June 26, 2017

Capital Cycling Charms - Part 2

Part 1 of the Ottawa cycling series focused on urban bike routes. Getting a more complete picture also required some exposure to suburban infrastructure, which we experienced on Day 2.
Our route from Ottawa's Little Italy to Kanata

When planning our cycling trips, we set some criteria which limited our options. Avoiding steep hills ruled out Gatineau Park – a popular option for many road cyclists – while avoiding crossing the Queensway (Highway 417) ruled out places like Manotick, Stittsville, and Almonte. We then settled on Kanata (22 – 23 kilometres one way) and made a stop at Britannia Beach on the way back.
Britannia Beach
We headed towards the Ottawa River Pathway as with Day 1, but went beyond the Champlain Bridge. Normally, the adjacent pathway is closed to cars for Nokia Sunday Bikedays, but this was cancelled for Race Weekend. We saw thousands of runners making their way east, while a few cyclists still took advantage of the road closure. An inspiring sight for sure, but kind of silly to have an Open Streets event right next to an existing multi-use path.
Runners along the Sir John A Macdonald Parkway - and a cyclist for good measure
Beyond the Champlain bridge, cyclists could get to Teron Road in Kanata using exclusively off-road pathways; those being Ottawa River and Watts Creek. There are a few places where wayfinding is lacklustre. At Nanaimo Drive – shortly west of where the trail crosses Carling Avenue to become the Watts Creek Pathway – the signage doesn’t clearly identify the need to go straight to Aero Drive and then left to return to the trail. The trail’s terminus at Teron Road also doesn’t identify how close certain destinations are; meaning some advance research is needed.
Moodie Drive - Not exactly a safe crossing over the Queensway
Using the Watts Creek Pathway lead to two key crossings for suburban cyclists to cross the Queensway. The first is Moodie Drive; the main on-road cycling connection to Almonte, Stittsville, and Manotick which did not look safe given the high speed of traffic. For a traffic-free solution, cyclists could use the Trans Canada Trail, but the lack of pavement makes it impractical for road bike users.
Multi-use path and bike lanes on Teron Road
Once in Kanata, narrow off-road paths are provided on Teron – which also has painted bike lanes – and Campeau, though the dismount signs were a turnoff. What brought us to Kanata was to try some Indian food at Malabar House, which operated in the back of a convenience store in a strip mall. It wasn't that great in terms of food quality (still affordable), lack of seating, and limited bike parking. On a more positive note, the nearby library was beautifully done with lots of bike parking, turtle statues, modern and bright architecture, a hockey rink, and a small art gallery.
On the way back, we noticed some bridge artwork shortly after leaving Kanata and stopping at Britannia Beach was worthwhile. There was an "Antique Hoarders" store with lots of nifty artifacts, the Beachconers ice cream and espresso shop with unusual flavours – peach sriracha, anyone? - and a large park and beach to relax. Several volleyball courts and cherry blossom trees could also be found. We ended Sunday by walking around Little Italy – the Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana serves unique and delicious donuts for less than Toronto's Glory Hole – and Pho Bac for dinner.
Antique Hoarders and Beachconers Microcreamery in Britannia Beach (via Helen Qu)
Ottawa's Little Italy
With Monday being rained out, we did not bike any more for that trip. However, we got a first-hand look at the Mobycon-designed Churchill Avenue. It features cycle tracks raised to sidewalk level with green paint identifying conflict areas, zigzag markings at bus stops, and brick to improve aesthetics. We drove on Churchill when leaving Ottawa and found it to be effective in slowing down traffic. Last, but not least, I highly recommend Baker Street Café for breakfast! A half rack of ribs with an already generous offering of eggs, homefries, fruit, salad, and toast? Bring it on!
Pictures from Ottawa's Churchill Street
To backtrack things a bit, the Great Glebe Garage Sale kickstarted our trip on Saturday morning. If you have seen large flea markets before, you haven't seen anything until you visit the Glebe. Even by 7 – 8 AM, the entire neighbourhood is filled with people hunting for cheap bargains and vendors selling everything imaginable. Many kids were selling lemonade, while some vendors had goals of fundraising for travel, competitions, camps, or charities. Food options are plentiful and even a few bands were playing some music. For something unusual, a couple of "grim reaper" vehicles were rolling along. Unless you need to carry large items such as furniture, leave your car at home!
Pictures from Great Glebe Garage Sale
One last thing. When biking on Mackenzie Avenue, we noticed a yield sign was placed right on the cycle track. Ottawa should fix this ASAP!
Yield to a yield sign? I don't think so! (via Helen Qu)
The weekend in Ottawa left a positive impression with the city being not as intimidating as Toronto in terms of size, yet still offer great cycling facilities, events, and food options.

Happy Canada 150!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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