It takes quite a bit to surprise me, but this morning on November 3rd at 11 am and only 3° Celsius (37°F) outside, I was taken aback by the large amount of cyclists gathering at Suzie Q Donuts on Wellington Street West. That is where the First Ottawa Plaid Parade started, yet another bike initiative that injects a bit more fun into Ottawa and nudging Ottawa forward to become a leading North American bicycle city.
Usually, I am not so sure about cycling in a circle with a group through town, but I am slowly starting to enjoy these type of events. I just didn’t grow up with bike events much, as cycling is so normal in Holland, that you don’t really create events around it. But as Shane Norris from RightBike In Hintonburg puts it: “it is all about community building with like minded people“. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful video at the bottom of this post.
So there we were, surrounded by press, chatting with friends and local cycling advocates. Watching just under 200 cyclists leaving Suzie Q’s, I thought of a question former Mayor of Ottawa Larry O’Brian (who?) once asked me in a meeting at the NCC with 15 mayors from Quebec and Eastern Ontario: “Why bother with cycling infrastructure when you can only cycle six months a year?” Clearly, there are many Ottawans who are not afraid for the cooler weather.
The 6 km loop was well thought out, with large parts going through Hintonburg, the Arboretum and the Experimental Farm, and also on the road. Crossing major arteries always pose a challenge as the group is large and slow. Crossing six lane Carling with little kids turned out to be a timing challenge, but eventually every one made it. Drivers were patient, with the odd one shaking one’s head. People along the road waved, home owners raking leaves (in plaids) wondered what was going on.
What a great idea! I actually had to go out to buy plaids, fortunately Value Village is around the corner. (By the way, ten years ago Value Village’s parking lots saw at the most 10 cars or so, now it is more like 70, a sign of the squeezed family budget times ahead. In an odd twist of supply and demand though, prices appear to have gone up compared with a few years ago, as demand for their stuff is rising). I couldn’t find pants, so I settled for brand new (but probably rejects) Dockers with a Houndstooth pattern. It is not the type of word that you learn in English text books in Holland, but Lana Stewart of Walk Ottawa pointed this new word out to me when I asked for her approval. Low and behold, that same evening a woman passes me in a coat with a giant Houndstooth pattern.
Pictures by Urban Commuter Ottawa