Ideas for better NCC pathways

Nearly 200 people registered to participate in two nights of consultation on the future use, maintenance and expansion of the National Capital Commission's multi-use pathway network.

Public consultation to guide update to 2006 Capital Pathway Plan

The National Capital Commission is gathering feedback from the public about the future of its multi-use pathways throughout the region. (National Capital Commission)

Nearly 200 people registered to participate in two nights of consultation on the future use, maintenance and expansion of the National Capital Commission's multi-use pathway network.

Cyclists, pedestrians and cross-country skiers attended Thursday night's consultation at the NCC's Capital Urbanism Lab. It was the second in-person consultation, scheduled because demand was so great for the first meeting.

Bruce Devine, the NCC's senior manager of facilities and programs, said attendance has been slightly skewed toward cyclists but the commission is making an effort to solicit views from other pathway users.

"People have some things to say about speed and about how to share the pathway and then it gets into a conversation with respect to should it be wider, should we segregate them," Devine said.

"With respect to resilience, we heard a few comments about how we should make the pathways accessible all year round."

Devine said the commission is working to address flood-related damage and repairs and build up resilience along the rivers.

The pathway near the Canadian Museum of History will still be under repair until the summer as it required cooperation from a neighbouring landowner, Devine said.

The NCC will be holding more online consultations in spring and another round once they assemble a draft proposal.


Riek Van Den Berg, an Ottawa resident, said she hopes the design of paths will reflect a range of uses and users. 

"Accessibility is a big issue for me," Van Den Berg said. "I think we need to make it safe for everyone and understand that it has to work not just for the heaviest users, but it has to work across the age-range."

She would like paths to be organized with fast and slow lanes, rather than just by mode of use.

"You can have fast people on foot and slow people on wheels," she said. 

Riek Van Den Berg, an Ottawa resident, says the pathways need to be accessible for frequent and casual users, no matter their age. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Winter uses

"Groomer" Dave Adams maintains the Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail for cross-country skiers and winter uses. He was excited to see interest for more winter activity on the pathways.

"My project is showing that there is a different way of doing things. We can get away from plowing and salting and we can get people to work on a winter-based trail, we can get people active on a winter-based trail," Adams said.

He would like to see the community-based model expanded to other parts of the NCC network.

"I think the winter-based trail has a future throughout the national capital area."

'Groomer' Dave Adams (wearing a ballcap), who works on the Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail, and Riek Van Den Berg discuss maintenance on NCC pathways during the public consultation on Feb. 22, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)


Jen Stelzer, who works at EnviroCentre, said she came to the consultation as a cyclist, but was relieved that people weren't dug into their perspective.

Stelzer said she wants to promote good etiquette, so everyone respects each other and communicates on the pathways.

"How do we get people to understand that ringing their bell is good etiquette? Just don't do it when you're right by my ear," she said.

Jen Stelzer, who bikes on the National Capital Commission paths, speaks at table during the consultations on Feb. 22, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Congestion and speed

Geoffrey Gurd, president of the Kanata-Nepean Bike Club, used to ride the pathways to work downtown and his club's members use the paths to ride to Gatineau Park and Aylmer.

"There's a huge safety issue," he said. "There's hot spots where there's a lot of congestion."

Geoffrey Gurd, president of the Kanata-Nepean Bike Club, had some ideas for helping cyclists navigate congestion on NCC pathways. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Gurd said he would like signs to warn about congested areas, clearing of some brush where paths meet so people can more easily see around corners and curves along paths to slow cyclists down.

"Maybe early in the spring when the cyclists really get on the pathways, [the NCC could] have people intervening if they're going too fast, remind people the rules and, hopefully, once they get it, they're set for the season," Gurd said.