Successful First Winter Family Bike Parade in Ottawa

Group picture winter cycling in Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa's first winter bike parade in front of City Hall on January 22, 2012
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Winter cycling in Ottawa
The first Ottawa Winter Family Bike Parade on January 22, 2012 attracted 50 cyclists, here posing in front of Ottawa City Hall. Commuter cycling is gaining popularity in Canada. – Photo: Paul Clarke

So today was the day: Ottawa’s first ever winter bike parade. If you are not from Ottawa, you might think: “Big Deal”. But Ottawa happens to be the seconds coldest capital in the world (after Ulanbataar in Mongolia), so planning a bike ride in Ottawa made a lot of people think that we were out of our minds. But that’s just it. Today we showed that cycling in winter doesn’t mean you are out of your mind, as approximately fifty people showed up at noon to participate in the bike ride on Laurier Ave.

Parade Organiser Risa - Photo: Simone Rivers

We had hoped for thirty participants but as many as fifty showed up. You know how it goes: you promised to come, you look out of the window, you check the temperature and you think: “Nah, maybe not”. Not in Ottawa: people did show up despite a temperature at noon of -12C (-10F) and a wind chill of -17C (-1 F).

hans being interviewed
President of CfSC being interviewed by the press - Photo: Alex deVries

We gathered at a small parking lot on Laurier at Percy. We always inform the press about our activities, but we didn’t expect that they’d actually come out. Several of us were interviewed and after a few instructions we rolled down Laurier Ave. As Laurier is only about 1.7 km long, we decided to do the run twice. There was a colourful collection of bikes, even two recumbent bikes; some couples brought their kids in the trailer and Kathleen cycled on her extra long bike. Councillor Fleury (Vanier) was hardly recognisable with his balaclava on, and we had to lend him a winter bike, as he isn’t (wasn’t?) a winter cyclist.

Winter cycling in Ottawa
Winter cycling in Ottawa - Photo: Paul Clarke

I spent a year in the Dutch army (mandatory, at a time that we thought the Russians would occupy The Netherlands. Turned out they could barely keep their vehicles running, let alone occupy us), so I was trained in driving in convoys, even though I never drove anything bigger than a VW van. The odd thing in convoys is, that the first one needs to drive only 40 k/h, but the guys in the back have to drive 70k/hr to keep up. So as the designated leader of the pack, I cycled as slow as possible. We had so many people, that we didn’t all make it through one traffic cycle though.

We had our group picture taken at City Hall and then we all went inside for hot apple cider, served by councillors Wilkinson and Hobbs and board member Alayne McGregor. Councillor Hobbs also provided us with cookies, a really nice gesture. City staff Robin Bennett and Colin Simpson were there and Alex Culley was showing of the new 2012 Ottawa bike map which is now available at bike stores for only $2 each.

Apple cider and cookies were waiting for the cyclists - Photo: Urban Commuter

And if you think that cyclists are crazy to go outside at -12C, here is a picture I took on my way home from the path along the Rideau canal: many more went out skating today. Which shows you that low temperatures don’t deter Ottawans to go outside. If only the bike lanes were a bit better maintained.

skating on the Rideau Canal
Relatively clean Multi Use Pathways and thousands of people out at -10C (wind chill -15C) - Photo: Urban Commuter

You’d think that biking from A to B and a glass of cider to top it off is a piece of cake, but many people are involved to make an event happen. Just ask Risa…

Sam and Risa and Charles Akben-Marchand (office of Councillor Holmes). Risa was instrumental is getting the Winter Parade off the ground - Photo: Paul Clarke.

A big shout out to:
Risa, CfSC board member in charge of the event
Simone for making the posters for the event
Bridgehead for donating the apple cider
Councillor Hobbs for the cookies
Councillors Chernushenko, Hobbs, Fleury and Wilkinson for splitting the cost for the rent of the Jean Pigott Hall
Alex Culley for coordination inside City Hall, Karen for picking up and dropping off equipment.

And of course thanks to the press, the bloggers and Twitterati to get the word out. We are not sure who donated the hummus and pita, but it was very much appreciated.

councillor Wilkinson - Ottawa
VP of CfSC Alex deVries and President of CfSC Hans Moor are making Chair of Transportation Committee's Marianne Wilkinson's day. Indeed, the Dutch are tall!

Here is the Ottawa Citizen link to a brief clip of the event.

Here is the CfSC photostream of the event.

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