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Centretowner’s SXSW bicycle shortcut

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Recently in an Images of Centretown post, the author happened to mention one of his favourite cycling shortcuts through Centretown – a simple but effective jog over from O’Connor to Lyon via Lewis, Bank, and James – a route that as the post says is “a very convenient bike route for going south-west through Centretown, because it has low traffic and few red lights”.

Even though much of my week is spend in an office building on Lewis I had never tried this route; it was as if it had been hidden in plain site all along. So last week I hopped on my bike and gave it a try, and it’s really true – it covers a lot of ground in a hurry, with little traffic and no lights, until you come to the end of the jog at Lyon.

There are some interesting Easter eggs on the route, too. The jog takes the cyclist right past the “Google Centre” of Ottawa; a backyard on James Street. To see this for yourself, just enter Ottawa, Ontario, in Google Maps, and see where the “A” pin appears. Or just click here to see what we mean.

As noted in a recent World Wide Wednesday post, artists are starting to have fun with this new version of geographical town centering; we wonder if the people at 98 James would appreciate one of these in their backyard?

Also the jog has the benefit of terminating at the beautifully-preserved “Hollywood Parade”, a 19th century row of heritage townhomes that is well worth seeing if you’ve missed it before in your explorations of Centretown. The wonderful structure is well-loved in the neighbourhood, and could serve as an object lesson to our current generation of condo-erecting developers. Will their buildings be so warmly regarded 120 years hence?

One more architectural gem is just one block farther west, at 178 James – a sumptuous, veranda-studded, saffron-stuccoed, Frances Sullivan “dacha” built in 1915. For the full view, be sure go around the corner and see the Bay Street frontage.

Do you have any bike shortcuts that make the journey more pleasant or more interesting than the usual “beaten path”? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section, or tweet us at @spacingottawa.



  1. Thanks, good to see it’s not just my imagination that the route works. I wouldn’t have found it if the Corktown Footbridge hadn’t pulled me off the main roads when crossing back from uOttawa on Laurier Bridge.

  2. As a resident of Lewis Street I will now lodge a protest with city council. The bike traffic on my street has become unbearable since this was posted. Cyclists recklessly ignore the speed limits and their hipster styles (who know who you are!) corrupt the children who live on our previously quiet street! Before this the worst we had to contend with were simple speeding cars blasting over the speed bumps. Can’t they bike on somebody else’s street?? I demand the city do something!

  3. By the way, the companion NE route (from, say, Bronson/Gladstone to Elgin/Somerset) is Gladstone – Bay – Florence – jog at Bank to Waverley – Metcalfe Somerset.

    There are two challenging stop sign intersections where the cross traffic doesn’t have a signal: on Florence at Kent (the parked cars outside the Chinese Community Apartments often block view of oncoming traffic), and on Waverley at O’Connor (going straight through here is prohibited from 3:30-5:30pm M-F). So it’s not good for all times of day, though traffic is thick enough in the afternoon rush hour for cars to be backed up on O’Connor from Gladstone to get through them at Waverley, at other times the traffic signal at Lewis holds them back.

    Going North on Metcalfe, the signal at Gilmour changes just a few seconds before the one at the following block, MacLaren, so if Gilmour’s got a flashing hand, consider turning right toward Elgin. (If you’re aiming for the Corktown Footbridge, I recommend Gilmour to Cooper instead of Somerset or Elgin). The one at Somerset

    Getting back to the SW route, if you’re coming along MacLaren at Metcalfe and are at the red light, you’ll need to boot it to catch the green on O’Connor at Gilmour (to then turn right at Lewis). As mentioned elsewhere, once you get to James and Lyon, if you’ve got a red light and aren’t headed somewhere along James, you can legally turn left on the red provided it is safe to do so.

  4. Curious that Google’s “centretown” is James St. Traditionally, distances between cities is measured city hall to city hall.

    Another nice quiet bike thru route, tho with stop signs, is: lawn-ancaster-flower-woodroffe-saville row-sherbourne-dovercourt-sebring-hampton park-clarendon-ruskin which goes between the civic hospital and the Western parkway. It’s a quiet alternative to Byron (which is fairly busy) and Carling (which is toxic to most cyclists).

    You can find some good bike routes on the city cycling maps – just stay off the arterials to avoid the traffic and try them out. See

    You can also easily share best bike routes on


  5. Lisgar is also a quiet bike ride W across centretown and Cooper going E. This avoids the red lights and traffic along Somerset. I usually take these routes going to and from City Hall between Cartier and Bronson.