Biking here isn't yet so simple that you can just swing a leg over your bike and head out, counting on safe routes, direct connections, and good signage to get you to your destination. Some planning ahead is always a good idea. Finding your way around in the Ottawa - Gatineau Region can be somewhat challenging sometimes. Maps are available at the NCC info centre in the World Exchange Plaza. The City of Ottawa produces maps too. Then there are online tools such as Google Maps with an option to select directions for bike routes, or view the "cycling layer" of the map (click on the symbol that looks like three horizontal bars to bring up menu options). The city has started adding a few wayfinding signs along the O-Train Path. The NCC sometimes has maps available along the Multi Use Pathways (MUP's) as well as has wayfinding signs along the routes, but not always obvious or logical. And of course, it can sometimes be a good idea to get creative. Here are some ideas for taking the road less traveled:
- Ride along the loading dock routes in the back of a strip mall, or through parking lots, rather than on the busy major road out front
- Consider cutting through a park - paved paths through parks often won't show up on any cycling map, but if cycling isn't prohibited, and as long as your ride with care, they can make for a very a relaxing break from traffic stress.
- Use the Strava global heatmap to discover a shortcut that doesn't show up on other maps - the cyclists who went before you know about these secret passages, often along very logical desire lines. The heatmap is also great for discovering which roads are popular, and which ones are to be avoided at all times.
- Use the zoomed-in satellite view to see if you can spot a worn-in path where you wish there was a shortcut. You'll be amazed how often you find one.
- Put your maze-solving skills to the test and use residential streets instead of arterials. This can result in a very pleasant ride, but the turn-by-turn directions get complicated. Pre-planning the route as a GPS track and uploading it to your programmable GPS device (smartphone?) takes away the worry of getting lost.
Winter cycling map (interactive). This map is open and maintained by the cycling community. If you have a Google account, you can add to the map. Bordeau red is for stretches where bikes are separated from cars, black is on-road bike lanes with fairly decent snow clearing.
City of Ottawa map (interactive)
NCC Maps (website with PDF files)
You may want to visit route descriptions from sites such as:
As of this update in 2016, blogger Brian Smith is still actively taking requests if you'd like some help figuring out a route. He'll figure something out and write a blog post about it, so do't be shy about getting in touch!