Paving the road to success: RightBike looks to community to shape its future

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RightBike’s Schuyler Playford facilitated the November 30 consultation at the Hintonburg Community Centre. Photo by Andrea Tomkins.

Neighbourhood not-for-profit RightBike, recently held two public consultation sessions for local residents to share concerns and help brainstorm how RightBike can further help meet local needs.

RightBike is a community-owned bike- sharing service that operates in Westboro, Wellington West and the Glebe. RightBike maintains a fleet of purple coloured bicycles that are used by commuters, visitors, and shoppers for a small fee.

“The bikes are recycled and refurbished, and provide employment for people facing barriers,” explains Schuyler Playford, who is on maternity leave but is currently working with RightBike doing community outreach.

RightBike offers annual memberships that include use of their fleet of bikes as well as access to the RightBike workshop for DIY bike repairs at special rates.

There are currently 65 bikes on the road and eight different hubs from which users can borrow bikes, one of which is its head office at 1A McCormick Street in Wellington West.

“A hugely popular thing this year has been day passes and weekend passes,” says Playford. Riders made 632 trips in 2013. That’s a 87 per cent increase over the previous year.

RightBike wants cycling to be seen as a viable transit option, not just an activity that falls under the umbrella of sports and recreation. Last year only 26 per cent of members surveyed said they used the bike merely as transportation, not as recreation.

The turnout for the two sessions – one was on November 30 and the other took place on December 1 – was smaller than expected, but the discussion was lively.

The session sparked plenty of  discussion about the culture of cycling and the priorities and challenges in the community. Topics weren’t limited to cycling: shrinking amounts of green space and availability of public gathering spaces that aren’t necessarily retail spaces were also concerns that were raised.

“RightBike is the kind of project that can use a lot of input from everybody,” says Shane Norris, RightBike’s “Community Projects” person.

“It’s not too late in the game, we’re still growing, we’re only going into our third year.”

Some of the suggestions that came out of the brainstorming session included:

  • The addition of bike hubs to the region’s more heavily travelled places, such as Tunney’s Pasture, Westboro Station, and the Ottawa Hospital. Bike stations at the Civic, for example, might save people the cost of parking, especially if multiple visits are required.
  • The acquisition of larger three wheeled bikes for heavier hauls. (It’s coming next year, says Norris.)
  • Renewing relationships with the local BIAs to encourage Westboro and West Wellington as bicycle-friendly shopping destinations.
  • Kicking off next season with a multifaith bike blessing.

“RightBike opens a door for a lot of people who are not traditional cyclists,” says Norris.

“According to our membership surveys, 22 per cent of our users this year are visitors from outside of Canada,” he says. RightBike staff speculate this number comprises of people from other countries visiting friends and family in Westboro and West Wellington.

“If a bike tour for visiting family is planned down the Ottawa River Parkway, you’re going to need an extra bike,” adds Playford.

Kitchissippi residents can still share their feedback and ideas with RightBike via an online survey at rightbike.org/community.

RIGHTBIKE TRAINING COURSE

In collaboration with St. Lawrence College, RightBike and Causeway Work Centre are presenting a 16-week long training course on bicycle mechanics. This course will cover a broad range of bicycle repair and assembly, certifications in WHMIS and First Aid, and will include work experience in a bike shop. The course is open to men and women with a self-declared mental or physical disability, who are currently out of work or school, and who are not receiving EI.

For those who qualify, a living allowance may be available. If you, or someone you know, is interested in this program, please contact Frances Daly at the Causeway Work Centre, 22 O’Meara St, Ottawa. 613-725-3494 x 115 or fdaly@causewayworkcentre.org.

 

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