Meet Heidi

When did you start riding a bike?

I started riding a two wheeler when I was 4 or 5.

Do you ride for pleasure, to commute, for a workout?

Mostly I ride to commute but it’s a triple benefit since I get a workout and a lot of pleasure. It’s nice to see the city at the speed of a bike. I feel more a part of it.

What is your favourite thing about cycling?

Honestly there are a few things that come to mind – pretty bikes, being faster than walking – but over the past few years my favorite thing is the amount of time I get back in my day to spend with my family by being able to leave my office and head straight home, without route transfers, traffic jams, stopping for gas, finding a parking spot. I love the feeling of the weather – the summer heat, the cool spring air. Even the winter, when I’m dressed right.

What is your biggest challenge?

Motivation, some days. It can be hard to be inspired to push up some of those hills, or to get started, until it becomes habit for the season.

What did you do to overcome it?

I remind myself how much I love the fresh air. Sometimes I use the rack-and-ride program in the mornings sometimes, and then ride home. It’s the perfect balance since by the end of the day I really feel like I need some de-stressing.

One winter I bought an electric bike, so that I could bike in assisted, and not have to wait in the cold for a ride. It was like magic. Then when I was pregnant with my last baby, I used it to help me keep cycling up until a few days before I delivered without exhausting myself. It’s awesome to be out there doing SOME of the work, but getting all of the enjoyment of the fresh air, wildlife, the smiles from neighbors. And the thing eats hills for breakfast.

If you could give advice to a brand new cycle commuter, what would it be?

Know yourself – if you want a shiny new bike, buy it. The health benefits will pay off. If you know it’s not in your budget, seek out a more budget friendly used ride- there are tons across the city waiting for homes. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it either. The world is rife with people who will give you reasons why not to. I used to bike from Hampton Park to Canterbury as a 14 year old, because the alternative was a 3-bus combo. It took the same 50 minutes but it was more direct.

I biked from Carlingwood to Place du Portage in Hull while I was pregnant, and so many people asked about my balance and about risks. I told them I mitigate it with bright colours, lights, and the fact that I’ve been cycling (on and off) since I was 5. This is not a new skill. For me, balance didn’t seem like an issue. I take up my space in my lane, and communicate with drivers by looking them in the eyes.

There are many bikes on the road every day that commute uneventfully. People get scared because the hear about the others. And as a driver, and a cyclist, I think you become a better driver around cyclists because you learn to respect that timing and space needs are different for a bike vs a car.

Tell me an interesting fact about you that has nothing to do with cycling.

I was the English tutor for one of the tallest men in the world – Michael Ri from North Korea – during his North American attempt to join the NBA. It was the only time I’ve ever felt really small, since I am 5’10 and he’s 7’10. 2 whole feet of height difference!

What inspires you?

My husband. He took time off with our daughter to raise her, and ended up training for a half-marathon. The two of them would go running together. He’s a great role model.

Meet Michèle!

When did you start riding a bike?

The first time I rode a bike was when I was about 8 years old. We lived on a hobby farm just outside Val Cartier village in Quebec City and I decided to try my Mom’s big bike…it didn’t go very well, as it was way too big for me. We moved to Ottawa when I was 10 and my parents bought me my very own banana seat bike! I was thrilled and was always out on my bike.

Do you ride for pleasure, to commute, for a workout?

I do ride for pleasure, and I also commute to work during the summer months. Every ride is pretty much a workout for me, as I am very competitive. I completed my first Triathlon in 2010 (Esprit Sprint Triathlon, Montreal QC). I have also done a bike tour in Tuscany, Italy with @Duvine

What is your favourite thing about cycling?

I love the freedom I have while cycling, and the healthy lifestyle it brings to my life. When I am commuting, it’s such a joy to get back on the bike at the end of the day.

What is your biggest challenge?

Sometimes the biggest challenge is my deafness. I cannot wear my hearing aids while I cycle as the moisture causes issues and they can sometimes stop working. I don’t always hear cyclists or cars that come up behind me.

What did you do to overcome it?

I am very alert and aware of my surroundings and I always wear my Safety vest – @safetyvestdeaf. I also try to educate people about deafness @ottawadeafgirl,

Tell us about your vest

I found out about this vest through an acquaintance on Twitter during a Twiiter chat (#AXSChat). Colleen mentioned her vests and I decided to contact her directly to see if I could possibly be an ambassador and help spread the word. I wear it every single time I am out cycling, and also share my adventures with the deaf/hard of hearing community.

If you could give advice to a brand new cycle commuter, what would it be?

Be prepared… for rain, flat tires, and extreme heat. Pace yourself and make sure you hydrate and follow the rules of the road. Bike paths maximum speed is 20km/hour: respect that and other people on the paths and roads.

Tell me an interesting fact about you that has nothing to do with cycling.

I am a Birth Doula training towards certification. I am slowly learning more ASL (American Sign Language) so that one day I can offer my Doula services to the deaf community.

What inspires you?

People who never give up!

University of Ottawa unifies for Bike to Work

The University of Ottawa Institute of the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity have partnered up for May – the City of Ottawa’s bike-to-work month. May is a month focused on alternative transportation and sustainable and healthy lifestyles.

We caught up with bike-to-work team leader Jocelyn Lubczuk; Junior Communications Officer at the Institute of the Environment, and chatted about her team’s inspiration to bike to work.

Tell us a little about your team

Our team is called the University of Ottawa Institute of the Environment & Sustainable Prosperity.  The Institute of the Environment is a teaching and research institute within the University of Ottawa and Sustainable Prosperity is a national green economy think tank within uOttawa.

The University has a number of research centers and institutes, one of which is the Institute of the Environment. The Institute has a research component that is embodied through Sustainable Prosperity and an academic component as it offers a Master’s in Environmental Sustainability. All of us work together at 1 Stewart Street towards our mutual goal of understanding environmental problems and developing sustainable solutions.

Is this the first year that the Institute of the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity has participated?

Yes, it is the first year that the Institute of the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity has signed up for the initiative, but the passion for sustainable and eco-friendly activities has always been present within our work culture.

How many people make up your team?

Five colleagues are a part of our team. Some are first timers and others have a huge passion for cycling and bike regularly.  For example, our team member Vincent bikes to work all throughout the year, through winter and summer!

How bicycle friendly is the University of Ottawa?

uOttawa is a very sustainable university- in fact it is ranked 25th most sustainable university in the world according to the UI Green Metric World University Ranking. Recently the university has introduced bike repair stations, including pumps for tires and simple maintenance systems through our Office of Campus Sustainability. Also, the University just introduced dedicated bike lanes on campus, which makes biking through campus much easier!

What are some of the motivational techniques your team uses?

Our biggest motivator is our passion to lead by example.  All members of our bike team live a sustainable lifestyle and so this initiative was an opportunity that we were naturally interested in getting involved with. Biking to work is a great way to get exercise, and there is nothing better than combining health and sustainability. Prizes provided by the city and local businesses was a great additional motivator!

What’s your favorite thing about your Bike to Work team?

Ottawa is very eco-friendly and beautiful city to bike around.  The fresh breeze along the Rideau Canal, is a lot better than sitting in inner-city traffic jams!

The Institute of the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity want everyone to know that they are highly motivated to create a greener Canada.  As leaders in sustainability research, the team also enjoys leading by example and are happy to participate in the City of Ottawa’s bike-to-work month.  The team believes Ottawa has a great opportunity to be a leader of sustainable living and commends the city for this initiative.

Mitel has an Inspiring Bike to Work Team!

At 24 members and growing every day, Bike to Work Ottawa wanted to know what was happening over at the bike racks at Mitel.  Mitel had never joined the Bike to Work Month campaign even though there are quite a number of avid cyclists working there.


It started with one woman who came out to an Introduction to Commuter Cycling Workshop and learned about Bike to Work Month. We’ll call her Shirley, because that is her name!   Shirley told her colleagues and soon a small team was formed. As everyone started talking about bikes, an inspiring story surfaced.

One team member, had a serious motorcycle accident back in September 2014; it just happened to be on his birthday. After a number surgeries, the last one being only a year ago, he decided to buy a bicycle and a trainer this past winter and with few weeks of training at home he started to bike to work last month for the very first time. It was with surprise and admiration that colleagues saw John Thompson joining the team for Bike to Work Month.

“Despite freezing temperatures and limitations after the surgeries in his leg, he is a truly inspiration to us all, and made this simple act of creating this team even more meaningful.”

~ says team member Sam

We are so proud of the Mitel Team! Keep filling those bike racks!

I have always loved cycling…I had just forgotten

The following is a guest post from Jamie Cashin.  An inspirational story from a participant of Bike to Work Ottawa.

I have always loved cycling… I had just forgotten I loved cycling. I was late to learn how to ride a two wheeler… age 8, but when I did, there was no turning back.  At age 13 I was riding in the mornings when most teens would be sleeping in.  In my early 20s I would cycle to our cottage for supper, and cycle back into the city to go to work the next day.

In my late 30s I moved to Ottawa from Newfoundland and was riding less and less as each year passed. Each year, with less riding than the year before,  also meant added pounds. By age 45 I had reached over 300 pounds.  I was sedate, and seriously out of shape, and had been so for more than 10 years. I decided I had to do something about it and began to walk more, and eat more sensibly. By the fall of 2010 I was down to 200 pounds, and had started cycling again.My spouse gave me my first new bike since 1992 as my 2013 Christmas present, and I ended up putting over 4,500 km on it last summer, including participating in the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, a 340 km round trip from Ottawa to Kingston. I also achieved a personal goal of 200 km in one day.  I also put another 500 km on my mountain bike.

For the past 3 years I have also taken part in the 30 Days of Biking challenge, where you try to ride your bike every day in April. It gets you on the bike earlier in the year, when you need the motivation, when you need to be able to ignore the fact that it’s cold.  Having goals helps me to stay motivated, focused, and in shape.

Once I completed the 30 Days of Biking challenge this year, I needed my next goal, and a friend mentioned the Ottawa Bike to Work challenge, where you pledge to ride your bike to work rather than drive your car. The idea is to increase the number of times you cycle commute, and reduce the number of times you commute by car. It was exactly what I was looking for, so I signed up, despite having not cycle commuted in more than 15 years. A co-worker then mentioned our work team, Team Obstinate Velocipedits, so I joined that team shortly after signing up.

I got another bike, this time a commuter bike, with fenders, and other features more suited to daily commuting than my carbon fibre road bike.  I was able to average close to 4 rides a week for the month of May, including riding in the rain, something I previously avoided. My ride is 21kM from Sandy Hill to Ciena (the old Nortel campus) but I often take a longer route home. I arrive at work recharged, and there’s no stress of dealing with 417 traffic. The ride home is a reward at the end of the day.

I’m now around 210 pounds… more than I would like to be, but a lot less than the 300 I was 5 years ago! For my 50th birthday, I took 12 of my friends to an indoor bike park, my treat. This was quite the contrast to my 45th birthday which was at a pub. I am in better shape now than I was in my 30s. Cycling has been a huge part of this, and while I was doing lots of cycling after work and on weekends in 2014, it just made sense to use my commute as another way to ride.

I have seen other friends take similar paths in the past few years, choosing to eat better, exercise more, and improve their health. While not all have taken to cycling, many have, and I highly recommend it. It can start with one ride to work every other week… and can grow from there. Before you know it, you’ll look forward to the days you cycle-commute. Even though May is over, I have purchased a parking permit for the remainder of the summer, and plan to continue to commute by bike for the remainder of the summer, with a goal of a minimum of 3 days a week being by bike, and a side-goal of one full week by bike.

I am looking forward to reading YOUR story next year, and hope to give you the “cyclists wave” out there, on the road.

Jamie Cashin