Ottawa’s People for Bikes network score inches up again

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Yesterday, People for Bikes in the USA released its annual city rankings for cycling safety progress. This year the organisation ranked 2579 cities mostly in the US, but also in Canada, the UK, Australia and ‘International’. Research is based on OpenStreetMap (make sure your city’s OSM is up to date), government statistics etc. Ottawa sees gradual process.

Not a competition in People for Bikes score

It is important to understand that this is not some kind of a competition. The purpose of this data collection is to track progress (or the lack thereof) over time. People for Bikes looks at several factors and weighs them. They look to safe bike access to other people, to grocery stores, to services such as health care, to access to recreational trails and parks, schools etc. Based on the data, People for Bikes gives every city a score.

Bars showing several categories and a score for Ottawa. Numbers are between 41 and 71 on a scale of 100
Screenshot People for Bikes: Ottawa score

Ottawa (score of 54) and Gatineau (score of 69) have consistently doing well compared to other cities, with Gatineau standing out as one of the best places in Canada for its cycling network. Every year I take a look at our region and create an extra ranking for the National Capital Region, by combining the weighed data of Gatineau and Ottawa. That would give us a score of 61, not that far off from a place like Vancouver (66).

Bars showing several categories and a score for Gatineau. Numbers are between 55 and 79 on a scale of 100
Screenshot People for Bikes: Gatineau score

More than concrete barriers

Score changes do not necessarily depend on building more segregated cycling infrastructure. It could be an important shortcut a city builds so that cyclists can avoid a short dangerous section of a busy road. Lowering speeds in neighbourhoods helps too in the ranking as does a sudden update in OSM that local volunteers may have taken on.

So how is Ottawa doing in the People for Bikes score?

If you take a look at the bigger Canadian cities, Montreal stands out with a score of 71. Vancouver is a close second with a score of 66. Then follow places like Calgary (62), Edmonton (61) and Ottawa (54) and eventually Toronto with a score of 47.

I looked a little closer to the differences between Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa because they are somewhat similar cities in size between around 1 and 1.3 million people. They are not part of a larger conglomeration like the GTA or Greater Vancouver and less dense then a city like Montreal.

The separate cycling infrastructure in Ottawa – Gatineau on OpenStreetMap: multi use pathways, raised cycling tracks, converted railway tracks, forestry trails etc. but not painted bike lanes on roads

In most categories in the network score, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa scores within a few points. The reason why the two Alberta cities score higher than Ottawa is because they score significantly higher in 1) access to transit hubs and 2) access to recreational trails. That shows to me that Ottawa should further improve its access to transit hubs. Especially with LRT 2 opening eventually, I hope OC Transpo is really going to make a point in attracting residents arriving by bike.

In the Canadian city category of my rather arbitrary cut off of over 1 million residents, Ottawa comes third after Montreal and Calgary. The reason why Edmonton and Vancouver are not in there is because Edmonton has not hit the 1 million mark and Vancouver has only 662,000 residents.

People walking on the Flora bridge across the Rideau Canal
Crossing the Rideau canal on the Flora foot and bicycle bridge

Gradual improvements

If we look at Ottawa over the years, we are gradually improving from a 46 score in 2019 to 54 score in 2024, eight points in six years. But a city like Hamilton, ON grew from 28 to 53 points since 2019. These changes can have several reasons, from actually building safer infrastructure, but perhaps also something as mundane as keeping Open Street Maps up to date. Certain data may only become available every so many years (Statscan), so you might see a bump all of a sudden in a particular year. All this to say, that a rating depends on several factors.

A table with data showing gradual process in access to retail, transit, services and several other categories
I am missing 2023 data because I was lazy last year, but you can make a pretty educated guess anyway

Portland, Oregon which is often seen as a good example for bike infrastructure as they started analysing and building early, had a score of 54 in 2021. It’s encouraging that Ottawa’s score in 2024 is now 54 too. Portland now has a score of 59.

Top performing cities in People for Bikes score

Bear in mind that the average network ranking for all 2579 cities rated is 28. It will not come as a surprise that European cities, particularly Dutch cities are high up there such The Hague (89), Utrecht (86) and Amsterdam (85).

A woman checks her cell phone while balancing two children on her bicycle
Off Westerdoksdijk in Amsterdam: front basket with stuff, cell phone, flip flops, bag with things over one shoulder, other bag over the other shoulder, dress and O……..2 kids. The fences in the background would not be allowed in Ottawa. Too open and they can be climbed on by kids

Paris (87), Lyon (86) and Munich (85), Valencia (80) and Barcelona (79) are in the top 10 too, if you are looking for an early spring getaway in Europe. The direct Ottawa to Paris flight looks like a keeper with an additional two hour highspeed train at 300 km/h from Paris to Lyon. Lyon has a bike share system and is a great destination anyway.

Lyon Bike share system at Place St. Jean
Lyon bike share system. This is in the early am, one block over from the bottom of the funicular at Place St. Jean

I noticed the dataset is downloadable from the website if you want to do more research on your own. I wrote about the city ratings before in 2020, 2021 and 2022. I am puzzled why Copenhagen is not in the list.

Don’t rely on social media, subscribe to my blog instead and have it delivered in your inbox.



  1. Disappointed that Toronto is still below 50%, though they have been doing some big steps forward lately including extending the Bloor bike lanes west to Kipling station and pursuing their four-year growth plan for bike share. The City approved a complete street on Eglinton (Keele to Mount Pleasant) and recently held consultations on extending the Danforth bike lanes into Scarborough and along Kingston Road which should further improve access.

    As for Ottawa, they do have a decent trail network, but it’s disappointing they don’t have a proper bike share system. Only shared scooters. Also heard good things about that recent Ottawa-Gatineau crossing.

  2. While I applaud the overall improvement for cycling in Ottawa, there is still a large gulf between the city core (well served) and the suburbs (poorly served). Nowhere is this more true than Kanata-Stittsville. We still don’t have a 3 season connector to the main spine to get downtown. Many cyclists are nervous to cycle on Moodie across the 417, being passed by cars going 90+KPH. The Master plan is equally clueless for this area.
    Great blog as usual. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Gary, also for the coffee. I agree with you that local cycling could be greatly improved in the newer suburbs. I have stared many hours at the maps of the three suburbs to figure out a safe cycling route for families. And it doesn’t all have to be separated as there are many quiet roads too. But there’s always a few arterial roads in the way. Keep bugging your city councillor. 🫢

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.