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)
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 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.
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.
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?
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?