Ottawa Won’t Be Cycling Helsinki

Here’s a query on my biking views in a tweet.

Happy to oblige with the answer:


First, Europe doesn’t have the culture of the car that we in North America do.

Car ownership is perceived as a rite of passage here but not in Europe. So you have a cultural difference that is not changed by building bike lanes. They just slow traffic and buses. People love their cars in Ottawa and elsewhere on this continent and you don’t change those mores in a lifetime.

Believe me. I have lived a lifetime and I’ve seen it.

As well, the cost of car operation is astronomical in Europe. Not so in North America. People in Europe don’t grow up to necessarily think they will own a car like they do in Ottawa.



Also Helsinki has a climate with fewer extremes than Ottawa because of the influence of the Gulf Stream.

For example, the average January temperature in Helsinki is -5C. In Ottawa, -10.2C. Ottawa has a real winter. A nasty winter.

Furthermore, the proof is in the current results. How many winter bikers do you have in Ottawa beyond Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper and his favourite lobby group Citizens For Safe Cycling? And frankly when motoring, I’m scared to death that a winter cyclist will fall beneath my wheels.

Bad weather reduces cycling for the average person to less than a third of the year in Ottawa.

The Churchill Avenue complete street from end to end has very few cyclists at any time of year.

Sorry I don’t think Ottawa can be Helsinki. If we had a climate like that of Charleston, S.C., I’d be all for building a great number of bike lanes. We don’t.

It is very fashionable to be pro-cycling in Ottawa. However big bike infrastructure is simply not practical.

And I’m not in favour of spending tax money for a small pressure group of cyclists who want to bike in the winter.

If you want to cycle in the winter, move to San Francisco where it works, not Ottawa where it doesn’t.


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2 thoughts on “Ottawa Won’t Be Cycling Helsinki

  1. I would much prefer a bylaw banning cyclists in the City of Ottawa and drivers, downtown business owners and taxpayers would be better off without them. These bike lanes are lunacy and such a total waste of public funds. As an alternative we can always send the cyclists to Helsinki….at their own expense.


  2. I am an avid cyclist but bicycles should not be allowed on the roadways during the winter months. It’s a dangerous proposition for the cyclist and as Ken points out, the responsibility for any accident involving a bicycle will fall on the shoulders of the motorist.

    On a different note, comparisons between Europe and Canada should always be taken with a grain of salt. For example, in Canada a motorist can drive 500 km from northern Alberta to, say, southern BC. In Europe a trip that distance could go through 5 or 6 countries. Gasoline in Europe has been ultra-expensive for decades which is one of the reasons Eurorail has been so successful.


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