When advocating for cycling, I have always envisioned more than just safe bike infrastructure. I think Ottawa has the potential to grow into a leading North American city for cycling.
But that requires more than a high bike modal share and a high number of kilometers of bike lanes. It requires an ecosystem of governments, companies, consumers and academics who are all cooperating to raise the level of cycling knowledge.
Cycling part of a city image
I hope that Ottawa’s Economic Development agency and the city’s and NCC’s marketing and communication (“marcom’ I learned recently) people eventually understand that cycling is part in a decision making process for companies and people to move to Ottawa. In other words, portray cycling as an livable city asset and not as sport only.
Example: Gareth Davies, our current Citizens for Safe Cycling – Bike Ottawa president left the centre of the universe behind and chose Ottawa because of the bike infrastructure. Companies like Shopify and Klipfolio are in downtown because their staff doesn’t want to live in the burbs and definitely doesn’t want to sit in a car stuck on the ever expanding and yet ever fuller Queensway (induced demand anyone?).
I also envision that Tourism Ottawa actively promotes cycling as a better and a more fun way to get around town, as a reason to come to Ottawa and to visit destinations in town by bike and not only promoting cycling for the sake of cycling.
Not only: “Hundreds of kilometers are awaiting for the avid spandex clad cyclist on his carbon bike to take in the rocks, the trees and water along the Ottawa river, setting personal records along the way“.
But also: “Rent a bike for a day and check out the Museum of History, have a bite in Chinatown and sample a beer in Hintonburg. Bike to the Arboretum and bring a basket of food from the Farmers Market at Lansdowne”.
The bike business
Part of that vision is also that we start to see new businesses, created around cycling, other than the bike retailers and repair shops. Recently we saw Velofix starting to fix bikes on location (I even saw the van on a rainy Saturday morning on the Algonquin campus at 9:30 am) and of course there is Escape Bicycle Tours, who this year with help of Sparks Street, will be allowed to have a trailer as a location for her business.
Did I just say Sparks Street? Yes, Sparks Street. Escape Bicycle tours approached the city but they were told that it would take three years to change the by-law so the company was advised to look for a private partner instead. Sparks Street jumped on it. Credit where credit is due. Of course there is also Rightbike Ottawa as a social enterprise and VeloGo.
R & D
A step up is actual R & D. I would like to think that PedalEasy falls into that category. PedalEasy is an Ottawa based five year old company designing and manufacturing lightweight electric bikes. The bikes are hand built. All assembly is done in the workshop in Ottawa. David Suzuki rides their bikes. So does the Ottawa Police and the Paramedics. More on PedalEasy next week.
Mobycon is based in the Netherlands, but they opened their first subsidiary right here in Ottawa last summer during the Dutch King’s visit to Canada. With specialised knowledge on active transportation and public spaces, Mobycon will be a valuable addition to Ottawa’s cycling ecosystem. Having a number of projects completed soon in Ottawa, Mobycon uses Ottawa as a showcase city.
It will take years to build out the ecosystem, but the foundation is there. It is so encouraging to see a vision roll out in front of my eyes.
Ottawa was chosen as the best place in Canada to live by Moneysense.ca in june 2016, based on a number of variables. I think young Vancouverites should start to look to Ottawa as a place to live. The average house prices in Ottawa are only a third of Vancouver’s afterall. What’s more to like?