Bike Ottawa Board Members: For the Love of Bicycles Part One

During the final week of Bike Love Month we’ll hear from some of our board members and committee chairs and their love of bicycles. Board members and Chairs do countless hours of volunteer work to keep Bike Ottawa going. We do it because we love riding bikes, we want to be able to keep riding them safely around our City, and we want others to feel they can choose to ride a bike if they want to. It’s not always easy to keep up the volunteer hours, but the work is rewarding when we see changes happen.

That said, the Board can’t (and doesn’t!) do it all alone, so if you ever want to lend some volunteer hours to us, email info@bikeottawa.ca or advocacy@bikeottawa.ca and we’ll be really happy for the help!

In the meantime, happy riding!

Florence Lehmann: Madame secrétaire, Nos communications en français Extrodinaire

Je n’ai pas toujours fait du vélo. J’ai longtemps circulé en bus et à pied. C’était le moyen le plus pratique de me déplacer à Besançon, la ville où j’ai grandi. Cette façon d’appréhender la ville m’est toujours restée, à commencer par Edmonton où j’ai passé mes premières années canadiennes.

J’ai toujours vu la ville comme un lieu à échelle humaine, un lieu où il fait bon vivre, où il est facile de se déplacer et de profiter de son environment. C’est vrai de la ville où j’habite, mais aussi des villes où j’ai l’occasion de me rendre.

J’ai longtemps vu Toronto comme une destination touristique. Il y a 3 ans, j’ai dû m’y rendre pour le travail. Aller-retour dans la journée. Je voulais profiter de la ville malgré le peu de temps dont je disposais. C’était décidé, j’allais me déplacer à vélo. 

J’ai ouvert la carte de Toronto et regardé où je devais me rendre. J’avais trois destinations en vue. Un magasin de chocolat (oui oui, première destination; j’ai mes priorités), un petit coin sympa où manger, lieu du congrès où je devais aller, une amie à qui rendre visite et retour à Billy Bishop.  J’ai aussi consulté l’application de vélo-partage de la ville. Armée de toutes les informations dont j’avais besoin, de mon précieux téléphone et de mon ordinateur portable, j’étais prête. 

Toronto compte de nombreuses stations de vélo-partage. Tellement qu’il est facile de planifier une journée de sauts de puce à vélo. À mon arrivée, j’avais moins de 500 mètres à faire pour arriver à ma première station. Même chose à mes autres points de chute. Il y avait toujours une station pas loin. 

La meilleure partie de ma journée de travail à Toronto ? Mes déplacements à vélo. Par une belle journée de printemps, j’ai pu déambuler dans des rues que je ne connaissais pas, découvrir des quartiers, voir les gens vaquer à leurs occupations. J’ai vu battre le cœur de la ville, chose que je n’aurais pas pu faire en métro. Même mon trajet de retour sous la pluie battante fut un pur plaisir. J’explorais, encore.

La pandémie n’a fait que renforcer cette envie d’explorer, de vivre le bonheur à vélo. D’Orléans à Kanata en passant par Manotick et la ceinture de verdure, de Gatineau à Masson-Angers, Aylmer ou Maniwaki, mon vélo m’a permis de découvrir de nouveaux endroits, de rendre visite à des amis. Et ça n’est pas prêt de s’arrêter.

Dave Roberston: Construction Detour Expert, Winter Maintenance Maven, now with a doggo in tow!

A bicycle means freedom.  That might come across as a loaded word right now, especially in Ottawa.  But for me, and maybe some of you, maybe many of you who ride a bicycle, this is an appropriate definition.

This came as a realization to me this past fall after I had reconstructive knee surgery.  Walking was painful and I couldn’t drive (not that I wanted to).  The bus routes were not convenient and also required a lot of walking. So when a coworker offered to loan me his e-bike, my world opened up!

I could now get to work reliably, without pain.  I could join my partner for a bike ride, get some fresh air in the evening or head down to our local grocery store or run other errands. I was mobile again, and let me tell you, it was wonderful! My surgeon even “prescribed” riding a bicycle as much as possible for the recovery process. Imagine if doctors could write prescriptions for bikes? They truly are mobility devices.

But now, reflecting back, I think my bicycle has always meant freedom.  It just hadn’t occurred to me.  Perhaps the first time I felt this was when the training wheels came off, which I still vividly remember. Maybe also as a teenager, where my bicycle meant I could go further, and do so independently, visiting friends, going to the corner store and to school. Freedom for me, and my parents. Eventually, when mountain bikes appeared at the local bike shop and I saved my newspaper route money to buy one, I spent many hours in the woods, surrounded by nature, and friends.

Fast forward many years and now in Ottawa:  the network of narrow recreational multi-use pathways built years ago by our federal government, paired with the beginnings of safe city-built pathways (some maintained year-round) in the downtown core means that I have the freedom to make most trips by bicycle – not all, but many.  These trips are often more convenient, take about the same time or less than by car, and are way more enjoyable. 

As Ottawa’s bicycle network slowly develops, becomes more connected and winter maintenance improves, our household car becomes less relevant, and I feel…freer. I wish this for all residents of Ottawa. Not to have to be forced to own a car (and its associated costs), but instead have convenient and cost-effective mobility that includes buses, trains, walking, rolling and biking. With a safe year-round bicycle network, more options for multimodal transportation, and hopefully, a future bike-share system that includes cargo bikes, more people of all ages (from eight years old to eighty) will be able to experience what the bicycle has meant for me: freedom!

Shawn Gettler: Vice President, Bike Maps Maintainer, IT Issue Fixer Upper!

Like a lot of people, my first adult bike was an entry-level mountain bike. You know the one, from the big box store. I bought it for recreation, though I did ride to school now and then. Mostly, I biked the Thames Valley Parkway in London, ON, over and over again until I knew every crack and bump from Ross to Springbank to Pottersburg.

Since it was nominally a mountain bike, I took up trail riding, as well. I got stuck in the sand. I learned to hop over logs. I found the poison ivy. I hauled blowdowns off the trail after storms. I am also pretty sure I broke a toe on one of those logs and spent an hour dangling my foot in the river trying to get the swelling down enough to make it home.

For whatever reason, I was the only one in our rented house who stuck around in London and got a job during the summers. Temp factory work outside the city wasn’t a great way to meet people to hang out with, so riding was how I spent most of my spare time. Because I would get out and see others riding or walking, I felt connected enough to the people around me to enjoy the solitude.

Biking wasn’t an attempt at self-improvement, and I am not a particularly competitive person, but it was always gratifying to go a bit further, or a bit faster. What that cheap bike did was remind me how much fun it was to ride, and to explore. Without a set goal or a preconceived idea of how or where I should ride, any trip might take me somewhere I hadn’t been before.

Our time together came to an abrupt end one day when, as I stood up out of the saddle to climb a hill, one of the pedals sheared off at the crank, causing me to swerve off the pathway and crash into the bushes. (Or perhaps it came to a clumsy, tedious end when I was forced to make my way home with only one non-clipped pedal.) I wasn’t able to fix the bike with the tools I had, so it sadly became a lonely balcony bike, left to gaze enviously at the spot in the front hallway that was soon occupied by the road bike I’m still riding today.

Read More Bike Love Stories:

Doug Massey: A Lifetime of Bike Love

Quinn Eggertson’s Bike Love Journey

The Many Bikes of Katherine Cole

Joseph Amuah’s Journey: Sekondi – Lyngby – Calgary – Ottawa -?

Brigitte Pellerin’s Ode to Goofy-Grin Riders

Giacomo Panico’s story: The “Immersibility” of riding a bike

Maria Rasouli’s Bike love! Pedal joy!

Cécile Lecoq: Liberté, puissance et affirmation de soi

Brett Bergie’s love on two wheels

Doug Gordon falls in love with a FR8

Jillian Banfield: Inclusion through cycling