Let's complete the Nepean Trail

Let's complete the Nepean Trail
Posted on October 24, 2013 | Hans Moor | Written on October 22, 2013
Letter type:

In 2000, we bought a house in Fisher Heights, a 5 minute bike ride from Merivale Road. We had done our research and discovered that this neighbourhood is actually less than 8 km from downtown, a 25 minute bike ride. My wife found work in the Glebe and I found work at the south end of Merivale Road where Amberwood meets Merivale. For nearly three years I cycled the Merivale stretch between Colonnade and Amberwood, crossing Hunt Club on a daily basis. There are no decent alternatives.

The tragedy of old Nepean is that it has great parks, calm neighbourhoods and  some great bike routes, but also the ugliest 50’s and 60’s arterial road network one can think of. It also has two railway tracks going right across old Nepean, a gigantic barrier for cyclists and pedestrians who would like to bike and walk, but don’t like to use busy thoroughfares such as Woodroffe, Greenbank or Merivale, defined as ‘spine bike routes’ in the Ottawa Bike Plan for 2031. A Nepean bike trail was only partly built.

The problem with bike routes is that even if only 10% is missing, and cyclists are supposed to use the main arteries to connect, it won’t be used much. Disconnected trails force cyclists to either share the road in areas with busy traffic (18 wheelers included) or cycle behind a ‘safe’ painted white line that separates cyclists from 80 (read 90) km/hr traffic, think West Hunt Club. I don’t count white lines as ‘bike infrastructure’ on roads with 80 km traffic next to me. It doesn’t encourage people to cycle. It is not pleasant, it is not inviting.

Rapid increase of cyclists

Ottawa’s Bicycle Plan promises to address a number of these issues. And for good reasons. The number of cyclists in Ottawa increased by 40% between 2005 - 2011 to over 43,000. In the inner suburbs, such as Nepean, the increase was even better, around 50%!

While we often have an image of cyclists as Spandex Speedsters, the reality is that over 80% of the bike trips in the inner suburbs in Ottawa are below 8 km and a large share of those are below 4 km. It is therefore no wonder that nearly 38% of the inner suburb residents indicated they are interested in cycling, but are waiting for more bike lanes and pathways. What an enormous potential for a healthier and cleaner city. If half of that 38% starts cycling, I can guarantee you that all traffic planners from North America and Europe will come and study the Ottawa miracle. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves now.

Change the law

From talking to planners, I have learned that many in City Hall would like to see more active transportation infrastructure, but that either the Ontario Highway Traffic Act or design manuals kill a lot of ideas that are already common ground in other places in the world. Such as a bike crossing with a bike light. It is hard to believe in 2013, but planners still struggle with bike crossings. Indeed, we carved a rail road through the Rockies, built a bridge to Prince Edward Island but we cannot figure out a bike crossing (or ‘cross rides’ in planners lingo). Go figure. All it takes is a cooperative provincial government that is willing to change the law quickly and presto, you’ll see Ottawa getting its safe bike crossings all over the place. Traffic laws and 1950’s road design currently stop cycling innovation in its tracks. The principle is that car traffic needs to flow, hence our love for right turning lanes before traffic lights and the rule to walk your bike across an intersection when you come from a path. Modern traffic design is where Ontario sorely lags behind. Decades. The reason why bike infrastructure development is so slow is mostly because of legal technicalities, I am always told by city staff.

Boost for active transportation

Over the years, Citizens for Safe Cycling and others such as James O’Grady (the Unpublished website owner) have asked to complete the Nepean Trail. The Trail is missing a few connections that discourage people to cycle, such as the Merivale rail underpass. Finishing the Nepean Trail should only be the first step though: for example safe cycling commuter routes between residential areas and the business areas around Colonnade and Bentley are few and far between.

Finishing this trail requires very little effort, but it allows Nepean’s cycling residents to avoid a number of arteries entirely. That will be a first step to boost active transportation.

RELATED: Great news for cyclist and pedestrians in Nepean! >>

About The Author

Hans Moor's picture

Hans Moor was rewarded the Bruce Timmermans award for cycling advocacy for his ‘laid back and engaging charm’. In the last four years, he spoke across Canada about cycling advocacy in Ottawa. He is the president of... More


Grant McSheffrey

To what degree is the city required to adhere to the traffic manuals published by the province? Is there really no leeway to try out different solutions if the professionals who look at the conditions feel that it's warranted?

Dana Gourley

I think providing a safe connection from the Tanglewood area under or over the railway tracks to the Viewmount area would be a great piece of bike infrastructure not only for locals getting to school or to the shops but also for longer distance bike riders. Right now the trail that goes north from Barrhaven to West Huntclub joins the path that goes east west along West Huntclub and then just stops at Tanglewood. Extending the path network to the north side of the tracks links it up with the existing Nepean Creek trail improving the connectivity and usefulness of the existing bike infrastructure.

Brendan OhUiginn

This is a major problem in Ottawa. The lack of connections is rampant throughout Ottawa. In a lot of instances it's because a great trail maintained my the City of Ottawa and a great trail maintained my NCC has not been connected in an appropriate way, or at all. The lack of cooperation between cycling planners at the city and at the NCC is hurting the future of cycling in Ottawa.

Bicycle Wacko.

Very few Adult bicycle riders obey any of the Rules of the Road, therefore all bicycles must be banned from all but residential roads.

Very few schoolage children ride bicycles now, because they either drive by school bus, parents car ride, or just plain walk...have a look at the school yards for proof!

Horses are no longer a means of transportation, and bicycles also have truly met the same value of practical and safe transportation!
Get with the twenty-first (21st) century and buy a car and drive the modern and efficient way of transportation...heated in winter and air conditioned in summer, and you can bring the whole family with you at the same time. Impossibe to carry one week of groceries home on a bicycle, attend a movie, hockey game, visit friends across town AS OTTAWA IS 90 KM FROM EAST TO WEST!

Cavemen and Bicycles are both a think of the past!

Bicycle Paths would cost millions of dollars to expand and maintain year round, not to mention the safely factor for children and women, in remote isolated areas.

It is also time that adult bicycle riders pay the same as a car driver for a licence for their vehicles $90 per year, and City of Ottawa must enforce all Road Rules...i.e. Red Lights, Stop signs, riding on Side Walks, etc. Must be millions of dollars they could be collecting there when enforced.