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NCC will clear more downtown Ottawa bike lanes as part of winter cycling pilot

A cyclist makes his way down a bike path in Montreal on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

An extra kilometre of bike lanes in downtown Ottawa will be plowed throughout this winter, the National Capital Commission announced Thursday.

The commission, which manages federal lands and buildings in the national capital region, said it’s increasing the number of cycling routes it will clear of snow this winter as part of a pilot project.

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In collaboration with the City of Ottawa, the NCC will adjust its snow removal plans to clear about 620 metres of bike path on the Portage Bridge and another 400 metres of the cycling track on St. Patrick Street, from the Alexandra Bridge to Mackenzie Avenue.

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“We wanted to try and facilitate better active transportation linkages on both sides of the river,” NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum told reporters on Thursday.

The National Capital Commission says this winter, it will plow about 620 metres of bike path on the Portage Bridge and another 400 metres of the cycling track on St. Patrick Street, from the Alexandra Bridge to Mackenzie Avenue.
The National Capital Commission says this winter, it will plow about 620 metres of bike path on the Portage Bridge and another 400 metres of the cycling track on St. Patrick Street, from the Alexandra Bridge to Mackenzie Avenue. National Capital Commission

In a news release, the commission said it recognizes that a “growing number of people” are continuing to cycle year-round either to commute or get exercise

“This pilot project is aimed at making active commuting safer, more practical and more effective,” the release said.

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Citizen advocacy group Bike Ottawa welcomed news of the winter cycling pilot on Thursday.

Board member Érinn Cunningham said both the Portage and St. Patrick Street bike lanes are busy routes during the non-winter months and there’s been demand from people who bike year-round for “safe cycling connections across the Ottawa River” during the cold and snowy season.

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“Bike Ottawa is pleased to see the National Capital Commission adding more routes to its winter-cleared cycling network,” board member Érinn Cunningham wrote in a statement.

“We sincerely hope that this pilot will show the value in closing some of the small, but important missing links in the network and hope to see the winter cycling network expanded further, so that using a bike in the winter is seen by more residents all over the Ottawa-Gatineau region as a viable way connect with employment, shopping areas, recreation activities and public transit.”

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Cunningham said Bike Ottawa would welcome winter clearing on the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway path, as an example.

“With the opening of the LRT in Ottawa, Bike Ottawa believes year-round cycling could provide more options for people to access public transit, as in other cities around the world,” he wrote.

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Asked what other bike lanes in its network the NCC might eye in the future should the winter clearing pilot go well, Nussbaum said he doesn’t have an answer at this time and the commission will have to wait to see if it can afford an expansion.

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“We thought we’d start with this. This is feasible. We can squeeze this into our budget,” he said. “But like most things, what we’ll have to look at, at the end of this pilot season, is: ‘Does our budget permit us to continue?’

“We’ll make the case with our stakeholder and our funder, and we’d love to enlarge those areas of not just paved pathways, but we’re looking very ambitiously at how the whole winter pathway network can be activated.

“But yes, unfortunately, that all requires dollars.”

While the NCC is still finalizing its maintenance agreements for the pilot, Nussbaum said that cyclists can expect a “similar clearing schedule to probably the rest of the existing network.”

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