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

Laura Laskey

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!