A friend was wondering whether there was a safe winter bike route from The Glebe to the RA Centre. There is, as per the map below, but it’s quite circuitous – sadly so, when you consider how physically close the two destinations are from each other. At the time of the RA’s conception, driving was the de facto mode of transpo and, by default, still is. As we wait for the powers-that-be to bring our city’s cycling infrastructure up to par, I suggest the following as the safest winter bike route to get there. I also recommend a studded front tire for winter riding.
Winter cycling along Bronson is to be avoided. I crossed Bronson at Fifth Ave where there are traffic lights.
The other side of Bronson becomes a pleasant meander along Madawaska Drive to Commissioner’s Park which explodes with tulips come springtime. A minimal number of city paths are cleared throughout the winter which often forces one to rely on shared Desire Lines, i.e. trampled down paths popular with pedestrians regardless of whether plowers were instructed to clear them or not. I followed this one that cuts across the park to the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. This path is proportionally more trampled relative to the skate-ability of the canal.
On the other side of the driveway I rode a short distance along the plowed-and-salted Rideau Canal Western Pathway to Preston Street. I crossed at the lights to the usually cleared bike lane along Prince of Wales and followed it for a short distance to the lights at the entrance to the Arboretum, just over the O-Train tracks.. If biking along Prince of Wales seems (understandably) spooky, the sidewalk between Preston and the entrance to the Arboretum is clear, and usually empty. UPDATE – 2019: There is now a bi-directional bike lane from Preston Street almost all the way to the Arboretum. It ends just before going over the O-Train tracks.
Once safely in the Arboretum I rode along the cleared/not salted path that ends at the bottom of the hill that officially isn’t to be used for toboganning.
I then relied on some of winter cyclists best friends – dog walkers! The Arboretum is extremely popular with dog walkers who, within hours of a snow fall, recreate a network of well trampled paths. My destination was the canal locks across from Carleton University which can be traversed 12 months of the year. The paved path along the canal proper isn’t always trampled flat, however there is one that goes up through the Fletcher Wildlife Garden which hi-lites the beauty of Desire Lines. They exist where people want to go. In the winter, dog walkers park in the Fletcher Wildlife Garden parking lot. From there they work their way down through the arboretum, not along the official paved path that hugs the canal, but along the old service road that leads down from the parking lot.
Another reason I like to follow this route is the passion the Fletcher Wildlife Garden maintenance crew has for this microcosm of varied natural environments. Around every corner along the myriad of intimate paths they have created initiatives that engage visitors to the subtleties of the surrounding natural environment, like this insect hotel.
I crossed at the locks and followed the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway, which is cleared-&-sanded, all the way to Hogs Back.
The path up and over the falls is salted as well, as is the path along Hog’s Back Road to Riverside Drive.
UPDATE – 2019: A new bi-directional bike lane has been added to the south side of Brookfield Road from Riverside Drive to the round-about making it much safer.
I then crossed at the roundabout over to the cleared & salted path that winds down beside the transit station and up to Heron Road. I then crossed at the lights at Heron, and continued along the equally cleared and salted path behind the Sir Leanord Tilley building.
While driving to the airport I’ve often noticed two small pillbox shaped pavilions on either side of Bronson which I assumed to be some sort of utility stations, but are actually access points to an all-season pedestrian tunnel under Bronson. The wide circular stairwell has very shallow steps and ample room to either push or carry ones bike.
Once on the east side of Bronson, I cut along the salted path towards the tall government buildings. UPDATE 2019 : Previously this route followed Data Centre Road down the hill towards Riverside Drive. This updated route now follows a cleared and salted path on the north side of the Canadian Revenue Agency building down to the parking lot of the RA Centre, as indicated on the above map. It’s safer (no cars) and more direct.