Vanier is a former municipality in Ontario, which was amalgamated with the City of Ottawa in 2001. It is situated at the east end of down town, east of the Rideau River. It only got the name Vanier in 1969, after Governor General George Vanier. It was unfortunately also known for being rough around the edges. But it has a an urban maple groove and a sugar shack in its former city limits.
Lately, like Hintonburg, it is going through some real change. There has been gentrification, there are active community groups and there appears a new pride in the place.
High density: ideal for cycling
Vanier’s density is 6017 persons per km² (2001 Census). That is fairly high and a good starting point for a great bike culture. Remember you always hear the excuse that Canada is a big country and we don’t have the density? Let’s compare Vanier with the city of Schiedam in the Netherlands, situated right next to Rotterdam. In fact, you can’t even see where Rotterdam ends and Schiedam begins.
Schiedam’s density is about 3780 person per km², nearly half of Vanier. Yet the bike modal share in Vanier is likely only 2-4 percent, while Schiedam’s bike modal share is 19% (and 28% for trips below 7.5 km). So why is it that Vanier has a higher density, yet the bike modal share is so much lower? That doesn’t make sense. We can only guess: lack of infrastructure? Lack of bike education? Lack of encouragement?
Vélo-Vanier free bike share program
Sarah is a board member of the Vanier Community Association. The association is encouraging people to cycle more and has set up a sub committee to get organised: Vanier Cycles. This year, Sarah organised a bicycle event with information booths by cycling related organisations such as Safer Roads Ottawa, Bike Ottawa (fka Citizens for Safe Cycling) and Ecology Ottawa. You could also repair your own bike and even make a smoothie on a bike, by powering the mixer with pedal power.
Vélo-Vanier is a free bike share program run by the Vanier Community Service Centre that started its operations this morning at 290 Dupuis Street. Rose-Anne Leonard is in charge of the program. Club Optimiste Vanier, on the other hand, organizes a bike skill event every year.
Sarah is a joy to work with. Rather than complaining, she set out to help change the bike culture for the good in Vanier. Therefore Bike Ottawa didn’t hesitate one minute when she approached us to come out for the Sunday bike event. I volunteered that day to be in the booth with Isabel, who is just getting her feet wet in cycling advocacy.
We talked to quite a number of people: some sitting on the fence, others already cycling. We sold a few new memberships and bike seat covers and generally shared lots of information about new bike infrastructure and the rules of the road. It was very nice to see such a diverse community come together and work on bike promotion. We really enjoyed the event. And, I learned that within 30 minutes the bike skills event already broke last year’s numbers of participants. I sense a bike culture in the making here.
Velofest supported the association in the background as community spoke partner. Visit the Ottawa Cycling maps page for a 20 km route that runs near Vanier and mostly on multi use pathways.
Velo Vanier (Twitter account)
data source: Wikipedia and Fietsberaad
Photos by HansontheBike, Rob Wilkinson and Sarah Partridge (although I forgot who took which pics)
Note: I made a few edits in September 2022 reflecting Bike Ottawa’s name and removed an image of Tintin.