Heron Road Bike Infrastructure at Transitway

Heron pathways
Heron going east-west, potential future connections in light grey. The switchbacks are needed to limit steepness and meet slope requirements
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This week, I was at an open house for new bike infrastructure on Heron, between Bank and Data Centre Road. At that stretch, Heron is a wide arterial with 60 kph speed limits but where it is easy to roll at least 70 kph.

It is a spaghetti of roads and railway tracks in that area, and after 19 years in Ottawa I still have a hard time to orient myself if I don’t drive on Heron Rd. There is LRT, VIARail, the Transitway, Heron Rd and the Airport Parkway/Bronson and its on and off ramps. Data centre road winds through the area towards Billings bridge. The web of roads starts already with the on and off ramps at Brookfield and it continues all the way to the Rideau river.

Heron pathways
Heron going east-west, potential future cycling and walking connections in light grey. The switchbacks are needed to limit steepness and meet slope requirements.

Four Dutch style intersections

The reconfiguration -if the budget is approved- will add four Dutch style intersections at the existing traffic signals, as well as MUP’s and new raised bike tracks to this short stretch of Heron Rd. The purpose is to make it safer for residents to cycle to a variety of destinations, such as the LRT stop on Heron and the bus stops on Data centre Rd.

Connections to Brookfield and Baseline

What makes this project interesting is that ultimately this infrastructure will connect to (gasp!) the Baseline Rd separate raised bike tracks and a MUP (south end of the Farm) as well as to Brookfield Rd when (second gasp!) a path can be built underneath the O-Train. The O-train is now crossing at level with tracks used by VIARail but that can’t continue as level crossings are not desirable with the increasing frequency of both VIA and the O-train.

From what I learned is that the O-train in LRT Phase 2 will get an overpass over the rail tracks which VIA is using. Heron Road and Baseline will become a more southerly east-west spine route for cycling and will carry number 7 in the network. Few people will ride the entire route I suspect, but as it is so straight it will likely often be used for parts of a ride. O, and Baseline’s revamp -if it happens- will not be finished before 2031. The plan is to start at Prince of Wales and work westbound.

Good news story

The tracks on Heron is a good news story. My wife and I drove it often in the winter to family in AltaVista and always wondered why there wasn’t better bike infra at that part of Heron. There is tons of space. Well, that space is going to be used now.

There were few people at the open house last Tuesday, and I don’t expect a lot of push back. There are probably about 30 houses on Heron Rd there, which are set back and all have serious driveways. So no issues with parking. The bus bays will disappear. Don’t tell anyone.

The bike track will run immediately along the road. While it is raised, there is not always a buffer zone. That is too bad, but the alternative is to cut all the trees, which we don’t want either.

A mix of applications on Heron Rd

Starting on Heron on the south side at Data centre road, Heron will have a bidirectional pathway eastbound, but stops at Junction (the first street on your right hand) and continues as a unidirectional lane. The next intersection (with traffic signals) is Clover. This will become a Dutch style intersection. After Junction, it will be uni-directional all the way to Kaladar. The Canadian Tire will lose the slip lane eastbound, which I applaud. And it looks like Data centre road is losing the slip lanes too. The other three of a total of four Dutch style intersections will be at the exit at Canadian Tire, at Kaladar and at Clementine.

The north side tracks are more or less a mirror image of the ones on the south side.

Heron and Clementine

Heron and Clementine: a bike route towards Altavista and Billings Bridge. If I have a green while approaching Heron, I will likely bypass the cross rides

Clementine needs a bit of extra attention as it is a good connection between Brookfield and the neighbourhood north of Heron in that area and further to Kilborn in Alta Vista. Clover is one way on the north side only, so Clementine is the only option north south vv and therefore a bike route for a long time already.

The route from Brookfield (bottom left), crossing Heron and Bank, going to Alta Vista. I take this very roundabout way to avoid Heron. (top right).

I have never really liked the approach on Clementine from the south towards Heron. The radius is quite wide and allowing for fairly high speed approaches towards the intersection. Clementine northbound towards Heron is about 11 meters wide, which is not necessary. I’d like to see that narrower.

11 meters for two lanes?

It is good to see that bike lanes behind bus stops appear not an issue anymore and slip lanes disappear like snow for the sun on a warm spring day lately. Note also that the bike lanes veer away from the intersection just before the lights. This is done so that drivers can see the cyclists in the bike track better, when they start their turn.

Paul Clarke is the project manager. You can reach him at paul.clarke2@ottawa.ca

The city’s link to the project and maps is here


  1. I commend the city for improving cycling and pedestrian access on certain routes that approach or cross the LRT lines and Stations. This sort of complete planning is a huge step forward from the old stick the station somewhere and forget it (and making promises to neighbours that there would be no upzoning or intensification) of the transitway era.

    As for those switchbacks on the slopes off Heron Road, peeps like me will dutifully follow the paved path but others, more adventurous, will take the straight line “mountain bike” experience. While the city cannot (for legal reasons) encourage or permit this direct line transit, they could design the slopes knowing that some peds and cyclists will in fact and reality do just this. Or, they could put in big boulder walls and bollards and fences to “discourage” it. I favour the former action.

    Another road with super wide shoulders that could be improved for cycling is Riverside Drive going south from Heron. I found it amazing I could cycle from my home in Chinatown almost every meter of the way (off busy “arterial” road !) to the airport via Trillium-Dows Lake pathway-Mooney’s Bay pathway – Riverside sidewalk – to Hunt Club, with the Riverside sections being on empty sidewalks not approved for cycling. There is still easy, long-hanging fruit to take advantage of.

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