Canada Day: Checking Out the Capital by Bike

At any given moment, there were at least two dozen cyclists watching or passing the Hartwell Locks in the Rideau Canal.
At any given moment, there were at least two dozen cyclists watching or passing the Hartwell Locks in the Rideau Canal.

We’re not big crowd fans. We’d rather be on our own on days like Canada Day, than be with 500,000 others in down town Ottawa. There is not much attraction in seeing people with flags wrapped around their shoulders and belting out “O Canada’ at any given moment, in pubs, in buses, walking along the road or sitting in parks.

But it is a day off, the weather was nice and that makes for a good bike ride. To stick to the Canada Day theme, we thought we should cycle past about 20 national treasures in the Nation’s capital. We were not the only ones, there were large numbers of cyclists of all stripes out today.

A Lockheed C-130 Hercules four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft flew low over our heads towards the airport after dropping  sky divers over down town Ottawa.
A Lockheed C-130 Hercules four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft flew low over our heads towards the airport after dropping sky divers over down town Ottawa.

We live in an older suburb, just south of the Experimental Farm; it is only just over a kilometer to get to the Farm, where the roads are closed on days like this. Cycling eastbound drops us quickly at the Arboretum and the Rideau Canal, a World Heritage Site.

The yet to be finished O-Train path is a great addition to Ottawa's bike network. 'Guerrilla' cyclists built their own ramp, frustrated with the City's bureaucracy to do things quickly.
The yet to be finished O-Train path is a great addition to Ottawa’s bike network. ‘Guerrilla’ cyclists built their own ramp, frustrated with the City’s bureaucracy to do things quickly.

Cycling north, the Arboretum path ends at Dow’s Lake north end. You have to share the road a bit on Preston, but than you quickly turn left into Adeline to the path along the O-train. This part is still muddy, but in two years the entire path will be ready. Adeline will also soon connect to Hickery St across the tracks through a 5 meter wide foot and bicycle bridge.

The O-Train path hooks up with the Ottawa river pathway, which counted around 5000 bike rides last year's Canada Day.
The O-Train path hooks up with the Ottawa river pathway, which counted around 5000 bike rides at last year’s Canada Day.

Further north, the path is ready and connects with the path along the Ottawa river.

The bike path crosses Booth at the War Museum. This is a very busy bike intersection and a prime candidate for a cross ride (because none of the thousands of people ever get off their bikes to walk them across).
The bike path crosses Booth at the War Museum. This is a very busy bike intersection and a prime candidate for a cross ride (because none of the thousands of people ever get off their bikes to walk them across).

This brings you at the War Museum. Crossing Booth, you’ll start to see the Parliament Buildings. There is an intricate route to go underneath the Brutalist knot of Pont de Portage, but eventually you end up on a gorgeous path that runs along the cliff of the Parliament buildings. On your right is the Supreme Court of Canada, on your left the new Royal Canadian Navy monument. (Here is an entire post on it).

The new Navy monument.
The new Navy monument.

Across the Ottawa river lies the Canadian Museum of Civilisation Museum of Canadian History Canadian Museum of History (Canadian history only, even though the new name implies it covers all history).

Tons of people at the first Rideau locks at the Ottawa River. Many people are intrigued by the system of bring boats up based on basically gravity and the law of communicating vessels.
Tons of people at the first Rideau locks at the Ottawa River. Many people are intrigued by the system of bringing boats up based on gravity and the law of communicating vessels.

A few hundred meters west is the start of the Rideau Canal with its locks. Tons of people were out there watching the boats or just enjoying the views. We just happened to see the fly-over by the Snowbirds Demonstration Team.

Snowbirds going over our heads, three 5 second fly overs. I wonder how much that costs.
Snowbirds going over our heads, three 5 second fly overs. I wonder how much that costs.

After all this national eye candy, it is time to meet the crowds at the bottom of Nepean’s point and the National Art Gallery, currently wrapped in an ice berg print, while redoing the glass tower.

The glass tower is wrapped in a cloth with an iceberg print on it. My wife thought it looks like bird droppings.
The glass tower is wrapped in a cloth with an iceberg print on it. My wife thought it looks like bird droppings.

The road to Alexandra bridge was closed and a bit confusing, we were not sure if we could actually bike on the road there, but no one seemed to bother. (we were going 8 km/hr or so); large amounts of people appeared to walk around aimlessly.

Walking in circles on the bike lanes, which was also occupied by several food stalls.
Walking in circles on the bike lane, which was also occupied by several food stalls.

Then it is time to hit Sussex East bound, looping around the Peace Monument, passing the Byward Market, the Currency Museum, several embassies, the National Research Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs. This part is not very bicycle friendly, but on calm days, it is doable. Past the intersection with King Edward, the road narrows and their are bike lanes again. On the left hand, we passed the Prime Minister’s house, and past the roundabout on the right the house of the Governor General, Rideau Hall.

The entrance to the Prime Minister's residence, usually guarded by RCMP cruisers inside and outside.
The entrance to the Prime Minister’s residence, usually guarded by RCMP cruisers inside and outside.
The entrance to the Governor General residence, known as Rideau Hall.
The entrance to the Governor General residence, known as Rideau Hall.

Sussex Drive turns into the Rockcliffe Parkway (note the small symbolic rail road track in the centre of the second roundabout you’ll pass there) and you are on a bike path again. This one leads all the way to the Aviation Museum.

The beautiful new bike tracks on the Rockcliffe Parkway.
The beautiful new bike tracks on the Rockcliffe Parkway.

The National Capital commission just finished a brand new gorgeous path on along the river high up on the cliff. The super heavy metal guard rails seems to be a tad overdesigned in good NCC fashion, but you don’t hear me complaining. Especially as the rest of the route doesn’t have the guards, so why bother with the few hundred meters all of a sudden.

Following the path, you’ll end up at our Aviation Museum. It is worth taking a look inside, even if you are not a plane buff like me. We find the oldest planes and the bush planes worth watching.

The pathway continues all the way to the Aviation Museum
The pathway continues all the way to the Aviation Museum

Down the Aviation Pathway it went, to drop in at friends with a pool near the Montfort Hospital; we are now 16 km (10 miles) from home. They weren’t home, but we did stop at the Ontario Francophonie monument for French Canadians who live in Ontario (mostly east of Ottawa).

Hôpital Montfort: Dédié aux individus ayant œuvré dans le domaine de la santé et des services sociaux en français, ce Monument de la francophonie a été inauguré le 13 octobre 2010 en présence des bâtisseurs et des commanditaires du projet. (source: mondrapeaufranco.ca)
Hôpital Montfort: Dédié aux individus ayant œuvré dans le domaine de la santé et des services sociaux en français, ce Monument de la francophonie a été inauguré le 13 octobre 2010 en présence des bâtisseurs et des commanditaires du projet. (source: mondrapeaufranco.ca)

We backtracked a bit to Holmwood, which is going to be part of the Ottawa cross town bike corridor. It was also time for a drink and a snack. Virtually everything is closed on Canada Day, but the pub in New Edinburgh was open. After a cold Pepsi (I prefer Coke actually) and veggies and pita in hummus (West meets East in Ottawa), we cycled along the Rideau River to the Cummings Bridge (Montreal Road bridge). I tend to call the bridges after the road, like the Hunt club bridge which is actually called the Michael J.E. Sheflin bridge, but no one knows that).

Lunch at the Clocktower Brew Pub in New Edinborough
Lunch at the Clocktower Brew Pub in New Edinburgh

We cut through Sandy Hill (glass in the bike lane, moving truck in the bike lane) on Stewart, over the Mackenzie King bridge that was packed with people, past the War Monument towards that other great Canadian pride: the Laurier Bike Lane. Half way the bike lane there was a car parked (“My husband is in the hotel” as if that is an excuse) and we stopped at the urban garden plots at Nanny Goat Hill opposite the condos on Laurier.

Bike lane on Stewart in Sandy Hill.
Bike lane on Stewart in Sandy Hill.
Garden plots are in great demand at Nanny Goat Hill along the Laurier Bike Lane.  There are 85 people on the waiting list, so the waiting list is closed
Garden plots are in great demand at Nanny Goat Hill along the Laurier Bike Lane. There are 85 people on the waiting list, and the waiting list is closed

Across Bronson, people from the Elisabeth Briere Long Term care facility were hanging around with locals on the corner of Ottawa’s only woonerf and Primrose for a BBQ.

BBQ for the guests of Elisabeth Briere Long Term Care. We were offered hot dogs  but we just had lunch.
BBQ for the guests of Elisabeth Briere Long Term Care. We were offered hot dogs but we just had lunch.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and partly the same as the way in. Very few people flag in Ottawa. You’ll see the the odd flag hanging out of a window but the image you get of Ottawa if you watch TV at night is really only of two blocks of party goers on Parliament Hill.

Here is the route. We started in the lower left corner in Fisher Heights, the route is about 30 km. It is about 6 km in and out to the start of the loop from our house, so the actual loop is about 25 km, give or take a kilometer.

We started and finished in Fisher Heights in Nepean, and made our way through town along mostly bike paths and bike lanes. Very easy and relaxed cycling.
We started and finished in Fisher Heights in Nepean, and made our way through town along mostly bike paths and bike lanes. Very easy and relaxed cycling.
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5 thoughts on “Canada Day: Checking Out the Capital by Bike

  1. What a wonderful day! The children (Anna Sierra, age 9, on her own bike + Jasper, age 7, on a tandem with me) and I had almost the same bike adventure the day before! Except we stopped at the Aviation Museum to take in the new Star Wars Identities exhibit. Our favourite part of the bike ride was the new section along the Rockcliffe Parkway! Such an incredible view of the river!

    Great post!

    Like

  2. Sounds like a great day out! The Montreal Road bridge across the Rideau River is called the Cummings Bridge, a name that seems actually known and used by locals.

    Like

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