O-Train closed?! Bike instead. Here’s how.

The O-Train is shut down until September – YIKES!
Here is a suggested bike route alternative for O-Train commuters.
Blue line is the north-south voyage, Green line is a slight variation heading the other way, red line is another option.
UPDATE June 2014 – The Sawmill Creek has been extended, simplifying the route described in the original post substantially. I have indicated the extension on the map below in purple, and describe it in detail in this June 2014 post.

First, the north-south journey. The new bike path along the O-Train from the Ottawa River to Dow’s Lake officially opens May 7th but it is possible to access and travel the length of the path, no problemo.

Bike path beside the O-Train  tracks
Bike path beside the O-Train tracks

At Carling Ave the path continues across four lanes and a meridian.
There’s a traffic light a short distance west at Champagne Ave S where one can cross.

Path continuing on the other side of Carling
Path continuing on the other side of Carling

Once you reach Prince of Wales Drive cut through the Arboretum. Don’t let this kooky sign discourage you.

Entrance to the Arboretum
Entrance to the Arboretum

Cross the canal at Hartwell’s Locks across from Carleton University.

Next, bike through the Carleton campus and along Bronson Avenue over the Rideau River. There is a bike lane along Bronson, but if the speeding traffic along this stretch makes you uncomfortable then choose the alternate route hi-lited in red on the map. It takes you along the canal and over Hogs Back Falls which I describe in more detail on this post. That said, I felt safe riding along the bike lane on Bronson. I think my choice of clothing which had a passing resemblance to many a peace officers bike uniform (bright yellow bike jacket, black rain pants and blue helmet) may have helped encourage the traffic to slow down – note the brake lights on these passing cars.

Bike lane along Bronson
Bike lane along Bronson

The section along Bronson is short. Once over the Rideau River, take the first exit and follow along quiet bike paths which affords you this interesting perspective of the Edward Drake Building.

Edward Drake Building
Edward Drake Building

Crossing Heron Road is a bit tricky because the path on the opposite side isn’t obviously marked. Cross at the nearest traffic lights a short distance west and come back on the other side, where you can access the path beside the train tracks and continue on, like so. This is the Heron road O-Train stop.

Bike path, south side of Heron Road.
Bike path, south side of Heron Road.

This path brings you to the Brookfiled Road round-about. Continue along Flannery Drive, then turn left on Springland Drive. This train track underpass at the end of Springland Drive joins up with Cromwell Drive on the opposite side.

Tunnel under train tracks
Tunnel under train tracks

Meander along and turn left on Avoncourt Way to Walkley Road.
Walkley isn’t great to bike along – 4 lanes and usually lots of traffic. There is some shoulder room, providing a fine opportunity for the authorities to install bike lanes similar to those previously travelled along Bronson to make this safer and more accessible. This route requires travelling along Walkley for a short distance only, so walking your bike on the sidewalk would be an alternate option if one doesn’t feel comfortable biking this stretch.

Walkley Road
Walkley Road

Once on the bridge overlooking the Airport Parkway you will find yourself looking down at the bike path. To get there you can either carry your bike down the covered OC Transpo stairwell, or take the public elevator on the opposite side of Walkley.

Walkley Road stairwell
Walkley Road stairwell

Now it is possible to take the bus to satisfy the O-Train blues, but I’ve heard the service isn’t quite as dependable as the train…

...oops...
…oops…

.. and you will discover biking is a great way to go.

Continuing along the path you will happen upon and ride along the Sawmill Creek Wetland, a fantastic series of ponds and a natural habitat for all sorts of birds. Red winged blackbirds were in abundance this weekend.

Sawmill Creek Wetlands
Sawmill Creek Wetlands

If you’ve ever headed to the airport you may have noticed this structure being built along the Aviation Parkway. It’s eventually going to be a public pathway over the Parkway!

Path over the Aviation Parkway in construction.
Path over the Aviation Parkway in construction.

This north-south route ends at Hunt Club Road, just beyond the last O-Train stop. There you may see this fantastic old telegraph pole entirely draped in vines.

A train of vines
A train of vines

The ride heading back is very similar with one major variation. To get to the bike lane heading north on Bronson you need to get to the other side. I followed the road that goes down from the Edward Drake Building and circles under the bridge. Unfortunately it also becomes the Bronson south off ramp towards Riverside Drive, another four lane road. Once having biked under Bronson I carried my bike up these stairs to get to the Bronson bike lane heading north.

Bronson Bridge stairs
Bronson Bridge stairs

SO, for the south-north trip I suggest ignoring Bronson altogether and taking the red route shown on the above map, from the Brookfield round-about.

Dear O-train commuters, I am quite confident that, after a test ride or two, you will be convinced biking is a great alternative and, dare I say, you may never go back…

La Côte d’Azure à la Gatineau

The Côte d’Azure, or French Riviera, is a beautiful hilly region overlooking the Mediterranean sea. There is an area of La Ville de Gatineau with streets named after popular spots along the Côte d’Azure (Rue de Cannes, Rue de Monte Carlo, Rue de Roquebrune, etc). It’s hilly too, and looks out over its own body of water, the Gatineau River. That’s where the similarities end. It’s a fine residential area of Gatineau to bike through. You can do a little bit of switch back climbing while taking in a few interesting house designs.

To get there I biked along Boulevard St Joseph, which isn’t too bad at 6:30 am, but I suggest the much more pleasant route hi-lited in green. Mostly along bike paths, it follows Boulevard de la Carriere for a bit, as a section of the Gatineau River Pathway is closed this summer for rapid transit construction.

Here’s an interesting house I spotted on the Gatineau Riviera.

Try to find the front door...
Try to spot the front door…

I followed this short path at the top of the hill through Parc Saint-Exupéry, named after the author of Le Petit Prince.

Parc Saint-Exupéry
Parc Saint-Exupéry

Here’s another interesting house looking out across to the Gatineau hills.

House along the Gatineau Riviera
House along the Gatineau Riviera

The path along the Ottawa River just west of the Lady Aberdeen Bridge is partially flooded out, but there’s a beaten path you can follow to get around it. The rest is clear sailing.

Spring flooding
Spring flooding

Riding along the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway on a David Jackson Sound Cloud

David Jackson is an amazing multi-faceted local musician and one of the founding members of the Northern Sound Electrical System, ‘an open member project whose purpose is to explore the fringes of drone, electronics, noise and sound through guitars, software, percussion, field recordings, and whatever else anyone wants to bring to the show.’ David posted a great recording of one of their performances at Le Temporaire in Gatineau earlier this year. I had the urge to explore the pathway along the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie located close to Le Temporaire, while listening to the recorded session, so as the sun came up I set my iPhone SoundCloud app to David C Jackson, North Sound Electrical System Live at Le Temporaire, and headed off. It was incredible. UPDATE Summer 2018: It is now illegal to wear headphones while biking in Québec.

Here’s the route, and some photos taken along the way.

Rue Montcalm bridge
Rue Montcalm bridge

The path dips under a number of major bridges with lots of commuter traffic, the sounds of which lend themselves well to the recording.

Under Autoroute de la Gatineau
Under Autoroute de la Gatineau

The path splits just beyond Autoroute de la Gatineau. Left continues along the Ruisseau de la Brasserie Pathway towards Leamy Lake, but it’s worth continuing along the right hand path for a bit, at least as far as the bridges that connect the two autoroutes. Here’s some of what what you’ll see.

Under the autoroute connectors
Under the autoroute connectors

There are two great interpretive exhibits on the shores of Leamy Lake that delve into the history of the area. Conflict of interest warning – Carla designed them.

Leamy Lake interpretive display
Leamy Lake interpretive display

If the breeze is up you can feel the coolness of the melting ice off the lake, as was the case at this spot along the shore.

Leamy Lake
Leamy Lake

Rich Little Drive

Rich Little is an Ottawa born impersonator who made it big on American TV in the 60’s and 70’s. He now lives in Vegas where he has been performing in his one man play Jimmy Stewart & Friends. There’s a street named in his honour close to the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club so I went for a ride and checked it out. Blue line is how I got there, green is my route back, orange hi-lites are sections that are a bit treacherous to bike along.

Riverside Drive south of Walkley has raised paved shoulders separate from the sidewalk, like so.

Raised paved shoulder along Riverside Drive
Raised Paved Shoulders, or Bike Path Wannabes

There are sections where these paved shoulders disappear, as I’ve hi-lited in orange on the above map. These are Biker Beware zones, i.e. four lanes, fast cars, and minimal shoulder space.

Rich Little Drive is a pleasant little street, lined with houses all very generous in proportion to their lots. The street must have been developed at a time when multiple garages were a coveted feature, judging by the predominance they occupy in all of the front elevations.

Houses along Rich Little Drive
Houses along Rich Little Drive

A bit further east along Fox Hunt Ave this very well preserved Sea Ranch style house stands apart.

Sea Ranch Style
Sea Ranch Style

All of the paved paths were clear of snow including these along Mooney’s Bay. Yeah Spring!

Path along Mooney's Bay
Path along Mooney’s Bay
Rideau River in the Spring
Rideau River in the Spring