Active City

The Active City is a vision of Ottawa where bustling, livable neighbourhoods are connected by world class public transit; where city streets are open to people of all ages, user needs and abilities; and where our transportation network accommodates the needs of people – and not just cars – to move about safely and efficiently.





Why we need the Active City

Transportation decisions are critical to the health, vitality and viability of our communities and environment. For decades, North American cities were designed with the principal aim of getting cars to and from different points as quickly as possible. This has resulted in isolated communities, a loss of precious greenspace, growing levels of congestion and air pollution, lower levels of physical activity, funding challenges for public transportation, and threats to safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists. It has also contributed to the climate crisis by privileging car transportation in the day-to-day travel decisions of every resident of the city.

Bad transportation choices can constrain a city’s options and lead to long term problems. The more we design sprawling car-centric communities, the more we make transit unaffordable and walking or cycling unsafe. Because people are more reticent to use active transportation when the options at their disposal are dangerous or inconvenient, congestion levels continue to rise as people stick to their cars. New roads and new lanes are touted as a possible solution to the congestion, but if these are designed primarily for cars, they can worsen the problem they were intended to solve. The new roads are quickly filled up by cars and other modes of transit continue to be inaccessible. In the end, we’re stuck with more cars and more demand for car infrastructure than when we started.

The Active City program is about forging a new path forward. It’s about working with what Ottawa already has – a city-wide network of bike paths, a robust transit system, and strong communities with access to amenities and greenspace – and pushing for lasting improvements to our city. It’s about revitalizing our communities by making them safer and more practical for people of all ages to live and play in. It’s about giving people the freedom to choose transportation options that nourish their physical and mental health while enhancing the vibrancy of community life. And it’s about simultaneously taking action on the issues of climate change, pollution and greenspace protection through a positive and concrete changes.

The context

Ecology Ottawa’s Active City campaign builds on the political momentum we’ve seen in recent years at City Hall. In 2013, the City of Ottawa adopted a Complete Streets Policy, and then followed this up with an implementation framework in 2015. Essentially, the City has agreed to look at street construction and reconstruction through a ‘complete streets’ lens – rather than seeing roads as throughways for personal automobiles, city engineers will ensure they are designed for all users, ages and abilities.

The City of Ottawa is also in the midst of building a comprehensive light rail transit (LRT) network which would dramatically scale up the city’s public transportation capacity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buses and cars. Stage 1 of the plan, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is currently underway. Stage 2, which would extend LRT to the western, eastern and southern ends of the city by 2023, has been agreed to in principle by all three levels of government and is slated to move ahead. Stage 3, extending to Kanata, is the next big challenge on the table.

The City has also committed to two plans which could make active transportation safer and more convenient. The Cycling Infrastructure Plan and the Pedestrian Infrastructure Plan could have a transformative impact on the city and leave a lasting legacy for current and future generations. However, their funding is currently spread out and delayed over 15 years. Additional funding could accelerate investments in infrastructure such as bike lanes, walkways, signage, pedestrian bridges and transit integration measures. The City has done the hard work of identifying priority projects; our role is to ramp up ambition, so that Ottawa can move into a leadership position on active transportation and move away from a dated planning model oriented primarily around the car.