The Future of the Capital Pathway: Let’s Talk!

Whether cross-country skiing just to enjoy being active, biking around to discover the National Capital Region, or walking to get from point A to point B: there are lots of good reasons to take the Capital Pathway, one of the largest networks of multi-use paths in North America. In summer and in winter, tens of thousands of Canadians — residents and tourists — use the pathway, including me. And because I’m working on its future development, I need your help.

Sophie Acheson, enjoying Canada’s Capital by bike.

I enjoy exploring Canada’s Capital by bike.

I’m Sophie Acheson, and I’m a senior land use planner at the National Capital Commission (NCC). Part of my job is to manage the review of the strategic plan for the Capital Pathway, a plan that defines a clear and common vision for the Capital Pathway, and which was completed in 2006.

The NCC is responsible for the Capital Pathway, a 236-kilometre network of multi-use paths in Canada’s Capital Region. The NCC ensures that the Capital Pathway is and remains an exceptional Capital discovery route connecting large natural areas, cultural landscapes and symbolic points of interest in the Capital. 

Our achievements: 2006 to 2018

The vision and directions in the 2006 strategic plan provide us with a frame of reference for developing and improving the NCC’s network of multi-use paths.

Here are a few of our major accomplishments over the past 10 years:

  • Addition of 20 km of pathway
  • Improvement of Capital Pathway intersections with the roadway network
  • Installation of 20 km/h speed limit signage
  • Support for and collaboration with volunteer patrols (Ottawa and Gatineau)
  • Improved process for communicating problems related to safety and maintenance
  • Development of new rules regarding electric-powered vehicles on multi-use paths under the NCC’s responsibility
Cyclists and pedestrians sharing one of the multi-use paths in summer.

Cyclists and pedestrians sharing one of the multi-use paths in summer.

New trends

Since the plan’s publication in 2006, we are starting to observe new trends:

  • New vehicles have appeared on the market (e-bikes, fat bikes and so on).
  • Use of the pathways is increasing.
  • There is a growing interest in winter use of the pathways.
  • The people using the pathways are older.

In short, user priorities — your priorities — have changed, and that’s why we need you. What will the pathway network look like in 5, 10 or 15 years? It’s up to you to let us know.

A cyclist riding a fat bike, alongside pedestrians on the Alexandra Bridge in winter.

A cyclist riding a fat bike, alongside pedestrians on the Alexandra Bridge in winter. 

We’d like to hear from you!

Having completed the first stage of assessment and analysis of the 2006 plan and current conditions of the Capital Pathway, we will now begin the second stage of the plan’s renewal, the process of reviewing the plan, specifically, its vision and strategic directions. This stage will begin with two consultations in the form of a workshop, and end with an online consultation. Public input will contribute greatly in developing the content of the new plan.

The first public consultation will be held on Wednesday, February 21, from 6 pm to 8:15 pm, in the NCC’s Urbanism Lab and the second on Thursday, February 22, at the same time and place. Everyone is invited.

These consultations will help us to understand what participants think of the themes and issues presented, as well as to explore possible solutions that could address these issues. Below are the five themes that participants will be invited to comment on:

  1. Integrated, improved network
  2. Multi-use, user-friendly pathways
  3. Superior, resilient facilities
  4. Territorial and seasonal expansion
  5. Greater public safety

Ideas proposed during the discussions will inform the review of the strategic plan. This is a unique opportunity for people to help shape the future of the Capital Pathway.


According to our schedule, the new strategic plan should be approved in early 2019. Before that time, we have a lot to do — and we need your help, your opinion and your ideas.  

The NCC began building this network of paths along the historic Rideau Canal between 1971 and 1973. The vision was to create a sort of outdoor urban paradise in the Capital Region. Since then, the network of multi-use paths has been expanded 20 times, needs have changed, people change, and now it’s our turn, you and I, to develop a new vision for the Capital Pathway. I’m proud to be working to develop the Capital Pathway of tomorrow — and I hope you are too.

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