestrian crossing on the Prince of Wales Bridge or the Deschenes Rapids.
  • The City and NCC are investigating the feasibility of implementing separated cycling facilities on Confederation Boulevard, along Wellington/Mackenzie between the Portage and Alexandra bridges. This joint project supports the Complete Street goals as outlined in Downtown Moves.
  • The City and NCC will strive to develop similar standards and usage polices (e.g. for signage, pathway rules and eBike policies) to promote as seamless an environment for cyclists as possible


While wearing a helmet is an appropriate personal choice to minimize personal injuries in the event of a collision, the provision of safe cycling facilities is effective at reducing the likelihood of cycling collisions. In addition to improving the overall safety of cycling, the provision of comfortable cycling facilities encourages more people to travel by bicycle, which supports the goals of the Transportation Master Plan. In comparison, mandatory helmet laws may reduce the number and severity of some injuries, but have also been known to reduce the number of people travelling by bike. Therefore, the City will focus upon improving cycling safety primarily through improvements to cycling facilities and roadway design, while it continues to promote helmet use.

Most cycling trips are very long. The worldwide average is about 8 km even in a leading cycling nations like the Netherlands.
Most cycling trips are not very long. The worldwide average is about 8 km even in a leading cycling nation like the Netherlands.

Recommendation 6.4: The City shall ensure that route updates are provided for the GeoOttawa database on a proactive basis, as new cycling facilities come online, to keep the data current.

Winter cycling

As part of the Transportation Master Plan and OCP2013, a winter-maintained cycling network has been proposed. The network has been focused within a 5-km radius of Ottawa’s core area where cycling rates are highest, using the proposed east-west Cross-town Bikeway as the primary route into and out of the downtown core. This network builds on ideas presented by the former Road and Cycling Advisory Committee at a previous City Transportation Committee. Based on public feedback, a connection has been added to the winter network along the Ottawa River Eastern Pathway route, connecting via Lees Avenue to the Rideau Canal Pathways and the downtown core. The use of this segment will necessitate an agreement with the NCC to maintain a small section linking North River Road to Lees Avenue via the Lees Avenue Bridge. Pending approval, the winter network will be posted on GeoOttawa (under the Cycling Plan tab) for public reference.

The winter network consists of a mixture of road types, cycling facilities and pathways chosen to provide connectivity throughout the central focus area, and which were reviewed for their current road classification to identify the additional operational costs required for winter maintenance. The feasibility of maintaining these routes during winter considered difficulties such as lack of snow storage and ability to maintain a clear and dry condition.

There are about 40 planned kilometers of Ottawa’s proposed “winter network”, of which about 21 kilometers were already winter maintained as either shared use lanes or as part of the separated cycling facilities along Scott Street, Albert Street and Laurier Avenue. The designation of these parts of the winter network will result in upgrades and changes to current maintenance practices. The incremental cost of maintaining the identified winter cycling network is estimated at $200,000 per winter season.

The priority for the spring and summer clean-up is:

  1. The ByWard Market, downtown core and BIA areas
  2. The Cross-Town Bikeways
  3. Attention to Spine Routes on a best-effort basis

There is also a whole section on cooperation with the NCC and education that I left out here for now.

The entire plan is on line here. Images in the blog post are screen shots from the report.


  1. I hope that some of the routes you mention, Scott going into town (going out is easier although still far from ideal), Portage bridge approach are improved.
    Some things that are worth mentioning: the eastern side of the Canal pathway between Bronson and Pretoria bridges is super dangerous and someone is going to get killed on that one day. The particular reason is that the outside lane is going against the road traffic with no barrier to the road, and children in particular are prone to losing control or getting distracted. As the traffic is oncoming there is no chance for the driver to react or get out of the way, esp as people drive fast on the roads along the canal. The bike path should be widened and safety rails put up to separate the bikers from the traffic. This should be done at any point where the bike lane is getting narrowed or has no protection from the car lane. Eg the Patterson Creek bridge should be made one lane for road traffic with a traffic light to regulate traffic flow across, the path under the Pretoria and 417 bridges also has problems.
    The Otrain bike path is a nice idea, but all the road crossings are unmarked and the pavement height is not reduced for easier access to crossing bikes. This is nuts, someone is going to get hurt.
    These are a few of the problems I can see on bike lanes that are supposedly already safe.
    Thanks I hope that Ottawa can get things done. We did it in Brussels 🙂

    • I should state after looking at the map, it is Albert street after the crossing with the Transitway (Commissionar St?) where currently it is a mess. How do you get into Laurier in a safe and easy way? It does not look any less messy on the map, unfortunately.

  2. Hi there. When you were going through the report, did anything stand out to you as being particularly relevant to the Centretown area? I’m looking for a story for the next issue of the Centretown News, and I know there are a lot of cyclists in the area that would be interested in what the plan might mean for them.

    Thanks for summing up the report, there seems to be quite a bit of information in there.


    • In broad strokes for down town:

      establishing a winter network and bridge over Rideau River in the short term, further down the horizon bridge over canal (2020) at 5th Ave, and around the same time cantilevered bridge over Ottawa River attached to Prince of Wales bridge to Gatineau if NCC and Gatineau participate.

      Eventually perhaps bike tracks north south (O’Conner?) but you won’t see that before a few years after LRT is up and running. So other than the the Donald bridge over the Rideau, Don’t expect much of this being finished until 2020-2022.

      Of course in other areas there will be work done such as the Nepean Trail for example.

      If you have little time, read at least the recommendations that are scattered throughout the report in coloured boxes.

      Happy to read addtions by others.

      • Thanks for replying. I’ve had a chance to read through the draft a bit, and I’ve narrowed my story to focus on the creation of a winter maintained cycling network through the downtown. Would I be able to ask you a few quick questions on that?

        You can reach me at (kaylawemp@cmail.carleton.ca). I know it’s bad timing with the long weekend coming up, but I’d really love your input if you have a few moments between now and Tuesday.

        Thanks again, hope to hear from you soon!

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