June 2021 results

2,140

Participants!

108

Teams!

195.0K

Kms logged!

49,723kg

GHG averted!

About Us Our Sponsors

Jenn Van Der Schee – Turning her Passion into Fashion!

How long have you been riding a bike?

I remember being on the back of my Mom’s bike when I was two or three, so I guess I’ve been riding forever! My dad is Dutch and we all know how much the Dutch like their bikes! I always had a bike growing up and have fond memories of riding with my parents around the military base in Calgary that was our neighbourhood. Later, I remember it was a big thrill when I was allowed to ride with friends to the Fish Creek Provincial Park that was close to home, for a swim in the lake.

At university in Edmonton, my roommate and I decided to ride to classes all winter. It was a long walk to the bus stop, and a slow bus ride. Biking took less time than the bus so I bought a mountain bike and bundled up. It felt like freedom to avoid bus stops and schedules. As a result, we met some guys who were living in residence and tried out trail riding with them.

That mountain bike followed me around the country for many years. It led to various friendships that in turn led to various enjoyable experiences including experiments with triathlons, gravel biking on the Great Trail, and road riding to various small towns. I had a fun summer working for Somersault, the triathlon sponsoring organization in 2006, helping others enjoy the challenge of combining riding with running and swimming.

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

Cycling makes me feel good! I enjoy the fresh air and exercise when I’m commuting, the physical and mental challenge of mountain biking, and the long slow burn of road riding.

I started riding with another woman last summer, and I love how we challenge and inspire each other. There’s nothing like peer pressure to never miss a ride!

Women’s mountain biking has exploded in this city as well, thanks to women led groups such as the Ottawa Mountain Bike Chicks, and female skills instructors. It’s a sport that’s become more and more inclusive thanks to these amazing leaders. I love to see girls on wheels – especially when they are being encouraged by their moms! The atmosphere is collegial and supportive.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last 10 years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa?

Infrastructure has grown and it keeps growing, and that makes me happy! I love that many office buildings and retail stores have bike parking and that so many people are using bikes as transportation.

Recreational cycling has exploded and the amount of mountain biking trails keeps growing. The NCC has added many trails in Gatineau Park, and Larose Forest has carved out many kilometers of trails that are highly accessible to newbies and families.

What is your favorite cycling memory?

When I moved back to Ottawa in 2010 from Regina, I joined a dating website. The best response I got was from a keen cyclist so we met up for a bike ride to Aylmer. We were aiming for a grocery store but it was closed, so we sat by the river for a chat and the rest is history. We are still together, planning cycling weekends and vacations, when we can, and enjoying commuting in between.

What was/is your biggest challenge?  And how did you overcome it?

I like the technical challenges of mountain biking. You have to plan strategy for completing major features. When you complete the challenge, the rush is amazing!

Do you have a favorite path or route to bike in Ottawa?

I love that you can ride endlessly in this city without really having to ride in traffic. When I commute, I ride the Canal paths. Getting on my bike at the end of the day is so nice, especially when I see the crowded buses and streets. I have a new job which will be downtown when we return to the office, and I’m looking forward to exploring a new commuting route.

I really like the Watts Creek section of the NCC pathway, from Moodie Drive to March road. It is lovely and tree lined, and we always try include it when we do longer rides. Also, it connects with the Great Trail (formerly Trans Canada Trail). When I want an easy ride in the forest to clear my head, I tend to go east to Larose Forest. When I’m in the mood for some heart pounding climbs, I love the trails in the Gatineau Park.

What inspires you?

The simple form and function of the bicycle has inspired me as an artisan. I have a small screen-printing shop called Dutch Bike Printing Co, which came out of my search for images of bikes on things. It was difficult to find an “anatomically correct” bike tee – most images were either cartoonish or just plain wrong, so I started working with actual bike images and manipulated them for printing on t-shirts and other apparel. One of my first images was a fat bike taken from a photo, so it looked like something a fat biker would actually ride.

I have some silly images of bikes too – like a moose riding a mountain bike, and an elephant balancing on a Penny Farthing. I play with images from nature too – it’s hard not be inspired by the forests I ride in.

I’m currently playing with text and graphical elements for my new spring designs, and I trying to come up with a women’s mountain bike design for the women who inspire me to pedal harder!

You can find my designs on my website at dutchbikeprinting.com

Dave Garand: A Strong Voice for Cycling in Ottawa’s East End..and beyond!

How long have you been riding a bike?

I was 10 when I received my first decent bike, a 5 speed Peugeot with a carrier rack. My Father was in the military and we were living in the Black Forest in Germany at the time. Biking around the base and around town with my friends was a wonderful adventure for me! We have a lot to learn in Canada from German urban planning and transportation infrastructure.

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

I really appreciate that cycling is such an economical way to get around and have fun while keeping the body and brain healthy. It also allows one to experience one’s community in a different light, and notice things one would miss while in a car. It’s also a great way to support local businesses, as proven by several different models including in Montréal and Toronto. Bikes are often cheap to purchase, maintain and upgrade. There are a lot of affordable bikes on the market, and plenty of good quality second-hand ones as well, so it is possible to have different bikes for different uses. I have a hybrid commuter bike, a full suspension mountain bike for off-road fun, and a road bike for longer, faster outings.  

When I was about 17, I started learning to fix my own bikes, which I enjoy, and it really helps to keep costs down. I bought my own tools and even took a correspondence bike repair course.  In 1990 in Germany, I worked in a bike shop, learning my way around all the nice European models and expanding my knowledge. Returning to Ottawa, I worked for a bike rental company, keeping their stock tuned up and accompanying group rides which were mainly school kids.

For a while, I had my own mobile bike repair company here in Ottawa.  Over the years, I’ve picked great bikes off the side of the road that people had put out for garbage, fixed them up and either used them myself, or passed them on to charities or local kids.

What have you learned about cycling that you wish you knew when you started?

My main discovery is that it doesn’t take much to be well equipped for year-round cycling. In the early 1990s, I biked from Beacon Hill to Carleton University twice a day all winter, on my regular bike, wearing my normal winter outerwear. I was warm enough, but I could barely move in all that gear! Today, winter clothing for biking is much lighter, more technically advanced and more comfortable. Also, bike internal brakes and gearing have evolved to the point where your bike will not require much maintenance and will last through a lot of winters.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last 10 years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa?

There have been considerable improvements in bike infrastructure in the downtown core such as the Laurier and O’Connor bike lanes, the revamp of Main St., and several streets having lanes with flexi-posts. Similar investments in substantial safe cycling linkages have not yet been made in the east end where I have lived since 1983, but I have been working hard to encourage the City of Ottawa to improve the east-west bike links such as including segregated lanes or flexi-posts on Innes Road and St. Joseph Boulevard for cyclists in Orléans and Blackburn Hamlet.

What is your favorite cycling memory?

Two of my high school teachers organized a 3-day cycling trip for a dozen students, from Orleans to Johnstown, Rockport and Smiths Falls and back. It was a relatively easy trip as we slept in motels, but it was my first experience of cycle touring, and of course, we had a blast!

What was/is your biggest challenge? And how did you overcome it?

I have been trying very hard for many months using all the means possible (Facebook cycling page, local community pages, meetings with Councillors and Bike Ottawa) to encourage the City of Ottawa to invest in safe infrastructure in the east end. There have been tragedies and a lot of collisions in the area that could have been prevented. Suburbs generally do not give much attention to cycling infrastructure, since most people who choose to live in them are car-reliant and generally don’t use a bicycle as their primary mode of transport. Consequently, getting the public to buy-in to investments for biking is slow.

I created the Eastern Ottawa Cycling Community Facebook page 4 years ago to provide an avenue to share anything cycling related to east end residents. With nearly 1000 members, including Ottawa councillors, I began to leverage the tool to highlight local issues and to gather user experience issues while cycling (or wishing to cycle) around all areas from Cumberland to Beacon Hill and Blackburn Hamlet. The page has been used to engage the public in discussions but also to bring them together to formal meetings and has been very successful in increasing engagement.  

Do you have a favorite path or route to bike in Ottawa?

Forest Valley Trails are my mountain bike go-to as they are so close to my home. The Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway: (SGEC, formerly the Rockcliffe and Eastern Parkways) is my favourite road route, combined with the Ottawa River path that leads to Trim road. It was great last summer when the NCC closed them to traffic.  It would be great to see the city do the same thing on a variety of other routes such as those with double lanes, like Orléans Boulevard, Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard and Innes road between Blackburn and Blair road, this summer.

What inspires you?

Truly, my deepest inspiration comes from seeing kids bike. The mother of a family in my area decided to encourage her kids to bike to school..,and now they do it year-round!  My kid’s high school has a full bike rack every year. I find that great!  I hope to see cycling infrastructure continue to improve so that more families can feel comfortable having their children bike to school.

Success with small projects that have big impacts in the community inspires me to continue to try to make a difference with larger initiatives. Some examples of my small projects are:

  • In 2006 I noticed that St Peter’s High School on Charlemagne Boulevard in Orléans had wheel bender racks: the kind where the parked bike is only supported via part of the wheel. Bikes parked in those racks fall over easily, often damaging the wheel rim,spokes, or the brake disc. One letter to the school Principal and the racks were replaced with standard ring racks that support the bikes at two points!
  • EnviroCentre passed their bike rack on to me recently, so I donated it to Norman Johnston School near my home as they had no bike racks at all. They were quite ecstatic since, prior to this, the students had to lock their bikes to the fence.
  • The 3 bike rodeos I have organized and participated in were so successful and so much fun, that I plan to do many more in future, when possible. Seeing the faces of the children after a Bike Rodeo and hearing them say things like ‘Now I want to start biking to school.’ is truly inspiring. I was happy when my own daughters decided to bike to school, a total distance of 3 km.
  • Working with the Blackburn Community Association and Safer Roads Ottawa, I have secured the installation of a bicycle repair stand that is slated to go in at the main intersection in Blackburn this spring.
  • I also put a bit of time into informing the general public and mountain biking community about the efforts being made to have a formal stance on the use of mountain bikes in the Forest Valley between Blackburn Hamlet and Chapel Hill.

My main project is to advocate for better active transportation infrastructure in the east end and build a change management strategy to have positive public engagement. I would particularly like to see:

  • A segregated bike lane along Innes Road from Trim Road that includes the bridge over 417 to join up with the existing Multi-Use Path (MUP) on the west side, as the overpass has been identified by both the cycling community and the city as the most dangerous overpass in town. There are few pedestrians in this area so a shared pedestrian/bike path would be practical.
  • The reconnecting of Navan Road to Cléroux Road that was cut off when the Blackburn Bypass was installed. Several residents of Chapel Hill South and Bradley Estates have voiced their concern about the lack of a safe route from their communities into town.
  • I am currently working on a proposal to see a bike path extended from the SGEC parkway along regional road 174 into Convent Glen and connecting to the Jeanne D’Arc overpass.

I hope my neighbours in Orléans and elsewhere in Ottawa will recognize that our Councillors usually determine their priorities based on what their constituents tell them, and join me in encouraging them to invest in active transport infrastructure, particularly in our back yard!

Laura Laskey – Follow a journey from a Banana Seat to Winter Streets!

How long have you been riding a bike?

I always had a bike when I was a kid. From a trike, to a classic 80s banana seat, to a dusty pink 18 speed Norco mountain bike, my bike was my freedom, up until about age 13. Fast forward to my move from Halifax to Ottawa almost 12 years ago. My one friend in the city told me that I better start riding a bike if I wanted to keep up with him. My Dad gifted me a red Schwinn cruiser he had won at work, and for the first year I lived here, I rode that thing everywhere, including to work!  

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

It’s still the freedom! I can travel on my own schedule, I’m not restricted by traffic, I can take scenic pathways, and it’s far less expensive than owning a car, or taking transit. The sense of camaraderie among the cycling community in Ottawa is also a big part of why I continue to ride a bike, and get involved in my community.

What have you learned about cycling that you wish you knew when you started?

I have learned what to do to make riding more comfortable; to not care what people think of my “gear”; and that I CAN do that ride, climb that hill, explore a new route, on my bike.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last 10 years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa?

Acceptance. More and more people are biking, which means more people are becoming aware, and accepting it as a valid mode of transportation. There have been improvements to cycling infrastructure. The Laurier, and O’Connor bike lanes didn’t exist when I moved here. The Flora footbridge is a game-changer for people on foot and wheels. More and more people are getting involved in grassroots support of more sustainable choices.

What is your favorite cycling memory?

It’s hard to choose! The first time I rode to Hogs Back Falls with my friend. The time I thought trying to jump my Schwinn over the curb on Beechwood Ave to avoid a bus was a good idea (spoiler – it was not). Inviting 3 of my favorite friends on an epic 35km birthday bike ride last year, ending at the Tavern on the Falls for snacks and beverages, as it was the only activity I could think of that was enjoyable, and Covid-safe.

What was/is your biggest challenge? And how did you overcome it?

Physically – hills! I just go slow on hills, or find another route! And weather wise the biggest challenge was learning what combo of outerwear needed for year-round riding.

Do you have a favorite path or route to bike in Ottawa?

The Ottawa River pathway. Beautiful views, and most separated from drivers. Plus, Beachconers Ice Cream Shop!

What inspires you?

The #ottbike community I’ve found through social media. I saw women my age (north of 40) biking their kids to school, commuting during winter, going on adventures with friends by bike, bike camping, advocating for safer streets, and generally just offering other representations of the cycling community other than fit men in lycra. Seeing people happily cycling in Ottawa all winter long inspired me to resurrect the old Schwinn (which was replaced with a Raleigh commuter bike after a year!) for my first winter of riding, 2019/2020. This year was my second full winter riding, and I don’t see that changing next winter! I continue to be inspired by this community!

Gillian Cooper: EnviroCentre Volunteer and Dedicated Cyclist

How long have you been riding a bike?

My father bought my first bike when I was about 8 years old. He wanted to encourage me to go places on my own so that he wouldn’t have to drive me! I don’t think there were many children-sized bike frames then so it was too big for me — but putting blocks on the pedals made it just rideable.  I rode it for years, including delivering the Toronto Telegram newspaper when I was about 12. The huge pile of papers rode in the basket on the front and made balancing the bike tricky.  The papers and I had a pretty spectacular crash once when the bike slipped on someone’s cinder driveway. I bet you haven’t seen a cinder driveway! It was made from ash from a coal furnace and had a texture like grit. There are still cinders in my knee as a biking souvenir.

My Dad’s investment paid off: I have ridden my bike for errands, commuting to school and various jobs, and have had fun ever since. I commuted from Alta Vista to downtown for more than 30 years. I’m 65 now and I’m not planning to stop riding my bike any time soon.

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

I like getting somewhere under my own steam!  I like exploring back lanes and finding shortcuts, or low or no-traffic routes.  I like sailing by stalled traffic on my bike! When my kids were young, my bike commute was an oasis of peace between work & home. My commute was also fun as I could check out the progress of people’s garden installations, and home renovations as I passed by each day.

What have you learned about cycling that you wish you knew when you started?

Because I started going places on my own quite young, riding very defensively is automatic. I make eye contact with drivers and keep well away from parked cars.   I’m happy to say that the rise of bicycle commuting and awareness over my lifetime has meant that the majority of drivers are used to sharing the road, and I feel that scary moments are much more rare than they used to be.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last 10 years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa?

The gradual increase in recognition of cycling as a useful and reasonable means of getting around has been excellent. Making helmets mandatory was essential. Most of the cycling infrastructure that has been added, both in the city and privately, has been great. The building where I worked added a big bike parking enclosure in the garage, then they had to expand it. My employer added showers so commuting cyclists could rinse off after they arrived.

What is your favorite cycling memory?

I went on a bike-barge holiday in France about 3 years ago. We had fabulous meals on the barge, a guide to take us through rural back routes to villages & historical sites, and a congenial group of new friends to spend time with. The sun shone & it was truly relaxing.

What was/is your biggest challenge?  And how did you overcome it?

One summer about 4 years ago, the city seemed to focus its whole construction budget on my commuting route. One construction site per year along a given route is normal, but that year, there were about four major digs I had to avoid. In the end, I was able to explore entirely different parts of the city, which was fun, even if it doubled the distance I had to travel.

Do you have a favorite path or route to bike in Ottawa?

I have two favourite routes. One is along the Rideau River from Riverside Hospital to Montreal Road. I’ve had lovely outings with friends or family ending up at The Scone Witch for lunch.

The other is the path along the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill to the Britannia Sailing Club. It has spectacular scenery, and it’s my favourite because my son and I rode it on a tandem bike on a superb fall day one year. The bike rental & outing was my birthday present from him: one of my all-time best presents! We had so much fun learning how to ride together, whooping and hollering when we wobbled round corners. A tandem is a great place for a conversation too: much better than on 2 bikes.

What inspires you?

Creative people who persist and succeed in making wonderful things happen in ways that either have not been tried before, were considered impossible, or were thought to be not worth trying. Planting trees and making changes to “green” our world and build community are always inspiring.

Special examples in the Covid world would be the musicians who lead on-line choirs, the senior ladies who took their ballet classes in a pavilion in Vincent Massey Park, and the Israeli dancers who met in a west end soccer field till after the snow arrived in late November this year!

Have a fun story to share?

I found the house that we have lived in for over 35 years while out on my bike. When I first arrived in Ottawa, I was working at the University of Ottawa, and I took many different routes back to our apartment, to explore the town. We had been looking for a house without much luck when I took a turn down a street I’d never seen before, just as the real estate agent was taking down the Open House signs. She let me rush through what became a very lucky purchase for us.

Meet Sean!

How long have you been riding a bike?

All my life really. It’s always been my mode of transportation in the city, I quite enjoy the ride.

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

I’m never really rushed, and you can look around and enjoy things. Also helps with staying fit and going places that cars can’t go.

What have you learned about cycling that you wish you knew when you started?

Higher quality bikes make riding much more enjoyable and they also last longer, whereas lower quality bikes break more often and have a more sluggish ride. Higher end ones are mostly well-built and make for a very nice ride.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last 10 years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa?

Bike accessibility, hands down. The city is much more bike friendly now. You can travel mostly anywhere now thanks to bike paths and bike lanes! I’ve even seen bike traffic lights.

What is your favorite cycling memory?

Too many, but it would have to be when I was biking home with a new LEGO purchase and the handle on bag broke… the box went flying into my front wheel. I was on my new bike so when I was falling, I force rolled onto my back and held the bike in the air above me, so it didn’t break. Bike saved, body may have taken a beating – lol.

What was/is your biggest challenge?  And how did you overcome it?

Finding the right bike. There are plenty out there, but the right bike matters a lot if you plan on more long distance commuting. The one I use now has been a trusty partner over many, many years and it’s a custom build I’ve done myself.  It’s been rebuilt several times by myself and is one of the best riding bikes I’ve ever owned. It makes me want to get out and ride more on it. It took going through 20 or so bikes to find the right one for me. But success! Also, a selection never hurts… Why have one bike when you can have 5 or 10…

Do you have a favorite path or route to bike in Ottawa?

The parkway’s always a fun place, the path beside the canal. There’s a lot to look at and they also close the parkway on Sunday mornings, opening it up for bikes and people to walk on.

What inspires you?

On a bike you can go anywhere, enjoy the things around you, meet new, interesting people. I feel good knowing that I’m one less person polluting the planet. Something else I do for the planet is on garbage day I take my bike or bike and trailer out and I collect all the bikes thrown out in my area to rerebuild them and send them back out into the community to be loved again. Reuse and ReCycle. I wish I could cover more area but I’m only one guy and his bike. You would be surprised at just how many kilometers I bike just doing this!

Sean has worked with IKEA Ottawa for over 13 years. Always as a Recovery Co-worker, in our ‘green’ department circular hub, refurbishing returned products and displays, offering a second life to products and materials to use in As-Is or for donation, and saving what we can with repacking, among much more. Sean is known by his fellow co-workers as the one who can fix anything to give it a second or even third life. More so, he’s known as the Bike Guru. He has his own bike maintenance business on the side, having fixed many of our co-workers’ bikes as well. Sean is a great asset to IKEA Ottawa and for ambitions of a more circular lifestyle.

A Peek into Ottawa’s Active Living Club Team

I am delighted to give a bit of background information regarding the Active Living Club which has registered for the EnviroCentre’s Let’s Bike Month.  The members of our team are all part of the Active Living Club which is a City of Ottawa run program that promotes outdoor activities, in a group setting, for adults aged 50 and older in our city.  Activities include cycling and hiking in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, the program offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The leaders take us all over the Ottawa-Gatineau area to enjoy the trails, pathways, and landscape that our beautiful region has to offer. 

The members of the Active Living Club (ALC) team have been riding bikes for a combined total of more than 440 years with an average of 49 years of cycling each.  Most team members say they love the physical and mental benefits they derive from cycling but they also have a laundry list of other things they really enjoy about cycling:  the comradery of cycling with friends, the opportunity to foster new friendships, the enjoyment of fresh air and beautiful scenery, the sense of freedom that reminds them of when they were a kid, and the ability to get places in an environmentally friendly way.

The ALC team members have seen significant changes in the last ten years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa.  There is a general consensus that Ottawa is very proactive in getting more people out cycling: more paths, more cycling infrastructure, more awareness about the benefits of cycling and an increased sense that cyclists “belong”.  There continues to be room for improvement, however, with a suggestion to ensure there are paved shoulders wide enough for cyclists on all rural roads.

Of course, our team members have taken the opportunity to cycle on the paths and roads all over the beautiful National Capital Region.  We recognize and appreciate that this area is a cycling paradise compared to many other places in the world.  Given that adults have to be at least 50 years old to join the Active Living Club, our team has significant life experience!  Together, we have cycled in most of the provinces in Canada, in a number of states in the United States, and in France, Ireland, England, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and India. 

Cycling has also given our team members the opportunity to face and overcome a variety of challenges.  One team member talks about the challenge of re-learning to ride a bike after 40 years of not biking.  He started slowly at first, riding 10 to 15 kilometers at a time.  He now has no problem biking 40 to 50 kilometers at a time and managed to lose 45 pounds along the way (no, he is not looking to find them!).  Another team member broke his hip when he fell off his bike during a cycling event in Montreal two years ago.  Determination and persistence have him riding again with confidence and without pain.  Other team members talk about overcoming everyday challenges such as hills and wind.  Their advice is to face challenges more often rather than shying away from them (oh yes, and to complain less). 

Favourite paths or routes in Ottawa include the Ottawa River pathways for the beautiful scenery, anywhere in the Gatineau Park, and on rural roads in Manotick, North Gower and Ashton.

Finally, our team members take inspiration from other members of the Active Living Club program.  There are members of the program who are 75 years old (and older) who regularly ride 40 to 50 kilometres.  We are also inspired by people who may not have had the opportunity to ride a bike when they were young and who take on the challenge of learning to ride a bike as adults.   

Thank you to the EnviroCentre for organizing this year’s Let’s Bike Month and celebrating cycling in Ottawa!

A conversation about Let’s Bike!

Join EnviroCentre’s Jen Stelzer and Sharon Coward as they speak about Let’s Bike! What has changed? What has stayed the same? What resources are available?

Take a few minutes to watch the link below and get caught up with Let’s Bike. Don’t forget your helmet!

Watch here

Jeff Tindall – Let’s Bike Stittsville!

We were so happy to recently discover Let’s Bike Stittsville and the great community led support they provide.  We reached out to get to know Jeff, his story and how Let’s Bike Stittsville came to be! Here’s our full interview.

How long have you been riding a bike?

I have been riding a bike regularly for about 6 years now.  A friend of mine gave me an old mountain bike that he no longer rode and I started to use it for a bit of exercise.  After a few rides I found myself going longer distances and began to realize that I was no longer doing it as a quick exercise routine, I was riding just for the enjoyment of fresh air and clearing my head.  In 2015, I made the decision to upgrade to a new bike that was a better fit for my riding style and have been riding that ever since.  I ended up donating the old mountain bike to another resident in Stittsville in hopes it would do the same for him as it did for me.  Last year while biking home from work, I was waiting at a light and my old mountain bike rode right by, it’s nice to know it’s still getting used.

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

There are two main benefits I love about cycling, 1) the improvements to my physical and mental health and 2) engaging with my community.

Since I started cycling there has been a big shift in my outlook on life and overall wellbeing.  I have lost weight, I sleep better, I’m less stressed and my mental health has improved.  The second benefit has been community engagement.  When you’re on a bike in your neighbourhood, you engage more with the environment and people than you ever could while driving a car.  Discovering hidden paths, new neighbourhoods, meeting new people and getting to areas that you can’t go with a car has been quite the eye opener.  It is so much nicer biking along a wooded pathway than being stuck in a traffic jam.

What have you learned about cycling that you wish you knew when you started?

Just how easy it is to start.  The first thing I had to get over was the stereotype of “cycling”, many people, myself included, prior to actually trying it have a stereotype in mind: someone wearing spandex, on a high performance road bike, flying down a road as fast as possible.  That view can be intimidating as it was for me.  Being overweight, the idea that I take up cycling seemed unrealistic because I didn’t fit the look, have the clothing or a decent bike.  The reality quickly set in once I started biking, that the overwhelming majority of riders are everyday people doing everyday things.  Parents and kids exploring, people running errands, exercising, going to work or school.  I try not to use the term cyclist any more I feel it evokes the wrong visual. We are not “cyclists”, we are people riding bikes.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the last 10 years when it comes to cycling in Ottawa?

The biggest change I have seen since I started has been within the past couple of years.  Riding bikes seems to be much more popular than when I started and along with that comes a demand for better biking infrastructure.  Unfortunately, the city’s response to such demands has been lacking and there is a real need to make biking safer.  I live in Stittsville and one of the biggest obstacles I hear from people is that they don’t bike because they don’t feel safe. It actually inspired the development of our “Let’s Bike Stittsville” group (@stittsvillebike on Twitter and Facebook).  Co-founded by Rochelle Buenviaje and myself, we are trying to advocate to make things safer in Stittsville as well as encouraging people to leave the car at home and ride a bike when possible.

What is your favorite cycling memory?

I think my favourite memory was when I accomplished a major milestone by riding my bike to work (Stittsville to Downtown).  Previously, I was doing smaller rides around the community and going further distances.  During that time, I was getting to work on the bus however, Stittsville had bus issues and I would regularly find myself waiting for a late bus or the bus just not showing.  It was a combination of building up some endurance around my neighborhood and the irritation of bussing to work that made me decide I would just ride.  I did a bit of map searching to figure out how to get there and early one morning I went for it.  It was a great ride and adventure, so many new paths and parts of the city I never explored before.  When I got to work, I remember thinking this is much better than the bus and I ended up not renewing my monthly pass.  I now bike to work from about April until November and have saved thousands of dollars on bus passes over the years.

What was/is your biggest challenge?  And how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge is winter.  Once the snow starts commuting via bike becomes more difficult.  West-end commuters rely of a few key pathways to get there as safely as possible and they are not winter maintained.  Once those pathways are no longer useable, it means my route to work would be on 80km roads, under less than ideal conditions and without any infrastructure to help keep me safe. That gets out of my comfort level.  I try to work towards making things better by spreading awareness that not everyone can or wants to drive and there is a real need to ensure everyone can safely get around the city regardless of their mode of transportation.  

Do you have a favorite path or route to bike in Ottawa?

Stittsville to Downtown via the Trans Canada Trail (31.4km)

  • Grab a coffee at Quitters, need some fuel for the ride!
  • Trans Canada Trail East until you get to Kichesippi Beer Co.  If you’re thirsty, stop for a beer, I am a big fan of the Hefeweizen.
  • Head North on Greenbelt Pathway and keep going until you reach Watts Creek Pathway.
  • Head East along the pathway until you reach Carling.  Cross the road to get to the Ottawa River Pathway.
  • Keep heading East until Britannia Beach and feel obligated to stop a Beachconers for an Ice Cream (try the Peach Cardamom).
  • Continue East along the Ottawa River Parkway and if you’re feeling tired or hot, take a rest or a quick dip at Westboro beach.  There is also the new NCC Bistro at Remic Rapids a few minutes past the beach.
  • Keep trekking East and cross Booth St.  Mill Street is a minute away if you’re interested!

What inspires you?

Many things do, but a big one is people who are making a positive difference in their community.  I love seeing new ideas that bring about equity and efficiencies that benefit our community and environment.   Important things are rarely easy, there will always be obstacles in our way.  We can let them stop us, or we can work around them.  The latter is much more fun!

The “Big Bike” commute

I started commuting with 2 toddlers in our new cargo bike to travel to daycare then on to work a few days per week during Bike to Work Month. Both kids get very excited when they see me pull their helmets out of the closet and it is never a hassle to get out the door when they know we are ”driving the big bike”.

We chat the entire ride and I have to answer an excessive amount of “why questions” based on the many sights and sounds we experience on route. Cycling together is a great start to our day, a nice transition from work to home at the end of the day, and a huge positive influence on our mental health.

I am very grateful for the cycling infrastructure on my route and bike parking facilities at work that make it much easier to ride safely.

Shifting into a new way of commuting

Photojournalist with the National Observer, Alex Tétreault is pushing the limits of moving around his photography gear to his photo shoots and assignments – all on his bike. 

Alex started commuting by bike in 2010 during school and continued through his employment at Ecology Ottawa. He gave up bike commuting for a short while after starting photography professionally while he figured out how to carry all of his gear.

Alex has committed to riding his gear-filled bike to and from work and everywhere in between. For the majority of his work he uses two 30L panniers with a combined 50-60 lbs of gear, this holds his “base kit” as he calls it. He uses this setup for everyday assignments (days on Parliament Hill, press events, etc.), and it allows him to be highly mobile while having the necessities of general photojournalism.

When the job calls for a more formal approach – either a portrait shoot or another event that requires more gear – he will bring his flashes and lighting accessories, still on his bike.

Here’s a bit of insight into Alex’s commute:

What is the main reason for biking with your gear?

There are a few reasons actually. The first one is really to step away from the car as much as possible. I was already mostly commuting by bus, but this is even better. The second one, probably equally important for me, is that with my current work life balance, I have very little time for exercising, so the most ideal way to get some of that in is through commuting, and I really need to drop a few pounds. So biking with my gear to my assignments was, and still is, logistically a bit more complicated, but it’s the best way to get that in. I’m happy to be able to reinstate this in my lifestyle. Also, no one else seems to be doing this, so that’s neat!

What is your biggest challenge and what did you do to overcome it?

I’d say the logistics of fitting it all on a bike, so finding the right gear to make it happen. It helps when you have really knowledgeable people helping you out, but for the inserts I’m using in the panniers, for example, it was a lot of trial and error, and ordering some equipment I then had to send back because it wasn’t the right fit, and I couldn’t just shop it out in a store to try. Right now, though, the biggest challenge is less about how to fit it all on a bike, but what to do with it once on location and the bike is locked away. I’m actually still working on that last part, carrying 50-60lbs of gear in panniers up Parliament Hill every day isn’t ideal. I’m trying using a camera bag instead of an insert in one of the panniers, so I can then be work ready once I lock the bike away. Not sure about leaving panniers with inserts on the bike as I lock the bike away though.

An added challenge I’d like to touch here, and I’ve not read or seen a lot about it, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to deal with this, are allergies. And very specifically, allergies that manifest with post-nasal drip, not necessarily the sneezing side of things. Often in the morning I have to cope with post nasal drip that is so bad that it causes me to straight up choke on my commute, forcing me to stop, take a breather, some water, blow my nose. On bad mornings it can be debilitating enough to make me throw up, and that’s such a legit factor to make someone want to stop. I want to stop it all every time it happens to me. I know I’m not alone in this, so my struggle to get to where I need to be is often not physical in nature, I don’t get too tired, I’m never not strong enough, nor do I get too winded to make it happen, but the struggle against the allergies is my biggest challenge still. Prescription allergy medication, nasal spray and daily nasal saline washes are the only things that have helped me up to now, making things much more bearable, but this time of year is just particularly horrid. Don’t give up. Take your time, plan an extra 10 minutes in your commute to just stop, breathe, drink, let it pass, and get back on that saddle. If you have the same medical issue I do, that will be your biggest hurdle.

What advice would you give to others who need to commute with a good amount of gear?

Take it slowly. Try things out. Keep at it. Things won’t work right away, and it’ll be a work in progress with a lot of trial and error to see what works for you. Also plan your day, play out the scenario of what you need to bring, where and how. Where are the bike racks, where do you leave the bike at? Is the issue weight? Length? Both? At first, you might not see time savings right away as you’ll be spending more time packing and figuring things out but keep at it. Your commute will definitely be fast, but not necessarily easier right away. That will come in time. Also, as I hinted above earlier, the most complicated part of it all might not be loading the bike and riding it, but what you do with the panniers once you get where you need to be, especially if the bike rack isn’t super close to the work place.

What inspires you?

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure really. Generally, my family, wife, daughter, doggo. For work, stories of people, humans, beyond the story at hand. For biking, the environment, doing my part, hating the car culture, #autowa, health.

Here’s how he did it:

This is his “base kit”; note how well protected the gear is before he packs it into his larger panniers!

Nice and compact – the basics fit perfectly into his two 30L MEC panniers and he’s updated to a heavy duty rack

He adds this gear for portraits and more formal jobs

Even with all of his gear it doesn’t seem like much to pull around!

With a little thought it’s easy to pack this stuff up!

His ultimate goal is to become entirely free from using his car for work,  a light trailer will solve this problem.

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