We should count our lucky stars that spring 2020, a spring spent stuck indoors and away from friends and family due to COVID-19, happens to be one of the nicest springs we’ve had in quite some time. Families were out at the first sign of warmth, dusting out their bikes from winter storage to go for a ride. In fact, bike sales are booming as Canadians try to find ways to exercise outside of gyms and organized sports. 

It’s truly great to see all the new cyclists, whether they’re individuals, couples, or families, taking to the roads and paths we have around the city. Here are a few tips and spots to go if you’re looking to branch out from the neighbourhood.

Where to Go

Paved Multi-Use Paths

It’s no secret that we’ve got a series of beautiful paved bike paths (aka MUPs) in the city that make for some smooth and scenic rides. And quite a few of them are easily accessed from our neighbourhood, too! Where Junction and Brookfield meet you can ride over Sawmill Creek to access approximately 5 kilometres of paved paths that ride alongside a reservoir, taking you to Hunt Club with a shortcut to the South Keys shopping centre.

If you head north along Bank Street, just before Billings Bridge you can hop on the Rideau River Eastern Pathway. If you go west, you’ll ride all the way to Mooney’s Bay before the path ends. Head east and you can take the paths along the river to Sussex (construction might block this, so use Stanley Ave. as an alternative). Once on Sussex if you turn right to continue onto Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway, you’ll find even more riverside paths for exploring. 

Tip: On Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway, stay up near the road for paved pathways, or take one of the connector paths down a hill to the river for additional gravel paths that run along the waterfront. 

There are also paths through the Experimental Farm which you can take on a nice loop through Nepean, connecting with the Pinecrest Creek Pathway and eventually the Ottawa River Pathway along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. Where these two paths connect you can choose to go west on paths that will take you past Britannia Beach all the way to March Road in Kanata. Heading east will take you back towards downtown, where you can dip south on the Trillium Pathway next to the LRT Trillium Line which will take you back to Dow’s Lake.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the hundreds of kilometres of paved pathways through the National Capital Region, but those are the ones I find to be the easiest to get to. Use this site to browse the NCC’s pathways around the city.

Gravel Paths

Though a bit harder to find, there are several gravel pathways in the outskirts of Ottawa that make for nice, quiet rides isolated from traffic. Some even have small parking lots if you prefer not to ride there – if you have children with you for example. The Osgoode Link Pathway south of the city starts around 10 kilometres from our neighbourhood, but the most northern part is currently closed for construction. To access the pathway, you can head south on Albion Road and hang a right on Mitch Owens Road. Both of which have wide paved shoulders if you are comfortable biking there. Right before Manotick Station Road there’s a small parking lot that leads to the pathway. From that spot, you can ride an additional 14 kilometres to the town of Osgoode before you have to turn back. It’s nice to feel safe and far away from the danger of cars on this pathway, but do note it can be a bit bumpy at times.

Another pathway I recently explored can be reached about 15 kilometres from here in the east end also has a parking lot at the trailhead, making it a great option for families. On Anderson Road, just south of the roundabout linking Anderson and Renaud Roads, you’ll find the start to the Prescott-Russell Trail Link. On a visit there this spring I found the trail to be in good condition, with hard-packed gravel that was easy to ride and did not have me sliding around on my 28 mm tires. This trail appears to stretch just past Vankleek Hill to the border of Quebec, so there is plenty of space to ride. 

There’s another gravel pathway in the west end that makes for a nice long ride, but it’s a little harder to get to. I don’t personally know of any spots to park but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The Trans Canada Trail is a series of trails that stretches across the entire country, and it comes right through Ottawa. In town, it uses existing NCC MUPs, which it connects to in Stittsville. Between Stittsville and Carleton Place, it’s a quiet gravel path that cuts through bogs and open fields. It is approximately 25 kilometres to get to this path from Heron Park, so unless you can find a spot to park, it’s not likely a choice for families.

General Tips

What to Bring

Make sure you bring plenty of water and some snacks to keep your energy up while you’re out. Granola bars, fruit, or even a picnic lunch are sure to hit the spot. 

Tip: For hot days, fill up a water bottle about half or three quarters full and pop it in the freezer the night before. Fill with water before you go and it’ll defrost pretty quickly on your ride.

Consider bringing a small hand pump even if you are just riding around town. On longer stretches, pack a small first aid kit, tissues, extra food, a spare tube, and in these times, hand sanitizer. 

Follow the Rules

As a cyclist, you’re no longer considered a pedestrian; under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, bicycles are vehicles, just like a car. Signal your intent when turning or stopping – for both motorists and fellow cyclists behind you. Don’t run reds or stop signs just because the way is clear. Ring your bell before passing another cyclist, or pedestrians when you’re on the city’s MUPs. Even if they’re over to the side and it looks safe to pass, ringing your bell gives them notice that you’ll be passing, so they don’t move into your path and cause a collision. 

General Bike Maintenance

Even if you aren’t an amateur bike mechanic, there are a few things you can do to make sure your bike runs smoothly between servicing. Before you head out, check your tire pressure and pump them up if it’s low. Give your brakes a squeeze to ensure they’re doing their job. Lubricate your chain every month too if you can.

Protect Your Brain

It’s disconcerting to see how many people ride around town without a helmet on. Kids are generally pretty good at wearing their helmets, likely with urging from their parents, but so often I see grown adults feeling too cool to protect their own noggin. Even at low speeds, you’re not going to want to find out who comes out on top when your skull meets the pavement. On MUPs, on gravel, on country roads, and on little rides around the neighbourhood – whether you’re on the road or not – WEAR A HELMET. You only have one brain.

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