By Jennifer Stelzer, Manager of Community Sustainability Programs at EnviroCentre
Ottawa is a beautiful city to ride a bike. Whether you mountain, road, BMX or just tootle around getting from A to B, you’ve probably got a smile on your face when there are pedals under your feet. And a lot of us know that feeling! We have a huge cycling community in Ottawa!
If my questionable math calculations (based on 2016 census data) are close, there are an estimated 380,000 folks in Ottawa who have ridden their bike this year! And of those 11,698 bike to work as their main commuting choice! The Ottawa Mountain Biking Association has 3492 followers on Facebook. Ottawa Bicycle Club clicks in at over 1100 members and Bike Ottawa has over 400 members.
There are likely less than 15 full time old school bike couriers in this town, but it seems many motorists think we all ride like we’re in an Alley Cat Race. In reality, Ottawa’s roads, paths and charity races bring out a spectacular show of brightly dressed coffee lovers enjoying life on two wheels.
Maybe you do CycleCross, tall bike, touring or BMX, or maybe, like me, you just hop on your bike and go! The point is, we all share a joy in riding our bikes … and let’s be honest, you probably have more than one!
So here’s the thing I’ve noticed over the last 40 or so years of pedalling around, our bike communities don’t communicate! A strange sort of “us and them” based on tire PSI and outfits seems to exist … and frankly I don’t like that. We need to work together to respect and understand one another. We need a strong voice when there are opportunities to improve our spaces. We need to celebrate the beautiful bicycles of the world and the wonderful people who ride them.
That is my dream; my pitch to my director at EnviroCentre when I wanted to bring the Bicycle Film Festival to Ottawa three years ago. We are a non-profit that helps residents, communities and businesses reduce their carbon impact. My team works primarily on transportation programs and this almost, sort of, kind of fits in our mandate. We know that we can make positive changes through showcasing benefits (and making people smile). So what better way to do that than a bike party!