Biking to the Sugar Shack in Vanier from Centretown

There’s a sugar shack in Ottawa, thanks to a group of intrepid monks who preserved and tapped the many trees found within Vanier’s Richelieu Park, once the property of their monastic order. The Brothers left in the 1970’s but maple syrup continues to be prepared on site each Spring. The sugar shack is open to the public on weekends throughout the months of March and April. It’s so close to Centretown you can easily bike there. So I did. The blue line on the map below is the route I rode, purple lines are slight alterations I took on the way back.

Our adventure begins at the western most point of the Laurier Bike Lane where Laurier crosses Bronson.

Laurier Bike Lane in the Spring
Laurier Bike Lane in the Spring

I followed the bike lane all the way downtown to City Hall. There I turned right on to the plaza and followed the path on the west side of City Hall through to Cartier St.

Path to the right of City Hall plaza through to Cartier St
Path to the right of City Hall plaza through to Cartier St

I followed Cartier St for a block, then turned left onto one-way Cooper St, and continued along until Somerset St. Immediately left on Somerset there’s a traffic light across Queen Elizabeth Drive to the pedestrian/bike bridge over the Rideau Canal.

View from the bridge through love locks down the melting Rideau Canal
View from the bridge through love locks down the melting Rideau Canal

Another signalized crosswalk at Colonel By Drive led me to the bike lanes under Nicholas St and up to the University of Ottawa campus.

Tunnel under Nicholas through to Ottawa U campus
Tunnel under Nicholas through to Ottawa U campus

The first street on the left through the campus has a contra-flow bike lane combined with painted sharrow markings pointing in the direction of traffic, which directed me along a network of quiet streets northwardly through campus.

Ottawa U bike route through campus
Ottawa U bike route through campus

I turned left on to University Private abandoning the lane+sharrow combo, and then turned right on Cumberland St. There’s a bike lane to follow along Cumberland once across the signalized Laurier Ave E intersection. I then turned right on to the bike lane along Wilbrod St, that heads east through Sandy Hill.

Left on Cobourg then right on Daly brought me to the intersection at Charlotte and Daly. Unfortunately there isn’t a cross signal to get across Charlotte, which can get busy as it’s a popular link between Rideau Street to get to Laurier Avenue. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long for a opening to get across.

Straight through on Daly, left on Wurtemburg St then right on Besserer which brought me to a very nice recently introduced winding paved path through Besserer Park down to the Cummings Bridge.

Path through Besserer Park
Path through Besserer Park

Heading east across the bridge over the Rideau River, there are painted sharrows in green boxes along the inside lane. Traffic moves very fast across this bridge. Along busy traffic arteries such as this one, no matter how you dress them up, sharrows are the most useless form of bike accommodation imaginable. Worse than useless, they are dangerous, because they falsely suggest to riders that they are designated safe routes when drivers ignore them because they can. I walked my bike along the sidewalk.

'Splat'
Heading east over Cummings Bridge

Once arrived on the other side of the bridge I crossed at the intersection and headed north along North River Road.

Turned right onto Coupal where, at it’s eastern extremity, there is a short path to the Vanier Parkway. A few more yards along the sidewalk brings you to a crosswalk.

Short path at the end of Coupal.....& bit of sidewalk to lights across the Vanier Parkway
Short path at the end of Coupal…..& bit of sidewalk to lights across the Vanier Parkway

I then wove my way along calm streets through Vanier, as per the above map, to Pères-Blancs Avenue that leads up towards Richelieu Park.

Pères Blancs Avenue
Pères Blancs Avenue

A short distance inside the old gates to the park there is a path to the left that leads to the sugar shack.

Path off Pères Blancs Avenue towards the sugar shack
Path off Pères Blancs Avenue towards the sugar shack

This season I rode there on a quiet holiday Monday morning when the shack was closed, however in previous years I’ve visited on weekends when it is open to the public and the boilers are in full operation.

Sugar Shack
Sugar Shack

On the way back I re-traced my treads as far as Cummings Bridge. There is a bike lane heading west over this busy pont, however the lane marking is completely worn off at the eastern end of the bridge and barely visible the rest of the way across.

Missing bike lane heading west over the Cummings Bridge
Missing bike lane heading west over the Cummings Bridge

The bike lane disappears completely once arrived on the other side of the bridge. That’s because Rideau St was paved late last season and the line has yet to be re-painted. Until then I recommend returning the same way I came by walking along the opposite side walk and riding up the nice new path to Besserer St. Once the westward bike lane is re-painted, there’s a nice new path link on the south side of Rideau St across the intersection that links to Wurtemburg St, like so.

Path linking Rideau St to Wurtemberg
Path linking Rideau St to Wurtemberg

Stewart St is a one way with a bike lane heading west through Sandy Hill with a number of old architectural gems like this.

Philomene Terrace constructed in 1874
Philomene Terrace constructed in 1874

I turned left on Cumberland and wove my way through back the Ottawa U campus. On the west side of the pedestrian bridge I turned right on to the Rideau Canal Western Pathway and cut through Confederation Park to get to the Laurier Bike Lane.

Et voila!

Maples being tapped around the sugar shack
Maples being tapped around the sugar shack

Bike commute from the Ottawa Youth Hostel to the corner of Rochester and Poplar

Brendan was enquiring about a bike route from the Ottawa Youth Hostel to the intersection of Rochester and Poplar Streets. Here’s what I came up with.

The Ottawa Youth Hostel is pretty fantastic. It lives in the 150+ year old Carleton County gaol right downtown. Unfortunately it is located on an island with all forms of speeding vehicles circling around it including transport trucks.

Ottawa Youth Hostel
Ottawa Youth Hostel

So, first challenge is how to ingress/egress from this hive of aggressive traffic. After exploring all options, I decided to take the set of stairs up to the Mackenzie St Bridge, located right beside the hostel parking (hélas, this route doesn’t work so well for those with trailers or loaded panniers).

Stairs up to Mackenzie King Bridge
Stairs up to Mackenzie King Bridge

Having carried my bike up the flight of stairs, I headed west over the bridge along the sidewalk to the signalized crosswalk. There are bike lanes along the Mackenzie King bridge but they hug the centre meridian. Half way across the signalized crossing one may choose to get on the bike lane heading west, as suggested by the orange line on the above map, but the lane disappears once arrived at Elgin, a busy 6 lane street with speedy traffic and no bike lanes – enough to discourage many an intrepid pedalist.

Bike lane heading west on Mackenzie Bridge along the centre meridian..... that splits away approaching Elgin..... then suddenly ends at Elgin.
Bike lane on Mackenzie Bridge….. approaching Elgin….. then ends at Elgin.

A safer option I followed was to walk across the aforementioned signalized crossing (back to the blue line on the above map), and continue west along the sidewalk on the other side towards the stairs that go down to Confederation park.

Stairs from Mackenzie Bridge town to Confederation Park
Stairs from Mackenzie Bridge town to Confederation Park

Once arrived at the bottom of the stairs, I rode diagonally through the park to the corner of Laurier and Elgin.

Confederation Park in the Spring
Confederation Park in the Spring

The wonderful segregated Laurier Bike Lane begins on the west side of Elgin.

Laurier Bike Lane
Laurier Bike Lane

I followed Laurier to the end where it veers south and becomes quiet Cambridge St. I then turned west on Primrose, and south on Arthur along which there is a traffic light to get across busy Somerset St.

South of Somerset is a web of one-way and two-way streets that require a bit of navigating to arrive at the intersection of Poplar & Rochester, as per the above map.

Poplar and Rochester
Poplar and Rochester

Heading back downtown I followed the same route, apart from the few deviations in purple. The short stretches of Rochester, Booth and Somerset on the way back can get pretty busy especially around rush hour, so walking these may be preferable.

Et voila!

Citizens for Safe Cycling 4th Annual Family Winter Cycling Parade : The Route

The Fourth Annual Citizens for Safe Cycling Family Winter Parade takes place on Sunday, January 25th starting at 11am. This year’s route follows a 4km elongated east-west loop through Centretown, beginning and ending at the south entrance to City Hall. Here’s how it goes.

Ottawa City Hall south entrance
Ottawa City Hall south entrance

Riders will head south on Cartier Street for a short block before turning left onto Cooper Street. Cooper is a one way that curves south just before it reaches Queen Elizabeth Drive and becomes The Driveway. There’s a stop sign where The Driveway meets Somerset Street. Traffic on Somerset doesn’t have a stop, so crossing Somerset requires a gap in traffic. I’ve hi-lited on the map where this occurs at other intersections along the route. Gaps in traffic were frequent and generous at all intersections on the two wintry Sunday mornings I tested out the route at 11am.

Just beyond Somerset the route veers right on to MacLaren Street. MacLaren is a calm one way heading west through Centretown.

MacLaren Street
MacLaren Street

There is a potpourri of interesting architectural styles to be seen along MacLaren, like this well preserved home built for lumber baron JR Booth in 1909 at the corner of Metcalfe & MacLaren.

Booth residence
Booth residence

Or this assortment of styles from various decades throughout the history of Centretown.

Architecture along MacLaren St
Architecture along MacLaren St

The parade will then turn north onto Bay Street beside Dundonald Park. There is a bike lane along Bay Street that unfortunately isn’t cleared in the winter, but it is a quiet street on Sunday mornings in January.

Bay Street
Bay Street

The tour will then turn right onto the Laurier Street Bike Lane which IS cleared and salted throughout the winter.

Laurier Bike Lane
Laurier Bike Lane

After crossing Elgin Street the parade will turn onto the plaza on the north side of City Hall.

North side of City Hall
North side of City Hall

Riders will then follow the short path on the west side of City Hall to complete the loop.

Path beside City Hall
Path beside City Hall
FINISH/ARRIVÉE
FINISH/ARRIVÉE

POST EVENT UPDATE: It was a big success! Around 50 riders showed up. A thorough description of the event can be found on the Citizens For Safe Cycling website by clicking here.

The 4th Annual Winter Bike Parade! - Photo : Hans Moor
The 4th Annual Winter Bike Parade! (Photo : Hans Moor)

Multi-use path along the new extension of Preston Street : A winter bike access to the Canadian War Museum

UPDATE 2017 – This extension is now out of commission as it was only temporary until the Booth Street Bridge was completed. Unfortunately the Booth Strret Bridge has awful bike infrastructure. Promises have been made to improve them.

Preston Street has been extended between Albert Street and the Sir John A Macdonald (SJAM) Parkway. That’s because Booth Street north of Albert will be closed for two years while they build the Light Rail Transit. The new extension of Preston includes a multi-use path which will provide winter bike access to the Canadian War Museum. This is an improvement as the section of Booth it is replacing was treacherous to ride along even in the best of snowless conditions. Because this shared pathway also provides pedestrian access to bus stops along it’s length, I am confident it will be cleared all winter (to be confirmed after the next big snowfall). Today I went and tried it out. Blue line is my ride there, orange line is the way I should have gone to get to the start of the extension, and purple line is the way I rode back to access the Laurier Bike Lane.

I approached from the south along Preston starting at Primrose Avenue. I chose Preston because Albert is very dangerous to cross or ride along and there are traffic lights where Preston and Albert intersect. Preston has always been a busy street and promises to become more so now that it is a main north/south artery towards the Chaudière Bridge over to Gatineau. Apart from the new extension, there are no bike lanes along the length of Preston, which in the winter becomes even narrower with the snow, so I took to the sidewalk for the block between Primrose and Albert. In retrospect I should have taken the cleared O-train path under Albert and accessed the sidewalk on the north side of Albert, as suggested by the orange line on the above map. There’s a short section of sidewalk to follow heading east before it joins the path that runs along the north side of Albert.

Preston between Primrose and Albert
Preston between Primrose and Albert
Preston at the start of the new extension
The new extension and multi-use path begins on the north side of Albert.
Weaving behind the bus stops
The paths weave behind bus shelters located along the path.
Section of path parallel to the road
Where it runs adjacent to the road, the path is separated from the traffic with low concrete curbing and attached fiberglass tabs

Getting across the SJAM Parkway intersection to the museum first requires crossing to the west side of Preston. The SJAM consists of multiple lanes of speeding traffic, and Preston has a large merging turn on to SJAM. This creates the type of intersection where drivers anxiously rush the light as they transition from one busy street to the other. I had to make eye contact with a driver before he halted suddenly and let me cross, even though there are multiple no-right-on-red signs.

Crossing the intersection at Preston and SJAM Parkway
Crossing the intersection at Preston and SJAM Parkway

Once arrived safely on the other side of SJAM I rode along the quiet service road to the entrance to the museum.

Entrance to the Canadian War Museum
Entrance to the Canadian War Museum

On my return trip, after taking the new path back to Preston and Albert, I continued east along the path on the north side of Albert. It ends at the corner of Commissioners St and Albert. Plans are afoot to introduce multi-use path links between Albert and the Laurier Bike Lane, as described here. Until such time the best way to get to the Laurier Bike Lane is to push your bike up the side walk on the west side of Bronson. Unless traffic is very light, I suggest taking to the sidewalk not only because it’s a steep little hill up to Laurier, but cars really roar around the corner and up the hill, often clipping the edge of the sidewalk at the corner of Slater and Bronson.

Well worn corner of Bronson & Slater
Well worn corner of Bronson & Slater

Et voila!

Crossing the new Airport Parkway Bridge !

The much anticipated Airport Parkway Bridge officially opened on Saturday, creating a safe pedestrian and cycling link between communities on either side of the busy parkway. It also now provides cyclists easy access to the Sawmill Creek Pathway and a fine bike commute towards downtown.

The blue line on the map below is the route my friend Peter and I followed to get to the bridge starting from the Arboretum. It includes a recently added stretch along the Sawmill Creek Pathway, described in more detail here. Green line is how we got back. The red bit is the bridge.

Approaching the bridge along the Sawmill Creek Pathway
Approaching the bridge along the Sawmill Creek Pathway

Here’s a video of what it’s like heading east over the bridge.

A Second Tour of Insulbrick Covered Homes Around Ottawa & Gatineau

After posting the first OttawaVeloOutaouais tour of local Insulbrick covered homes I discovered a few more examples throughout the region, so here is a follow up tour for those of us with a soft spot for this mid-century faux-wunder-cladding.

N.b. – Insulbrick has become a popular generic term to describe the tar impregnated exterior covering first patented in 1932 as Inselbrick and includes Inselstone, Inselwood and a few other imitations. Lots more on Insulbrick to be found on links at the bottom of this post.

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First stop – 187 Rochester, where you’ll find this interesting multicoloured extended brick pattern. Note the top portion is covered with fiberglass siding. Because Insulbrick is flat, stable, and easy to nail through, much of it has been covered up with whatever subsequent siding was fashionable. I’m guessing there is a lot of Insulbrick covered up in this manner all over the region.

187 Rochester St
187 Rochester St

Carla and I rode south on Rochester St towards our next stop at 28 Breezehill South, which could very easily be mistaken for a brick house, but it’s Insulbrick! The clearest  indication is how the pattern does not reproduce the 2 to 1 overlapping stacked brick pattern on the corner where the walls meet. Ivy helps. Very clever.

283 Breezehill South
283 Breezehill South

The next two stops are located on the Gatineau side of the river. To get there we rode along the O-Train path to the Ottawa River Pathway, then along the path over the Portage Bridge. This example is located along Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville at the corner of Rue Helene-Duval. The Insulbrick was applied to the side of the building only. The original brick structure pre-dates the invention of Insulbrick which, in this case, is really showing it’s age.

Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville
Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville

We wove our way eastwardly along paths and quiet roads to get to 289 Rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile where we found another example of the red Inselbrick pattern. The owners are in the process of adding an addition at the back, It will be interesting to see whether they preserve the Insulbrick covering on the front, or cover it all with whatever siding they put on the back extension.

289 Rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile
289 Rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile

On our way back to Ottawa we rode along the boardwalk over the Alexandra Bridge. We then cut through Majors Hill Park where there’s a little known passageway at the end of the park that accesses the patio overlooking the canal and continues under Sappers Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier. It isn’t always open, so worst case scenario would require carrying ones bike up the stairs beside the Chateau BUT if you can access the passageway it’s worth it! It includes a couple of short flights of stairs that are equipped with bike ramps wide enough for your tires to push your bike along. My Grandmother used to describe riding the train into Ottawa along the canal and taking an elevator up to the Chateau Laurier lobby. I’m guessing this is where she would disembark.

Access to passage way under Sappers Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier
Access to passage way under Sappers Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier

Further south at the corner of Grenfield and Havelstock sits our next stop but it may not be there for long. At the time of our visit (April 2017) there was a plywood panel describing how the lot is up for zoning review with plans to build a new condo in its place.

IMG_7190
Corner of Greenfield Avenue and Havelock Street

Next it’s over the Pretoria bridge and along quiet streets to our following stop – 28 Florence St. Love it.

28 Florence St
28 Florence St

Florence turns into a one way heading east halfway between Bank and Kent. To get to James St which is one way heading west, we cut through the service alley behind the businesses that front on to Bank Street.

Alleyway between Florence & James St
Alleyway between Florence & James St

Our final destination is 642 MacLaren Street, and what a beauty it is! So well preserved, one has to take a really close look to see that it is in fact Insulbrick. As mentioned at the Breezehill stop, corners are where the truth is told. To hide how Insulbrick patterns don’t correspond to real brick at corner junctions, a corner strip is often applied, as was in this case.

IMG_7202
642 MacLaren

There are two other buildings located in Centretown that I didn’t include in this tour as it would have required some convoluted navigating to avoid biking down busy streets, however I have included photos. The first is this abandoned leaning house on Somerset between Lyon and Kent. Probably won’t be there for long as it and the lot it is sitting on is up for sale. UPDATE April 2017 – It’s been knocked down.

Leaning house of Somerset
Leaning house of Somerset

Another example is located two blocks north on Lisgar also between Lyon and Kent St. The Insulbrick was added to the front portion of an already existing building. It is really showing it’s age, especially in contrast to the original brick still visible on the back portion of the building.

Insulbrick on Lisgar
Insulbrick on Lisgar

Here are a few links to stories involving Insulbrick:

– A short history of Insulbrick (click)

– A stop along the Lincoln Highway where Insulbrick has been preserved to maintain it’s heritage feel (click)

– A blog entry of a home renovator who was fooled into thinking they had bought a brick house, (click), and a great entry showing original sales samples of the stuff discovered in her basement! (click)

– An example of Insulbrick being covered up with more contemporary siding. (click)

Signing off with this image of an Insulbrick home I passed on Concession Road 7 while riding to the Blue Skies Festival near Sharbot Lake.

Concession Rd 7

Ukraine in Ottawa – A Bike Tour

Canada is home to one of the largest number of persons of Ukrainian descent outside of Ukraine. Most reside in the western provinces, however many have chosen Ottawa as their home. Here’s a bike tour of edifices around town representing the Ukrainian diaspora within Canada’s capital.

On December 2nd, 1991 Canada recognized Ukraine’s independence. Suddenly in need of an embassy, this building at 331 Metcalfe St was purchased with the help of funds gathered by Ukrainian-Canadians. The embassy has since moved a few blocks over to 310 Somerset West, which will be visited at the end of this tour, however this one on Metcalfe is still used as a consular building.

Consular building at 331 Metcalfe St
Consular building at 331 Metcalfe St

Next stop is the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine near the corner of Heron Road and Prince of Wales Drive. To get there I rode over to the Rideau Canal bike path, crossed the canal at Pretoria Bridge, and rode along the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway all the way up to where Heron Road crosses overhead. I accessed Heron by pushing my bike up the mini bike ramp along the edge of these stairs.

Stairs from pathway along the canal up to Heron Road
Stairs from pathway along the canal up to Heron Road

There is a bike lane along Heron Road that ends a hundred yards or so before reaching Prince of Wales Drive, so I took this well trodden path right around where the bike lane ends, that leads to the back of the church.

Small path off Heron Road
Small path off Heron Road to the back of the Shrine

The statue on the edge of the parking lot is a monument to Taras Shevchenko (1841-1861), artist and national hero for his promotion of Ukrainian independence.

Monument to Taras Shevchenko
Monument to Taras Shevchenko

The church (or Sobor, or Shrine) was completed in 1987. More about it’s history can be found by clicking here. UPDATE – July 2018: The Capital Ukraininan Festival will be held at this site from July 20-22, 2018!

Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine
Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine

Next destination is the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral at 1000 Byron Avenue. To get there I cut through the Experimental Farm, along Island Park Drive, then west along Byron. The Cathedral opened in 1978. More on it’s history can be read by clicking here.

Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

To complete the tour I rode along the Ottawa River Pathway back downtown to check out the Ukrainian Embassy on Somerset.

Ukraine purchased this building at 310 Somerset St from the federal NDP party in 1994, and it’s been their embassy ever since.

Ukrainian Embassy - 310 Somerset Street West
Ukrainian Embassy – 310 Somerset Street West

Et voila – the tour is complete!

P.S. Ottawa is also home to the rock band Ukrainia!