We are currently reviewing the NCC’s Capital Pathway Strategic Plan. The updated plan will present an aspirational vision for the multi-use pathway system in Canada’s Capital Region.

What is the Capital Pathway?

The Capital Pathway is a network of over 220 km of off-road multi-use pathways. It is a popular discovery route, and a means of accessing a range of destinations through many different landscapes.

Covering such a large and diverse area, the Capital Pathway offers residents and visitors experiences that reflect the natural beauty, cultural heritage and symbolic importance of Canada’s Capital Region.

Final draft plan

The following sections provide only a snapshot of some of the policies and initiatives outlined in the plan. To learn more about the full range of proposals, read the draft of the Capital Pathway Strategic Plan, 2020.

What’s new in the plan?

The plan aims to harmonize and improve the network of pathways in Canada’s Capital Region. It presents directions and strategies to offer the best possible multi-use pathway for the region.

Click to enlarge map.

Below, you’ll find examples of some of the plan’s proposed initiatives.

The plan establishes, for the first time, a clear framework that solidifies a Capital Pathway identity. It also guides its future growth within the context of the broader active mobility network. In terms of harmonization and connectivity, the plan undertakes the following:

  • Defines the Capital Pathway as distinct from, but complementary to, the municipal network.
  • Offers safe, scenic and enjoyable alternatives to bike lanes and sidewalks.
  • Adds 90 km of new pathway segments that create new links within and along the border of the existing network.
  • Creates clear junction points between the Capital Pathway and municipal networks.
  • Makes navigation easier, and harmonizes the regional active mobility network.
  • Calls for close collaboration with cities for shared challenges like safety, wayfinding and lighting.

Parts of the Capital Pathway wind through sensitive ecological corridors and riverfront landscapes that are vulnerable to flooding. Because of this, the plan includes many measures meant to improve the pathway’s resilience and promote sustainability:

  • Using durable, green building techniques in pathway construction.
  • Designing pathways in flood-prone areas to resist flooding.
  • Establishing detours to accommodate users.
  • Constructing elevated surfaces like bridges, boardwalks and causeways in low-lying areas.
  • Stabilizing shorelines using bioengineering techniques.
  • Avoiding ecological zones where possible. If not feasible, limiting any adverse effects on sensitive areas.

For safety purposes, the plan calls for lighting along busy segments of the pathway. It also considers the negative effects lighting can have on the environment. The plan emphasizes safety lighting in the following key areas:

  • tunnels and underpasses that do not receive adequate daytime or ambient lighting
  • pathway segments that provide access to important nighttime destinations, such as community facilities, schools and transit hubs
  • potential conflict points, such as roadway intersections and crossings

To help to make the user experience of the network safer and more enjoyable, the plan includes new standards for the design of pathway infrastructure:

  • Separating pedestrians and cyclists in busy areas where both groups take up a large part of the pathways.
  • Introducing “slow zones,” and using traffic-calming methods in areas with high pedestrian traffic.
  • Promoting respectful user behaviour.
  • Requiring that faster pathway users yield to slower and/or more vulnerable users.

In winter, the Capital Pathway will be maintained to provide users with opportunities to explore and discover the region. The plan contains procedures to improve the quality and comfort of the outdoor winter experience, such as the following:

  • Facilitating a range of winter activities along the Capital Pathway, including walking, biking, skiing and snowshoeing, by providing cleared, groomed and snow covered pathways.
  • Clearing crucial connections such as bridges and urban links to support winter mobility in high-density urban areas.
  • Connecting users to points of interest for winter events and activities, including the Rideau Canal, Winterlude sites and warming stations.

Review of the Capital Pathway Strategic Plan

The purpose of the strategic plan is to provide a framework for long-term planning and day-to-day management of the Capital Pathway. As the previous plan for the pathways was approved in 2006, an update is essential to respond to new realities.


The review of the plan is taking place in four phases, during which the public and stakeholders are being consulted.

Assessment, research and analysis of existing conditions (summer–fall 2017)

Interest group outreach (correspondence letter): Monday, November 20, 2017
Review of vision and strategic directions (winter–spring 2018)
  • Interest group meeting: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
  • Presentation and public workshop: February 21 and 22, 2018
  • Online survey: June 26–July 16, 2018
Drafting of new strategic plan (summer–fall 2019)
  • Interest group meeting: late fall 2019
  • Online survey: early 2020
Approval of the final plan (fall 2020)

As part of this planning process, we engaged various stakeholder groups. These included the City of Ottawa, Ville de Gatineau, municipal first responders, federal stakeholders, non-governmental organizations (including cycling groups and environmental groups) and members of the general public.

We also sought feedback throughout the project from the NCC’s Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty, and Board of Directors.

For an overview of what we have heard throughout this process, see the public consultation reports:

Next steps

Feedback from the last online consultation (May and June 2020) will be integrated into the final version of the plan. We will then submit the Capital Pathway Strategic Plan to the NCC’s Board of Directors for approval in October 2020.

Stay informed