Visiting Ward 9’s bike infrastructure

Ottawa consists of much more than the usual suspects like Parliament Hill, the museums (musea), the Canal and the Byward Market. Not everyone who is visiting Ottawa will make it to places like Westboro, the Glebe, Old Ottawa South or up and coming Hintonburg, let alone making it all the way to a place like Nepean or Orleans, unless you have family there. Even most Ottawans don’t make it to the other side of the city usually.

Ward 9 map: Blue is the way out, red is the way back. (Image Google Maps)

Before a number of municipalities merged into the current city of Ottawa, there was a place called Nepean. Mostly built up since the 50’s and 60’s, old Nepean (ward 9-ish) was (and still is) a bedroom community. Ward 9, where I live myself, lies in Nepean. The limits of ward 9 (City councillor Egli) are a bit odd: Fallowfield is the south edge, Cedarview the west edge; then the limit runs along the railway tracks towards Merivale, where it juts north along Merivale to Baseline, further east to Fisher, south on Fisher again and then further south on Prince of Wales until it meets up with Fallowfield again. It is a pretty big area. We live roughly in the northeastern tip near Fisher and Baseline.

This summer I decided to see if I could travel diagonally from Northeast (Fisher and Baseline) to Southwest (Fallowfield and Cedarview), touching on some parks, using as many bike lanes and shared paths as possible.

Path stops...and starts again where the bike is waiting (General Burns).

So off I went, with lots of water, lunch and a new odometer to count the clicks. The main reason to discover the other Ottawa was to see how easy it is to find your way through the ward. I worked my way through Fisher Heights, crossed Meadowlands towards General Burns Park and Red Pine Park in Fisher Glen and connected via Saginaw Crescent to a fairly new nice little path just south of Viewmount. As the railway tracks are a considerable barrier, one eventually has to use miserable Merivale, an example of 50-60’s’s planning gone hugely wrong (but hindsight is 20/20 n’est-ce pas?), to get south of the tracks.

Merivale underpass, lots of space for a bike lane in some form.

I recommend you take the side walk or that funny asphalt strip. No one will blame you. But cycle carefully.

Off Woodfield Drive, south of the railway tracks, heading west.

Once the railway track was behind me, I turned right into Woodfield. Just passed Tanglewood Park, a shared path leads you all the way to the Woodroffe/Huntclub intersection, but just before the intersection you can cross Hunt Club to go south to the property of the Ottawa Carleton School Board/Sportsplex.

Taking the back road behind the OCSB and using the entrance road to the Sportsplex, I eventually crossed Woodroffe into the Experimental Farm entrance. The gate was open, the barrier down and no one in the guard’s house. I figured the rules for the Farm are the same as the ones for the Farm near the Arboretum, so I cycled past the barrier and into the great wide open.

This part of the Farm is actually the Greenbelt and I believe there are animals in the buildings, although I didn’t see much evidence. It is big too: about 15 km2, the equivalent of Parliament Hill to Billings and Parliament Hill to Tunney’s, give or take a few hundred meters. I did see some military vehicles (green trucks) and storage of the NCC steps that the NCC puts in to get you on to the canal in winter. I cycled further south and got this eery feeling that I wasn’t allowed here, as the grass grew through the cracks of the road, a sign of little usage. It was definitely a road less travelled. There is a Richie Feed and Seed storage bunker in the middle -and lots of corn growing.

The Experimental Farm, ... a bit 'je ne sais quoi'.

It all felt very much like an abandoned former Sovjet army base from 1960’s. I have actually never seen a Sovjet army base but this is how they should look like. I did see East German watch towers when I entered into East Germany long time ago and the feeling was simular. The only thing missing was the Ekranoplan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlEt0bCeTy8).

When I finally ended up at Greenbank, I understood why it had been so quiet: I wasn’t really allowed to cross this piece of the Greenbelt. Oh well, ignorance is bliss.

I guess I wasn't allowed there, but it would be a great bicycle corridor.

I lifted my bike over the fence, climbed over it and set out on a boring stretch of Greenbank toward Barrhaven. Reaching Fallowfield, I contemplated going west on Fallowfield, but the thought of sharing the road (a sign asks to do so) was too much and I deviated from my plan to stick to Ward 9 and ventured a bit into the next ward (Ward 3, Jan Harder), in order to cycle slightly south of Fallowfield on Larkin. I had assumed that Larkin would meet up with Cedarview, but this is Barrhaven and so it didn’t. But since I didn’t know that, I thought I was cycling on Cedarview but in reality I was unhappily cycling on Fallowfield eastbound. By the time I discovered that (there was no sun to orientate), I had covered a few hundred meters. The only solution was turning into Barrhaven again to find my way to Jockville, which actually has a shared path on the southside. Cedarview was uneventful, other than the lunch I had at the Cedarview golf course. That sounds posh, but I brought my own lunch and ate it, sitting on the base of the sign of the club.

Sandy soil offers different landscapes: Bruce Pit with lots of happy dogs.

Further north, way north, Bruce Pit was calling. I had heard a lot about it, but never went there. It is actually a neat different kind of landscape with very sandy soil (hence it was a pit) and lots of pine trees. The scent of pine brought back memories of Southern France.  The NCC did quite some restoration work in the Bruce Pit. The path going east was hard to find as I had turned into the parking lot. After some searching, I found the path behind a fence. More searching and eventually the path appears to be accessible from the northeast corner of the parking lot behind the sign with the plan of Bruce Pit.

Left? Or right? Maybe a sign?

Cycling along the pond, you have to stick to the right, else you keep going in circles around the pond (a sign would have been helpful).

The beautiful stone dust path takes you all the way to Trend Arlington (TA) Park, or so I thought, but eventually I found myself on a busy road, which turned out to be Hunt Club again. Somewhere I should have turned left, but where? Resisting the idea to just soldier on, I turned around and started to search for the path into TA Park and eventually I found it. It wasn’t very logical, as naturally one follows the stone dust path, but somewhere opposite the exit of the dog run area, you need to turn left. (Picture).

Should have gone left towards Arlington Woods, but how would one know?

If it wasn’t easy to get to TA Park, I got completely lost in the Arlington Woods area. Eventually I found my way in and out of the park (tournament of girls soccer going on) and cycled the shared path all the way to the intersection of Knoxdale with Craig Henry and on towards Woodroffe.

OK, from the right most lane to the left most lane on a bike on a freshly paved Woodroffe. Doesn't it look like the Queensway? It certainly feels like it. Yes, I was cycling 'without hands' there as in: both hands on the camera.

As the idea was to stay in the ward, I didn’t venture north towards Centrepointe (councillor Chiarelli, ward 8 – College), which would have been a more logical choice, but then I would betray my ward 9. Instead I retraced my ride partly.

As the underpass at Merivale is one of the very few places to get back to the northern section of Ward 9, I cycled back parallel along Woodfield. Past Merivale, I turned back into Colonnade Rd. and off that business sector immediately north, through fields of Milkweed, roughly following Colonnade all the way to Prince of Wales along the storm water ponds. I am skipping a bit here as it all becomes a bit confusing without a map. Ideally, you’d cross the storm water dam behind Citi Place (yes that’s twice an i in Citi) and go north to Valley Ridge Rd, to bypass Prince of Wales, but it didn’t look like a good idea for now as I wasn’t sure you could actually cross. It would definitely all be very illegal and possibly dangerous.

Prince of Wales is another crossing point underneath the railway tracks, and such a narrow underpass is called a ‘Subway‘ in railway terms. (now you know where the name comes from). It is bad, really bad there. I have cycled it many times on my way to a previous work place for six months.

Prince of Wales Subway no road for cycling, but not much of an alternative either (Google Maps)

Turning into Fisher I noticed my tire felt a little wobbly. Yes, after 47 km I had a flat. I cycled on it home anyway, back to Fisher and Baseline. What the heck, I was tired.

The whole tour on Google is about 40 km, but I had clocked close to 50 clicks by the time I was back at the start. That is partly because I did some detours, went the wrong way here and there and ventured out behind the golf course to look at some over sized houses with tennis courts and pools in the backyard. I also checked out the Old Log Farm on Lytle Ave across the Veteran’s highway. The place was closed and since I had heard about bear sightings in that neck of the woods, I wasn’t too interested to check it out on my own. (Later at home, I looked it up and it turns out to be open in March only (Sugarbush, visions of rotting teeth).

Some remarks:

  1. A big improvement would be a 100 meter bike path at the underpass at Merivale;
  2. I pulled the map out countless times as there is not one single sign along the way. In a few places it would have been helpful to point out where the path leads to;
  3. There could be a better connection (sharrows, signs) from Knoxvale to Sherry Lane Park. This would avoid the ignorant cyclist like me to cycle on Woodroffe;
  4. Pineglen and Country Place cycling residents have the choice of Merivale or Prince of Wales to get North, neither of the two are very appealing, even though they are not too far from downtown (13-15 km, an ideal distance for slightly more serious bicycle commuters);
  5. The bike network could be better connected between parks. Once coming from Red Pine Park, one could cross Redpine Drive, cut through 25 mtr of school yard entrance and hook up to another path; on Google Maps, it is not continued (I missed that connection). It might be that the school board is worried about liability.
  6. Valley Ridge St. should hook up over the storm water ponds to the shared path along Colonnade Road and the new Citi Place development;

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