With the economy forcing many people to spend their holidays at home this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the parts of Ottawa we usually take for granted, and reduce our carbon footprints at the same time with a low-cost, environmentally friendly bike holiday.

Here in the National Capital Region, we have one of the largest networks of cycling pathways in North America, with more than 180 kilometres of recreational pathways.

“These pathways connect visitors to a rich experience of the Capital,” said Marilyne Guèvremont from the National Capital Commission, noting that sites such as Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial are located along popular trails.

Guèvremont suggests picking a theme for a bike holiday for those with a goal in mind.

Cyclists can focus on seeing all of the major gardens in the region, such as Commissioner’s Park near Dow’s Lake or the Garden of the Provinces and Territories near the Supreme Court of Canada, or decide instead to stop by as many parks and beaches as they can, such as Major’s Hill, Confederation Park or the Gatineau Park beaches.

Families can get a Canada’s Capital Museums Passport, and spend a bike holiday visiting different museums in the region, “cycling their way to nine museums in seven days at their own pace,” said Guèvremont.

Gatineau Park is the best place for mountain biking, she said, where there are 90 kilometres of mixed-use mountain biking and hiking trails. On the Quebec side as well, many families enjoy the Voyageurs pathway, a 30-kilometre trail beginning near Leamy Lake Beach and ending at the Deschênes Lake Marina in Aylmer.

For families and those just wanting to enjoy a leisurely afternoon cycling, long-time favourite spots include along the Rideau Canal, or the Ottawa River Parkway during the NCC’s Sunday Bikedays, which have been running since 1970.

“Bikedays provides families, visitors and residents a unique opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Canada’s capital, uninterrupted by motor traffic,” said Guèvremont.

“It’s also a great reminder of the benefits of going green.”

Even if you don’t own a bike, your bike holiday is still possible — the National Capital Commission started their Bike Share pilot project last month, where people can rent bicycles between four stations located in downtown Gatineau and Ottawa.

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