Bike Tour of Swap Boxes and Little Free Libraries – Updated!

Swap Boxes and Little Free Libraries are a great way to share books and other items amongst neighbours and passersby. Here’s how they work: usually streetside, people are enticed to open them up. If something inside strikes their fancy they can take or exchange the item with something else. I started this route back in 2016, updating the map with boxes over the years as they come and go, or as they have been modified. Everyone who has one loves the joy and sharing that they contribute to the community!

If you are interested in having a box of your own, I will be hosting a ‘Build Your own Swap Box’ workshop at the Ottawa Tool Library on July 13th and 20th. It’s a great chance to create your own individualized box, as well as learn some basic woodworking skills.

We were inspired to put up a swap box in front of our place after discovering a number of others around town that had been created by the late street artist Elmaks. There is also an online group you can register your book swap box called Little Free Libraries. Here’s an article in the Kitchissippi Times on some of those local little libraries.

.

First stop – Cambridge St North, just north of the Chinatown Arch!

113 Cambridge St N

Our next box is Down Nanny Goat Cliff on Rochester St.

41 Rochester St

One square block south-west there sits the cleverly converted newspaper box Book Exchange at the corner of Preston and Elm. 

Preston & Elm book exchange
Preston & Elm book exchange

Next it’s over to this great swap box at 249 Loretta Avenue.

249 Loretta
249 Loretta

A couple of blocks west at the corner of Beech Street and Bayswater Avenue you can’t miss this colourful Little Free Library/Boîte à livres.

Corner of Beech and Bayswater

South on Bayswater brings you to this fine box whose design imitates that of the home infront of which it sits.

Box on Bayswater

A few blocks up a hill you will find this very well constructed Little Free Library on Gwynne Ave.

38 Gwynne Ave

Head over to this clever ‘A-Frame’ box on Melrose.

Melrose Avenue

This beautifully painted box is just a few yards further up Melrose.

45 Melrose

Then it’s over to 94 Spadina Ave. where sits this tall red box, another fine imitation of it’s host house.

94 Spadina Ave

This generous box on Garland sits comfortably on a wall.

Garland St box

Heading west through Hintonburg brings you to this great big unit at 50 Ladoucer. 

50 Ladoucer 2
50 Ladoucer

A bit further west in Hintonburg you will find a box near the corner of Oxford & Pinehurst. This one has quite a history.  In the Fall of 2016 someone complained about it’s original sprawling bungalow styling to city by-law and the owners were told to take it down by September 16th. Fortunately there was a last minute stay of execution and it got a reprieve. They then replaced it with a more compact design, which has since been replaced with the one that is there now.

Box on Spencer St

Across the transitway sit’s this fine tall box on Northwestern Avenue.

219 Northwestern
219 Northwestern Ave

A little bit west proudly stands this most excellent Swap Box crafted at the Ottawa Tool Library!

260 Keyworth

Our next stop is at the Corner of Carleton and Gould streets. A sign in the window proudly states, ‘Made by Quinn‘. Well done Quinn!

Carleton & Gould
Quinn’s box at the corner of Carleton & Gould St’s

Just south of Wellington on Mayfair there is not one, but TWO boxes safely distanced apart.

Mayfair near Wellington West

A few blocks south brings us to this little library at 436 Mayfair.

Box on Mayfair

Our route goes another couple of blocks east to visit this great Little Library on Kenora St.

kenora-st
Kenora St. box

Next we head over this nice box on Tyndall.

36 Tyndall

Then it’s under the Queensway over to this colourful box at the edge of St Stephen’s church on Sherwood.

Box outside St. Stephen’s Church on Sherwood

A few blocks south on Hamilton Ave S you will find this fine box.

Box on Hamilton

Right around the corner on Inglewood you will find this friendly offering.

Book box on Inglewood Pl

Further west on Ruskin there sits this beautiful cedar shingled little library with a cute little swap box addition. This box has a sad story associated with it: in 2017 someone set fire to it’s original incarnation. Undeterred, the builders got to work and like the legendary Phoenix, this wonderul replacement rose from it’s ashes.

Swap boxes at 125 Ruskin

Over to Island Park Drive where this super sweet ‘petit bibliotheque’ has mini toad-stools for little ones to rest upon.
675 Island Park Dr

This next box on Clarendon was made and installed by Chris of the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library. He built it in a Swap Box making workshop at the Ottawa Tool Library. Note the recycled plies handles.

Clarendon Swap Box

Two boxes are at the corner of Brennan and Iona, one dedicated to kids.

Corner of Brennan and Iona

Over to this very beautifuly painted box on Evered Ave.

531 Evered Ave
Box on Evered Ave

Over to this one at Edison & Kenwood where locals can grab their mail AND a book!

Edison & Kenwood
Corner of Edison & Kenwood

This box on Melbourne is a very nice design. A paintedlandcape on the front is intersected by the round window.

508 Melbourne

Over to 571 Roosevelt to visit this fine box.

571 Roosevelt

The next one has a corregated metal roof! Very clever.

664 Highland Ave
664 Highland Ave

The box on Mansfield has a bench to rest on while perusing the shelves. One shelf accepts exceptionally tall books.

Mansfield Box.jpg
Mansfield Avenue Bench & Box

A vintage window with mullions serves as the front of this box on Rowanwood Ave making it easier to peruse the selection before without exposing the books to the elements. Very handy in inclement weather!

569 Rowanwood Ave

This big red row boat shaped box can be found on Deschênes St.

2192 Deschênes St

Next one is in New Orchard Park.

New Orchard Park
Book box at New Orchard Park

You can find this book box on Midway Ave near Ancaster. Based on similarites in design with the last box I have a sneaking suspicion they came from the same source.

Midway Ave

A slight detour south to the Glabar Park neighbourhood brings you to this double-duty Little Library on Lenester Avenue. The lower box is labelled ‘Young Readers’. The upper box has stained glass windows!

1996 Lenester Ave

Down Woodland Avenue brings you to this fine box.

Woodland Ave

Here is a converted sticker decorated newspaper box on Chambers Ave.

2569 Chambers Ave

The route branches off south-westerly to visit the next three boxes. First stop is at the corner of Ryan and Southwood Drive with a bench to relax and peruse the offerings!

2423 Ryan Dr
2423 Ryan Dr

The second is at 30 Harrison St that cleverly uses the JUTIS frosted cabinet door from Ikea.

30 Harrison St
30 Harrison St

The third is at 32 Abingdon Dr with a traditional styled hinged door. 

32 Abingdon Dr
32 Abingdon Dr

Heading back east brings usto this swap box at the corner of Sherman and Navaho Drive which has a little path leading up from the intersection.

Navaho and Sherman
Navaho and Sherman

Over to Terrebonne Drive to visit this colourful unit.

1266 Terrebone

Over to Caldwell Ave to visit this generous book exchange.

Caldwell Ave

This playful box is located a bit further north at the corner of McBride and Woodward.

Mcbride and Woodward

This fine box on Laperriere isn’t going anywhere soon, with it’s solid specially poured concrete base!

1478 Laperriere Ave

This sweet box is a bit further east along Laperriere.

1353 Laperriere Ave

The Alexander Community Centre has this fine big box on a stable wooden base.

Alexander Community Centre

Next is this box painted all white on Kingston Avenue.

1237 Kingston Ave
1237 Kingston Ave.

Over to 28 Sutton Place. This box is special as it was built and installed by one of Ottawa’s most passionate cycling advocates, Hans On Bike.

28 Sutton Place

The next most excellent box is on Bowhill Avenue.

bowhill
Box on Bowhill Ave

Next the tour branches off once again, this time south-east. First stop is this tree mounted slim unit on Hobson Road.

2584 Hobson Rd

Next, over to this great box on Colman St.

Over to Cahill St.  

1035 Cahill
1035 Cahill St

Next stop is further west along Uplands Drive where you will find this great box called the Oak Tree Free Library.

 Uplands Drive

Last stop on this side loop is this one supported by a re-purposed bbq stand.

Revelstoke Dr

The next few boxes to discover are in the Glebe. This one’s on Fourth Avenue, just east of Bronson. 

4th-ave
Fourth Avenue

This box is on Fifth Avenue.

Box on Fifth Avenue at Chrysler St.

A bit further down 5th you will find this fine box.

237 5th Ave

This next box over on Thornton has great playful proportions!

27 Thorton

Half way down the block on the opposite side of Thornton you will discover this great Book Sharing Zone box.

12 Thornton Ave

Next two boxes are on Broadway Ave.

90 Broadway Ave
hopewell-box
135 Broadway Ave

Over to Ottawa South where this can be found on Ossignton Avenue.

8 Ossington Ave

Next is a short side loop over the Rideau River to visit this robust Little Library on Pleasant Park Road. The most convenenient access to Alta Vista along this route is along the awful narrow Bank Street bridge over the Rideau River. Walking your bike along the sidewalk bridge is usually the safest option.

box-on-broadway
Pleasant Park Road

One block south on Mountbatten Avenue you will find this wonderfully painted box.

Mountbatten Avenue

A short loop through the Alta Vista neighbourhood first brings us to this beautifully painted box on Featherstone Drive. 

Featherstone Drive

Over on Blossom Drive you will find this very welcoming box.

2071 Blossom Dr

Our next stop on our Alta Vista loop brings us to this sweet one at 1647 Pullen Ave. Tons of TLC has been put into the painting details. 

1647 Pullen
1647 Pullen

Continuing on our loop through Alta Vista brings us to this cleverly designed mobile unit on Knox Crescent.

Mobile box at 217 Knox Crescent

Head back on over to the north shore of the Rideau River and follow the path along to the river to Belmont Drive where you will find this super sweet box.

Belmont Ave

On Riverdale Ave you will find this delicately painted two level unit.

390 Riverdale

A couple of blocks over you will see this great little library at 146 Sunnyside Avenue. Big footprint shaped concrete pavers invite passersby to peruse the shelves.

sunnyside-box
Just direct your feet to the Sunnyside of the street

This nicely crafted box is located a bit further north on Glencairn Avenue.

Glencairn Avenue

Our next great box can be found just around the corner on Riverdale Ave. This one also has a generous concrete bench infront of it.

Riverdale Ave

A bit north east on Belgrave Road lives this fine box, cleverly modeled after the house infront of which it sits.

belgrave-box
Belgrave Road

One and a half blocks north at 75 Marlowe sits Mike’s Tiny Library. Super sweet!

75 Marlowe
Mike’s Tiny Library

Further east on Bower Street we find another fine box.

bower-box
Bower St box

Nary a block over is this great box on Mutchmor Road.

Box on Mutchmor (can’t ask for Mutchmor than that!)

Close by on Merritt Ave you will find this great little library.

86 Merritt Ave

Up on Drummen St you will find this beauty.

163 Drummond St

Just a few meters down Drummond Street there sits this dynamic box-within-a-box.

drummond-box
155 Drummond Street

Just a couple of blocks north you can find this fine box on Glanora Street.

Glanora St

Along Echo Drive in front of The Church of the Ascension you will find this fine box.

Echo Drive

Ride north along the Rideau Canal pathway then cut through the Ottawa U campus, then head east through the Sandy Hill neighbourhood along Wilbrod which is a one way street with a bike lane. Head one block north on Cobourg St where you will find this great box near the north/east corner of Stewart. It has hi-vs stickers on it’s legs, and a fine stepping stone to allow smaller readers to peruse the titles.

Stewart St near Cobourg St

Over to Wurtemburg St to check out this sweet box.

227 Wurtemburg

After crossing over the Rideau River this next branch visits three boxes. The first is this box on Mark Ave.

69 Mark Ave

A couple of blocks nouth gets you to one of the same design on Greensway Ave.

235 Greensway Ave

Last of the three boxes on this branch is this fine little unit at the corner of Vachon and Dagmar.

Vachon
Vachon & Dagmar

After retracing our route and riding along the Rideau River, a quick hop back over the river to visit this box on Marlborough Ave.

125 Marlborough Ave

There are two fine boxes over in Overbrook.  Weave your way along a few residential streets to this fine Little Library on Queen Mary Street.

45 Queen Mary St

Just a few blocks north there sits this generous little library on Ontario Street.

80 Ontario Street

Over on the corner of Frontenac & Lacasse you will find this fine box.

309 Frontenac

Next, over to 770 Claude St

770 Claude St

Heading further east for a spell, one finds this robust box at 20 Appleford St in the Cardinal Heights neighbourhood.

20 Appleford St

Heading back west you will discover this fantastic box on Roanoke Street!

705 Roanoke Street

Next, over to Pauline Charron Place. This one has had a bottom unit added since it first appeared.

355 Pauline Charron Pl.

Back to the bike path along St Laurent, head north then left on the bike path along Hemlock Road which gets you to this fine little library.

725 Henlock Rd

Ride over to New Edinburgh where you will find this big colourful box outside the MacKay United Church.

MackKay United Church

Cross the river over the St Patrick Street bridge towards this bright red box at the end of Old St Patrick St. in Lowertown.

Bright red box on Old St Patrick St

Over to the corner of Rose and Bruyère to visit this jaunty box. It has had a kids box addition installed as well.

Corner of Rose & Bruyère

A block over is our next box at 260 St Andrew St. nestled in the surrounding greenery.

260 St Andrew St

Further along St Andrew, on the opposite side of King Edward Ave, there sits this elegant little box.

176 St Andrew

Time to retrace our route back to the Rideau Canal and riding south. This sweet is box located at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe.

Library Bibliothèque at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe
Library Bibliothèque at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe

The next two boxes are neighbours on Argyle which is accessible via the bi-directional bike lanes along O’Connor. The first is this brightly painted number.

Argyle
Box on Argyle

The second box on Argyle has beautiful surrounding landscaping. There are also garden chairs to sit on while contemplating a potential swap.

Box on Argyle
Box on Argyle

Cut through the Museum of Nature parking to visit this box on McLeod.

263 McLeod

This box a bit further west on McLeoad is a converted cast iron stove.

385 McLeod

You can find this box on Florence St.

176 Florence

This box is just outside the kids playground in Dundonald Park.

Dundonald Park

A third box on Mcleod can be found near Bronson.

577 McLeod
577 McLeod

Another fine Little Library can be found on Arlington a few blocks west of Bronson. There is a solar panel powering a light that turns on once you open the door to the box when it’s dark out. TRÈS cool!

Box at 430 Arlington during the day….and at night!
 

This loving box can be found on Eccles.

Eccles St

Our final stop is this Mini Library, corner of Cambridge St N and Christie. This one takes taller books too!

Mini Library at Christie & Cambridge St N
Mini Library at Christie & Cambridge St N

Et voila!

A final special mention for this super sweet little swap box that was once located on Cole Avenue. It was a favourite so here’s a photo in memory of all the joy it provided.

Cole swap box.jpg
Cole Avenue Swap Box

I’ve been adding new boxes throughout a number of years as they are installed. If I’ve missed any please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it on the route.

Stay tuned for an updated Swap Box route on the Quebec side of the rover.

Happy riding!

Biking to Ikea and Lee Valley From Centretown

I rode out to Ikea and Lee Valley to pick up some items for this summer’s production of Shakespeare’s  The Tempest, being performed by A Company of FoolsI designed the set. It opens next week and will be performed in parks around the city throughout the summer. Check out their show calendar to see when there is a performance in a park near you! 

This bike route is an update to one originally posted in the summer of 2012. I followed the Ottawa River Pathway and the Pinecrest Creek Pathway as far as Iris Street on the way there, and then the Experimental Farm Pathway back. A lovely loop.

The overall route hasn’t changed much over the last ten years, however the ongoing construction of the LRT extension heading west along the SJAM Parkway, and then south along the transit way, has resulted in a dog’s breakfast of mini-detours along the Pinecrest Creek Pathway. The detours aren’t too drastic, just very zig-zaggy and choppy. I hope the bike infrastructure will be the same as before, or better, once all construction is completed. Until then, I anticipate this messy bit will remain for a couple of years to come.

Love these service pavilions at Westboro Beach, designed by architect James Strutt. They remind me of Don Quixote’s windmills.  Check out other bike tours that visit buildings Strutt designed around the region by clicking here.

Westboro Beach pavillions

The Ottawa River Pathway isn’t being drastically affected by the construction. If you like construction sites, look left. If you like majestic rivers, look right.

Ottawa River Pathway heading west

This is the type of choppy detour you may expect to find along the Pinecrest Creek Pathway.

Pinecrest Creek Pathway heading south

Heading back along the Experimental Farm Pathway, just east of Woodroffe Avenue, they are installing what seems to be a huge reservoir. Looking forward to see what becomes of that.

Reservoir just east off Woodroffe

So there you go. Happy trails!

10 Year Anniversary!

It’s been 10 years since I began this blog. It started out as a fun efort to share bits about biking around the area. A few years prior I had set out on a mission to ride all the streets in the region at least once. After happening upon so many amazing discoveries, I wanted to share a few right here. All good and fun, and I got better, spurred on by positive feedback. Then the big epiphany hit. While attending a Bike Ottawa annual general meeting, a German academic doing research in some American university made a presentation on bike stats from cities around the world. Amongst a dazzling array of anecdotal tid-bits, the ultimate stat he spouted was, the safest cities to bike in have the most per-capita cyclists. i.e. strength in numbers. So now I had a mission – to try to help boost the number of local riders! And save the planet, but I digress. So I decided to post more detailed safe cycling routes for locals and tourists alike, and I also tossed in ‘Hey, need a safe route? send me your start & finish & I’ll figure it out!‘, for which people were extremely appreciative.

Well, much has changed over time. For example, Bike Ottawa has developed an amazing tool that allows you to plot out the safest route from A to B, based on your comfort level. There are also other extremely passionate local cycling advocates like this guy who are doing a fantastic job keeping us informed about changes and needs required to our local cycling infrastructure.

So, my posts will mostly go back to ressembling its origins, i.e., shorter, a bit more anecdotal, and spontaneous. I’ll still post longer routes when inspiration hits, and offer suggestions on routes when requested. I hope pertinent stuff still comes of it.

Cycle on!