Remembrance Day Bike Tour

Many Canadians are drawn to the November 11th Remembrance Day Ceremonies held at the National War Memorial to pay tribute to those who have fought and given their lives in the service of our great country. The following is a commemorative bike tour starting from the National War Memorial, with visits to a number of lesser known Canadian War Memorials throughout the capital, and ending at the National Military Cemetery.


.

The National War Memorial was unveiled in 1939 to commemorate those who served in the armed forces during World War !. It has since come to symbolize the sacrifice of all Canadian Armed Forces in times of war.

National War Memorial
National War Memorial

Immediately in front of the Memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It contains the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died near Vimy Ridge during the First World War. This tomb represents the many Canadian soldiers who have no known grave.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Leaving the War Memorial, Head down along the edge of the Rideau Canal beside the National Arts Centre to Confederation Park where the South African War Memorial is located.

South African War Memorial
South African War Memorial

Continue through the park to Elgin Street where one can see the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument.

National Aboriginal Veterans Monument
National Aboriginal Veterans Monument

The tour crosses Elgin street and follows the Laurier Bike Lane heading west before turning north along the Bay St bike lane. After crossing Wellington at the northern end of Bay, head east for one block to Lyon St. There is a gravel path through the park just to the east of the National Archives building that leads to Lyon. Looking across Wellington up Lyon Street, one sees the Veteran Memorial Buildings . Beneath the arch connection the two buildings across Lyon St there is a stone relief carving by Ivan Mestvovic in honour of those who fought in the First World War.

Veterans Memorail Buildings
Veterans Memorail Buildings

The tour continues west along Wellington which has a bike lane beginning at Lyon St. This bike lane continues across the Portage Bridge. Just before heading over the Ottawa River there is a path off to the right that leads down to the waters edge and the Royal Canadian Navy Monument.

Royal Canadian Navy Monument
Royal Canadian Navy Monument

Head back up and over the Portage Bridge, then east along the Voyageurs Pathway that hugs the shore of the Ottawa River. One of the finest views of Parliament Hill can be seen from this section of path. The Memorial Chamber is located inside the Peace Tower. it contains the Books of Remembrance, recording every Canadian killed in service from Canada’s first overseas campaign, the Nile Expedition, to the present.

View of Parliament Hill from the Voyageurs Pathway
View of Parliament Hill from the Voyageurs Pathway

The tour heads back over the Ottawa River over the Alexandra Bridge. The Peacekeeping Monument, dedicated to Canadians who have served as peacekeepers around the world, is located on a traffic island along Sussex Drive between the national Gallery and the American Embassy.

Peacekeeping Monument
Peacekeeping Monument

The next section of the tour continues north along Sussex Drive which has a bike lane. The Defence of Hong Kong Memorial is located at the corner of Sussex and King Edward Avenue. This Memorial is dedicated to those Canadian Soldiers who served in the defence of Hong Kong during the Second World War.

Defence of Hong Kong Memorial
Defence of Hong Kong Memorial

Cross Sussex and follow the path overlooking the Rideau Falls. There are two memorials on Green Island located between the two sets of falls: The Commonwealth Air Forces Ottawa Memorial, and the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Memorial dedicated to Canadian volunteers of the Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion during the Spanish Civil War.

The Commonwealth Air Forces Ottawa Memorial
The Commonwealth Air Forces Ottawa Memorial
Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Memorial
Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Memorial

The tour continues along the path overlooking the second set of falls, then back across Sussex. On the opposite side of Sussex is the CANLOAN Monument, dedicated to Canadian soldiers who died while volunteering with the British army during the Second World War.

Canloan Monument
Canloan Monument

Head east along Stanley Avenue and the Rideau River Eastern Pathway. Then weave your way north along Barrette St to avoid the busy section of Beechwood, then get back on to Beechwood where the bike lane starts at Marier avenue. A bit further along one arrives at the entrance to Beechwood Cemetery. The National Military Cemetery is located within the grounds, as indicated on the above map.

National Military Cemetery
National Military Cemetery

the poem In Flanders Fields is cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted on a simple elegant plinth.
It is from this poem that the red poppy was drawn to become the symbol of Remembrance Day.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McRae, 1915

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields

Biking down Nanny Goat Hill

Nanny Goat Hill is a rise of rock that cuts through a section of Centretown, separating Chinatown from Lebretton Flats. It is roughly defined by the yellow line on the map below and extends from Bronson Ave to Somerset St. A longstanding challenge for many cyclists heading north or west has been how to negotiate a safe way down this mini-precipice.

.
One of the few options that avoids having to dismount your bike is to take the steep hill down Bronson, identified by the red line on the above map. But Bronson is filled with speeding traffic at all times of the day flying blindly over the crest of the hill, except at rush hour when it tends to look like this:

Traffic jam on Nanny Goat Hill along Bronson
Traffic jam on Nanny Goat Hill along Bronson

The recently opened path link that cuts below Nanny Goat Hill Community Garden connecting the Laurier Bike Lanes to the Albert Street Bike Lanes, as per the purple line on the map, has done wonders to facilitate avoiding Bronson. It is also the safest option of all for those pulling a trailer. Here is a clip starting from the intersection of Laurier and Bronson down to the Albert Street Bike Lanes.

Another north-south option is to take the set of stairs that joins the upper and lower sections of Empress St, as shown in orange on the above map. This set of stairs has a trough along which you can push your bike.

Stairs with bike trough joining upper and lower sections of Empress St
Stairs with bike trough joining upper and lower sections of Empress St

Many cyclists ride east-west down Somerset, as per the light blue line on the map, however I’ve seen a number of cyclists get hit by drivers along this stretch. I’ve also seen a cyclist get doored by a someone getting out of their parked car, as well as many other close calls along Somerset. It’s a popular commute route where aggressive drivers have been known to threaten cyclists who dare to take the lane. Suffice to say it is not one I would recommend.

My preferred east-west option is to carry one’s bike down the stairs that join the two sections of Primrose – see dark blue line on the map. While much safer than riding down Somerset, this set of stairs unfortunately doesn’t have a trough which makes it difficult for those with heavier bikes, loaded panniers or little kids in tow.

Stairs joining upper and lower sections of Primrose
Stairs joining upper and lower sections of Primrose

Et voila – a few options to get down or around this challenging geographical feature.