Early Morning Bike Loop Through Ottawa’s Winter Wonderland

This winter I wanted to figure out a safe early morning bike loop in our nation’s capital. It proved to be a tricky endeavour due to the limited number of bike paths that are cleared of snow. Here’s what I came up with.

Our tour starts at the Chinatown arch, corner of Somerset and Cambridge Street North.

Riding through the winter includes experiencing lots of varied surface conditions – ie, slushy, icy, snowy, dry, etc. The sweetest surface for an early morning ride (6 a.m.’ish) is after a light overnight snowfall with an accumulation of an inch or two, preceded by a few days of dry weather. At that hour the snow plows haven’t done their rounds on side streets, making for a heavenly ride.

Cambridge St North
Cambridge St North

The tour joins the Laurier Bike Lane at it’s western end. By 6 am the city usually has it cleared and salted.

Laurier Bike Lane
Laurier Bike Lane

The bike lane ends at Elgin, replaced with sharrows painted on the edge of Laurier Street. The usefulness of sharrows are questionable in the best of conditions. In the winter these ones are often covered in snow, forcing cyclists into traffic at this terrible corner, so if there’s any traffic I suggest walking your bike half a block to the plaza in front of City Hall and ride along the path to Cartier St on the other side of City Hall. (UPDATE Sept 2014 – the Laurier bike lane has been extended between Elgin and the bridge over the canal. Here’s hoping it will be plowed. Stay tuned!).

Laurier east of Elgin
Laurier east of Elgin
Path through plaza
Path through City Hall plaza

Continue along Cartier St to Somerset St. Turn left on Somerset and cross the pedestrian/bike bridge over the canal. Get on the path along the canal and head south away from downtown. The NCC does a great job clearing the paths on either side of the canal. They had yet to get to them in time for this outing, but a light accumulation over a dry surface is just the way I like it.

Path along the Rideau Canal
Path along the Rideau Canal

Push your bike over the canal locks at Carleton University.

View up the canal from the Hartwell locks
View up the canal from the Hartwell locks

Cross Prince of Wales and ride through the Experimental Farm down to Prince of Wales and Preston Street.

Riding through the Experimental Farm
Riding through the Experimental Farm

To avoid riding along Preston Street and Carling Avenue, cut through the park along the path north of Dow’s lake to Booth street. This path isn’t cleared but it is so well trodden that it is usually rideable. Worst case you may have to dismount and push your bike to Carling and Booth. Ride along Booth St and turn up Arlington just after going under the Queensway. Continue along side streets to Cambridge.

For a longer ride you can continue on the cleared path on the north side of the canal, as suggested by the red line on the map.

Et voila! Hopefully the city and NCC will expand on snow clearing initiatives along existing paths, such as the Laurier Bike Lane and Rideau Canal Pathways, for more safe and wonderful riding in winters to come.

Author: ottawavelo

bicycler

4 thoughts on “Early Morning Bike Loop Through Ottawa’s Winter Wonderland”

  1. Hey thanks for this route!

    Part of it follows my own way to taekwondo, so it’s a big help.

    However, I usually continue up Prince of Wales to the roundabout at the Experimental Farm Parkway and turn right down there.

    I see you have a deke that avoids Prince of Wales. Where do you turn right once you head off Prince of Wales?

    Thanks,

    Cindy

    1. If you are heading up Prince of Wales away from Dow’s Lake, turn right at the first set of lights you come to just before it turns up the hill towards the round-about. That takes you up through the parking lot of the rapidly disappearing Sir John Carling Building, which they are in the process of tearing down. At the top of the road that takes you through the parking you will come out at Birch Drive. Turn left onto Birch drive. Continuing along Birch Drive will take you to the NCC Scenic Driveway, thus avoiding Prince of Wales and the round-about. I, however, do an extra little deke through the lane way of the William Saunders Building, which is your first right along Birch Avenue. This cuts across to Maple Drive. Turning left onto Maple Drive which will also take you to the NCC Scenic Driveway. I like to do this extra deke because it brings me closer to the start of the bike path that runs west alongside the NCC Scenic Driveway. Hope that all makes sense.

      1. UPDATE – Fall 2014 – The jog to avoid the Prince Of Wales round-about has been dug up since the The Sir John Carling Bldg near Dow’s Lake was demolished this summer, so I have adjusted the above map that now takes you through the round-about. Hopefully there will be a path that allows you to avoid the around-about as before, once they’ve finished cleaning up the old Sir John Carling site.

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