About Hans

How did I end up in cycling advocacy?

By accident really. Since 2009 I am a member of Ottawa’s bicycle advocacy group, Citizens for Safe Cycling, because I believe that cycling has enormous potential in Ottawa. Others believe that too, so I thought that sharing my bike experience from the Netherlands with others is a good idea. Before I knew I became the president, because the former president was hired by the city as a bicycle planner and I was the VP; I had no choice.

Learning experience

Soon I learned about vehicular cycling, desire lines and design standards. About manuals, about the Highway Traffic Act. About the reasons why we have cross walks but not cross rides. That off ramps can’t have cross overs. About the golden rule that car traffic always has to flow. And then all of a sudden people think you are an expert, because you come from the Netherlands. It is like people thinking you are a cowboy because you come from the US. Or that you can cook because you are from France.

So I went along with it, fell back on contacts in the Netherlands, particularly Angela, Dick and Angela of www.Mobycon.com, who provided me with many great ideas and concepts. I had to show up in panels, on TV, on radio. We received awards and nominations for our bike advocacy group. I am called in as an expert by planners sometimes.

Friends

I made new friends, too many to mention. All dedicated people, who put countless hours of spare time in advocacy. They study drawings, repair bikes, attend public meetings, advise, write to council, present at committees, are educating at events. Volunteers get up early, stay up late and sacrifice weekends to work around their jobs for the good cause. They take mornings off to make their case at council. Some councillors look at their smart phones when you talk to a committee, forgetting you actually took a day off to bother coming to committee.

That is why I love and appreciate active transportation advocates. They put effort into making the community better. If you have never heard of grass roots, come to bike advocacy and you know soon what the word means: very little money, tons of dedication.

I also got to know a lot city councillors and city staff and some MPP’s and MP’s. The best thing in Ottawa is that many in public office work towards better cycling in the city.  While being fairly progressive under Mayor Watson, some councillors are pushing back, not based on facts but emotions (fear for the unknown, fear for not being re-elected, fear for spending).

Part of a change

Ottawa is changing, it is now the third biggest bike commuter city in Canada already, with a higher percentage than Vancouver and Montreal (StatsCan) with, brace yourself, 2,4% bike modal share. Some areas have an 8% and higher bike modal share, such as the core area. That doesn’t take into account the tens of thousands of recreational cyclists.

I’d like to think I am part of that change, and how often in life do you get a chance to be part of a change, without going to some unstable country? There are long term demographic and global economic shifts happening, and western cities have to anticipate these changes.

Presenting in Canada

I often combined work related trips to other Canadian cities with a speaking engagement on cycling in the Netherlands and/or Ottawa; the topic depends a bit on the public. I talked to thousands of Canadians and even some Americans about the advantages of cycling, including to CAA members in Vancouver, to the Perth Chamber of Commerce, to attendees of the Nova Scotia Planners Directors Conference, to members of the public at Dalhousie University in Halifax, members of city council and staff in Regina and members of the public in Calgary, Kingston (at Queens U.) and Mississippi Mills, Kitchener-Waterloo, Fredericton. I was also in Charleston, SC and we loved it so much that our two cats are called after the cities of Charleston and Beaufort.

Hans

See also: the Facebook page of Ottawa Bicycle Culture

21 Comments

  1. Dear Hans,

    I work at the Embassy of Denmark, and would like to get in touch with you regarding an upcoming event.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    Thanks

  2. as someone who is unable to drive motorized vehicles as a result of health issues, cycling provides me with a measure of freedom and transportation that often surpasses public transport in Ottawa. safety and accessability is always an issue. a mishap that many would weather just fine could turn out to be fatal for me.

    your blog caught my attention some time ago, and it was with real interest that I read the following article this morning.

    this may in fact be a way to address many of the problems presented by the ‘end the war on cars’ campaigners who drive, design and maintain roads for motorized vehicles as if they have an exclusive right to them and make them safer for all.

    thanks for the great posts.

    “Do busy roads put off cyclists with disabilities, women or older people? And if so, could local authorities be made to improve cycle infrastructure under equality legislation?”

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/dec/11/mass-cycling-social-justice-equalities-case

  3. Hans! What a great man you sound like! I am so glad that I’ve discovered your blog. You truly are an inspiration. We can make it better for cyclists, one pedal push at a time. I look forward to reading your posts.

    • Thanks for the compliments. Advocacy is what you make of it. The pay off is meeting lots of wonderful people who care just as much as you about cycling/the world/community. Change doesn’t come quickly, but every time you nudge your plan a little further, you feel like you contributed something positive to the community.

      • I couldn’t agree more, Hans. It can feel futile at times and that ‘the machine’ (whether it be politics or planning in general) is bigger than you are, but you’re right – that is when you have to remind yourself that others feel the same way, and get involved. Slowly, things are changing, but goodness it can feel like a glacial process at times!

  4. Hi Hans,

    Would love to get you over to see the Main Street renewal proposal (dedicated bike lanes on both sides of the street!). I am sure your comments and hopefully support will help to make this a reality.

    Main Street Renewal Open House
    5:00 – 8:00 p.m., Saint Paul University, Normandin Room, Laframboise Hall, 249 Main Street.
    City will present options for the reconstruction of Main Street. The proposals that will be on display are the result of the city working with community, business and other representatives over the last eight months. Construction is scheduled to begin next year and will be completed in 2015.
    More info: http://www.ottawaeast.ca

    Thanks, I love your blog.
    Cindy (a dedicated local cyclist)

    • couldn’t make it as I was invited to come to Mississippi Mills already. However, we have been following this file for a long time with volunteers sitting in the meetings.

      Hopefully something good will come out of it. It is a great opportunity for the city to show commitment to active transportation.

  5. Hi Hans,
    You spoke in Waterloo a few weeks back and I asked a question about how I’d heard that in Holland the driver was presumed guilty until proven innocent in the netherlands. You said you’d never heard about this.

    Well today I came across an article and we both need a correction. In dutch civil cases the driver is presumed at fault in cycling incidents involving children.

    ‎”In the Netherlands, the driver is presumed to be at fault in all civil cases involving children.”

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3451896.ece#.T-N4kB8bAho.twitter

    I actually think this would be a great change to Canadian law and make drivers dread hitting a pedestrian / cyclist. In my town a year or two ago a cyclists was killed in a bike lane by a driver who had a suspended license, and was driving with a fraudulent license and he only got careless charge, akin to hitting a telephone pole. It’s what we cyclist have called the greatest car subsidy – http://waterloobikes.ca/2011/01/04/driving-subsidies/

    kindly,
    Graham

    • Hi Graham: I don’t think I said I wasn’t aware of it, as I am, but I am not familar with the details, so I don’t want to state something in front of 130 people, if I can’t really back it up. I am pleased you forwarded this, so I can now confirm it at the next presentation.

  6. Hi!

    I work at EnviroCentre and am coordinating Bike to Work this year, which is taking place for the entire month of May. I was wondering if you were intersted in helping to promote commuter cycling, to your readership? I can send you ready to go text or I’d be happy to invite you to our events, if you wanted to cover them on the blog. Please let me know if there is anyway we could have a brief chat about it in the near future?

    Thanks and I love your site,
    Jess

  7. Hi Dick,

    Thanks for your request. I recommend you put a press release out soon with text that we can use for our blog. We’d like to wait until your website is a bit more up to date.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*