The pandemic put a major emphasis on the importance of public access to outdoor spaces. Across the country 2020 saw a push for more cycling infrastructure for the surging number of Canadians using bikes as transit and for enjoyment. Now, local, provincial and national governments are making decisions on how permanent these new cycling developments will be as Canada once again enters a socially-distanced spring.
In Ottawa, Gatineau park’s parkways will possibly be subject to one of these re-designs—but first Ottawa’s National Capital Commission wants to hear your thoughts on the future of the roads.
Gatineau Park pilot project
Gatineau Park’s parkways form a 38 km network of scenic roads that offer some of the best climbs and views in the area. The roads are part of the UCI 1.1 women’s race the Tour de Gatineau (which was cancelled for 2021), and are popular with Ottawa cyclists.
Prior to the pandemic the parkways were periodically closed to cars. In May 2020, in response to the need for more outdoor activity space, the National Capital Commission (NCC) initiated a pilot project to reserve the parkways for active use. The federal Crown corporation says that it made the move to close the park to cars in order to, “create more space for safe outdoor activity free from potential conflict with motor vehicles, at a time when many physical activity venues such as fitness centres and swimming pools were closed to the public.”
In July 2020 the NCC re-opened the parkways to motor vehicles on Sunday afternoons and evenings to ensure that users with mobility challenges had access to the parts of the Park that were accessible only via the parkways.
High levels of satisfaction
The NCC tracked data on the users of the parkways and used a survey to gauge the results of the pilot project. From May to October 2020, there were 202,178 visits to the park (a “high level” of use). When asked their thoughts on the active use parkways, 96 per cent of respondents reported high levels of satisfaction with the pilot project.
As a result of the success of the pilot project, the NCC has decided to look into more permanent options for keeping the roads open for active use.
What do you think the park should look like?
Fans of the pilot project will be happy to hear that the NCC is extending the 2020 project into 2021. The corporation does note that, in 2021, “there is a possibility of amendments to the schedule in terms of when the parkways would be open to private motor vehicles.”
The NCC is also studying the feasibility of implementing an accessible shuttle bus system along the parkways beginning in 2022. The shuttle bus concept could include “sustained periods during which the parkways would be closed to private motor vehicles.”
Cyclists and other Gatineau Park users have been invited to voice their opinions on different aspects of parkway use by filling out the NCC survey by April 5, 2021.