May is Bike to Work Month in Ottawa

That red tulip there is called "Where's Waldo"
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Bike to Work Month – participant and 2010 Bruce Timmermans Award winner Kathleen Wilker from Hintonburg (aka Hipsterburg), Ottawa

While some cycle year round and others dust off their bikes when the snow is gone, there are also many people who wait until May before they finally get the bikes out. Last year, I participated in Bike To Work month by volunteering in one of the booths along the paths along the canal. It was really early and it was really cold. It was good to see however, that so many cyclists were out already. I vaguely remember the spandex types out cycling early between 7 and 7:45 am and then slowly the cyclists change to the casually dressed ones, the retirees and the odd late student, who still looked pale from the night before. We offered coffee and goodies to cheer them on.

Hoping for better weather in 2012

Sharing resources

This year, it is going to be different. The Envirocentre, which does contract work for the city of Ottawa on cycling promotion, decided to approach businesses to get the word on cycling out. Ottawa’s Citizens for Safe Cycling generously lent the the bike trailer to Envirocentre, the Envirocentre modified it a bit with their own side panels and off they go this month. We are fortunate in Ottawa, where many groups cooperate, realising that by sharing the scarce non-profit resources, more can be done than when every one tries to reach their respective goals with their own little means.

When Casual met Spandex: staying warm with coffee in 2011.

Last year, 861 people pledged to cycle to work, covering a total distance of 759,040 km. Participants reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 191 tonnes by biking instead of using motorized modes of transport such as cars and SUVs. The 2012 edition of Bike to Work Month promises to encourage even more people to try cycling.

To participate, you may sign up online at Individuals and workplaces can log daily trips and track reductions in energy costs. An events calendar will be available year-round, featuring postings from the cycling community.

Encouraging cycling skills

EnviroCentre is also encouraging people to develop their cycling skills. The organization has teamed up with City Wide Sports to offer 60-minute workshops geared for a range of skill levels. Training will be offered at workplaces for a modest fee. Options include lunch time presentations on commuter cycling or bike maintenance, as well as hands-on cycling workshops with practice sessions in parking lots and on city roads.

EnviroCentre is actively collaborating with 65 workplaces representing over 50,000 employees. Posters, slideshows, videos and email campaigns will reach a broad audience, encouraging many people to try commuting by bicycle.

That red tulip there is called “Where’s Waldo”

On line videos

Visit to view videos on cycling safety produced by EnviroCentre. The videos demonstrate essential skills for navigating intersections. They also teach people how to interpret the City of Ottawa’s new road symbols, which are designed to help drivers and cyclists share the road.

Free presentations in Kanata, Barrhaven and Orléans too

EnviroCentre will offer free public presentations in Kanata, Barrhaven and Orléans. “Many Ottawa residents live and work outside the Greenbelt, so we’re trying to reach people in their neighbourhoods and help them become commuter cyclists”, says Jessica Wells, EnviroCentre’s Programs Coordinator for Sustainable Transportation. “Cycling is a convenient, fun, healthy, and cost-effective way to travel. Small steps can have a significant impact to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, road congestion, plus noise and air pollution. Our goal is to give people an incentive to give cycling a try, and to reward those who already do.”

Participate and pledge

To participate in Bike to Work Month, visit When you pledge to bike in May, you’ll be eligible to win great prizes. Cycling to work provides many health and environmental benefits. It increases the productivity of employees, and reduces rates of sickness-related absences. It is a key way to reduce our community’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

Commuter Challenge

I am not entirely sure what the status of the Commuter Challenge in Ottawa is, so if you know more, use the comment section underneath and I will add it to the blog. The Commuter Challenge takes place from June 3 to 9, during the Canadian Environment week, the week after Bike to Work month.

With input from Mike Buckthought.

Pics by Urban Commuter Ottawa, except the top one, which is owned by Envirocentre.

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