Cycling the Capital.
Metroland Media reporter Blair Edwards travels the TransCanada Trail, a route of crushed gravel that makes for slower travel than paved surfaces such as the Ottawa River Parkway.
Dogs worship me.
I discovered my role as a canine deity earlier this year while commuting to work by bike, travelling through the dog-walking Mecca known as Bruce Pitts, a park located near West Hunt Club Road and Highway 416.
Every morning, during my 7 a.m.-ish commute they’d be waiting for me, lined up along the wire-metal fence separating the multi-purpose path from the dog-walking area.
German shepherds, terriers, mutts, Chihuahuas, their noses pressed against the wire, tongues unrolled and mouths watering as they barked adoration at my passing.
At least I like to think it was adoration.
Perhaps they knew I was a novice cyclist embarking on a 20-kilometre commute from Kanata to Colonnade Road in Nepean; the distance seemed like an impressive number when I first started cycling.
According to city data, most commuters travel a distance of no more than eight kilometres. But there are a number of cyclists who travel longer distances, journeying from the suburbs to the downtown core.
On Wednesday, July 25, I made the trek from Bridlewood to Ottawa City Hall, using a 27-kilometre route I found on Google Maps.
The idea was to choose a route that avoided roads with fast-moving traffic as much as possible.
Some cyclists are comfortable on roads with cars and trucks.
I’m not one of them.
Over the objections of my co-workers I dressed myself with sweat-shedding clothing, which to their horror included form-fitting bicycle shorts.
My bike was fitted with saddle bags, handy for carrying clothing, a wallet, keys, money – everything I would need to carry me through a work day.
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring water (more on that later).
My route started at the information kiosk on the TransCanada Trail, near Shetland Park and Eagleson Road.
The trail passes through a beautiful wooded area, passing south of Old Quarry Trail, a nature trail maintained by the National Capital Commission, used by cyclists, runners and people just out for a leisurely walk.
The TransCanada Trail is a stretch of path with crushed gravel, which makes for slower travel than on a paved surface.
But I enjoyed the slightly-uphill ride and before long I arrived in Bells Corners where I continued on across a bridge and along the trail until eventually I reached Fitzgerald Road, a road that winds past a number of businesses in Bells Corners, including the Salvation Army.
I turned north on Moodie Drive – this was the part of the trip I had been dreading – where to my relief I quickly discovered a dedicated bike lane.
My relief soon turned to horror as I approached the exit ramps for Highway 417, where the wonderful white painted bike lane suddenly disappeared.
Impatient motorists looking to take the east and west exits zoomed past me, sometimes at the last minute, anxious to shave a few minutes off their own commutes.
I reached Carling Avenue (not the best route by the way, but I missed the turnoff near Corkstown Road, where the Greenbelt trail was supposedly located) and headed west, quickly locating a designated bike lane.
Unfortunately, the markings once again disappeared, and I was sharing the lane with large and scary vehicles.
But I wasn’t on Carling for long once I located the Ottawa River Parkway path, a 20-kilometre route that follows the curve of the river, passing through beautiful wooded areas and greenery as well as a few beaches.
I picked up speed on the well-paved path, clicking along more quickly than I had on the TransCanada Trail.
The Parkway path offered a few amenities along the way, as it was located near urban areas, such as communities in Nepean and Westboro, including one well-placed porta-potty.
I passed many areas with benches, perfect spots for a quick rest, as well as a number of parks and beaches, such as Westboro Beach.
Finally, I reached Booth Street and continued pedalling south until I arrived at Laurier Avenue, where I quickly located the downtown road’s legendary 1.3-kilometre segregated bike lane.
The route quickly brought me to Elgin Street, where Ottawa City Hall was located.
Sweaty and warm from my ride, I checked the clock on my telephone.
One hour and 35 minutes.
Not bad – as Google Map had estimated the trip would take me around an hour and a half, which didn’t account for the several times I became lost and had to ask directions or when I missed turnoff signs for the Greenbelt Trail and was forced to modify my route.
Matt Rose, a downtown Ottawa resident and a long-time cycling commuter from his home to his office in the Kanata North Research Park, makes much better time during his daily commutes.
It takes him about 45 minutes to travel from his home to work, which he does three to five times a week from April to November.
“It’s basically exercising for free,” he said. “No time. No money. I actually save money because I don’t have to pay for gas.”
Rose travels to work using the parkway and Greenbelt paths.
“It’s a really nice bike ride,” he said. “There’s very few stops. There’s very few drivers to deal with. The scenery along the river is very nice.
“I sit behind a desk all day,” he said. “I need something to keep in shape.”
Rose said he’d like to see more segregated bike lanes.
“The bike lanes we have now, they’re ignored by motorists (more) than anything else,” he said. “We need more segregated bike lanes like the ones we have on Laurier.”
Another pet peeve is the lack of signage on March Road near the March/Eagleson Road west exit.
“There’s no stop sign or yield sign or anything like that, so if a cyclist is coming over a bridge they have to get across one lane to get over to the right shoulder.”
That said, Rose said he loves commuting by bike.
“The entire bike ride is beautiful,” said Rose. “Half of it is through farms and basically through the Greenbelt and the other half is along the Ottawa River.”