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!