Last summer the City of Ottawa posted a series of self-guided bike tours with the goal of encouraging cyclists to explore the countryside within Ottawa’s limits and surrounding areas. I’ve been meaning to visit a few sites in and around Osgoode so I decided to try out The Osgoode Ride. The city rates this 59km route as ‘experienced’. I’ve gone on many rides of varying difficulty within Canada and abroad so I figured I qualified. On Saturday morning I gave it a shot. Here’s how it went.
I set out from the parking lot off Mitch Owens Road on the edge of the converted rail-to-trail Osgoode Link Pathway. This parking lot is conveniently located right beside The Wood Source where they have a great selection of types of wood not available in most lumber yards.
I rode south along the Osgoode Link Pathway and turned left onto Gough Road to get onto the city’s recommended route.
The majority of this route runs along two lane straight-aways in various states of repair, from crumbling asphalt to fresher pavement. Most of the shoulders are a mix of loose and packed gravel.
I’m guessing the linear directness of these roads are what encouraged most drivers I encountered to push the pedal to the metal, regardless of the condition of the roadway. Tragically, last September alone there were two fatal collisions along this route, one at the intersection of Pathway Road and 8th Line Road, the other along Dalmeny Road.
If there wasn’t any traffic coming in the opposite direction most drivers generously moved way over to the opposite lane to pass. There were a few instances that required bailing out onto the gravel shoulder in hopes of survival. For example when this oncoming driver chose to move into my lane to pass another car.
There are only a few small hills on this route. When they did appear, drivers were loathe to move over when passing me lest an unseen vehicule be cresting the hill in the opposite direction. The proper thing to do is wait until you are over the hill and sight lines are clear to safely pass, but this was not a popular option for some, like this guy who could be heard accelerating from a long ways off, making it quite clear he had no intention of slowing down as he flew over the hill.
Another common circumstance that often necessitates taking to the shoulder is when a vehicule insists on passing even though the timing coincides with another car approaching in the opposing lane, leaving minimal or no room beween the passing car and the edge of the road. This was paticularly common along Victoria Street where traffic was busiest. Having a mirror is essential in these circumstances to be able to guage how close the encounter was lining up to be, and to assess the size of the vehicule coming up from behind, particularly in communities that often rely on wider than average vehicles as their mode of transpo.
The need to always be prepared to ride onto an unpredictable gravel shoulder in a moments decision means I don’t consider this route to be safe for cycling. To do so there would need to be paved shoulders to provide riders with a safe means of escape in such dangerous situations. There are a few instances along this route where there are paved shoulders, such as when entering Metcalfe, and a short section where Dalmeny Road road turns onto Gordon Murdoch Road.
Optimally every road should have a paved shoulder or, at a minimum, along bike routes recommended by the city, similar to those along Albion Road and other roads frequented by cyclists near the airport.
The intitiative to encourage cycling through the countryside is admirable. It provides a boost to local economies, like at the vegetable stand I visited along the route and at the Metcalfe Farmers’ Market . It also allows for wonderful healthy outings for residents and tourists alike. But without proper infrastructure, routes such as this will remain accessible to only the most foolhardy of cyclists. Build safe bike infrastructure and they will come. Don’t and they won’t. I only saw 4 other cyclists on the roadway portions of this route whereas along the Osgoode Link Pathway I encountered over 15.
I leave you with a few fine discoveries made along the route.