New initiative raises awareness of the purchase power of cyclists

A new website which tracks purchases made by cyclists in Kitchissippi ward is just one way to show how valuable cycling is to the local economy and community, according to Councillor Jeff Leiper.

The website, ibikeibuy.ca, was launched on June 26 by Leiper and local web developer David Hicks. Already, the website has documented that cyclists using the bike corral near the corner of Fairmont have spent over $3000 since the launch.

“This is a win for residents, merchants, and cyclists alike,” says Leiper.

The bike corral takes up space of one car. Do cyclist visits generate the same income for the neighbourhood as cars? This new project might help find some answers. File photo by Ted Simpson
The bike corral takes up space of one car. Do cyclist visits generate the same income for the neighbourhood as cars? This new project might help find some answers. File photo by Ted Simpson

The idea for the website came to Leiper after he asked residents via Twitter how he can show to the community that cyclists spend as much as customers who drive.

Leiper originally thought of a large Microsoft Excel spreadsheet where users can log and calculate their purchases but Hicks thought that a website would be much more effective and easier to set up.

“It was put together very quickly,” says Hicks. “(Cycling) is something that I do care about, so I thought ‘let’s just get this done.’ It’s a good cause that I support.”

According to Leiper’s online statement, promotion of ibikeibuy.ca – as well as cycling in Kitchissippi – will be displayed throughout the ward.

“Over the course of the summer, we’ll add more collateral to the kitchissippiward.ca web site such as videos from merchants touting the benefits of having a corral close by,” the statement read.

Last year, the city introduced bike corrals in three locations – two in Wellington Village – to accommodate bicycles by taking up one vehicle parking spot.

However, local merchants were concerned about the potential loss of business due to the loss of key parking spaces that could be used multiple times a day on Wellington Street.

“There was pushback from local merchants,” says Leiper. “They were upset the loss of a parking spot equated with loss of revenues.”

One corral on Wellington near Ross and Grange Avenues was removed shortly before the pilot project was scheduled to wrap up.

Both Leiper and Hicks say the website should not be considered as a formal and comprehensive survey, but rather as proof that cyclists support local business.

“You get the idea that cyclists are spending,” says Hicks.

One of these cyclists is Jeana Stubbert, who says she often makes purchases at Bridgehead by Fairmont and Wellington, the Hintonburg Public House, and the Mac’s convenience store while commuting on her bicycle.

“Since the website started, I have logged in (my purchases) and told another cyclist locking up this morning about the site,” she says.

Hicks would like to see the Wellington West Business Improvement Area get involved with the website and use it as a tool to see which businesses are gaining the most attention.

“(The website) would not just show how much you purchased, but where you purchased,” says Hicks.  The site also gives users the option to share their update on Twitter.

To cyclists in Kitchissippi, the website has already been a useful way to champion biking in the community and in the entire city.

“This is more evidence that Ottawa loves its bikes and wishes city hall would continue to do more to support safe cycling,” says Stubbert. “We count, we vote, we spend.”

Opinion: Winter cycling as a family in Kitchissippi and beyond

WEB-wintercycling
Maayke Schurer and her daughter, Yfke Schurer-Napiorkowski (2), are all-season cyclists. Read on to see what they’ve learned about winter cycling as a family. Photo by Michael Napiorkowski.

Special to KT by Michael Napiorkowski and Maayke Schurer

A few years ago we voluntarily changed our mobility habits to make the bicycle our central transportation choice. As fairly new parents of a toddler (and another on the way), we wanted to adopt a lifestyle that allowed our family to grow without the daily need, cost or burden of automobile ownership or the negative impact this places on others who share our streets. We wanted to be outdoors, active, healthy, connected, feel alive and of course, save money. These are all things the bicycle easily brings into ones’ life. With this choice however, we also needed to be practical and learn how to embrace and love the winter climate in Ottawa with its heavy snow, ice and cold for at least four months of the year. Because Ottawa has almost no winter-maintained bicycle infrastructure, bicycling as a family with young children is especially difficult. However, with some planning, patience, flexibility and a Dutch cargo bicycle we’ve continued to learn how to make it all work. This of course is all propped up by the naturally positive aspects inherent in bicycling that have become the backbone of daily trips filled with joy, adventure, fun and of course cold!

Focusing on the positives

There is no perfect way to travel in the winter. Each mode of transportation has positive and negative attributes, whether it’s a car, bus, O-train, bicycle or walking. One thing is for certain: no mode of transportation can beat bicycling for its connection to the community, efficient speed, extremely low cost and enjoyment – even through winter. On snowy days we have the opportunity to stop to have conversations with friends and enjoy being fully immersed in our environment along the way. We get to feel the falling snow, crisp cold air, wind and sun while developing an appreciation for our community. This would all be missed if we were sealed off in a soundproof car or bus.

There is also an incredible sense of adventure when embarking on winter trips, especially when travelling with our young daughter who is almost two years old. One can just imagine the excitement felt through the eyes of a toddler when fully connected to the environment and moving at a speed that allows us to take it all in. In our minds, this is comparable to nature exposure but with an urban twist. Kids get to interact with the world around them in a whole new way that has a positive effect on their cognitive development. The diversity of stimuli flooding the senses, with all the smells, sights, tastes and sounds is so much more enriching compared to the sealed off vacuum of a motor vehicle, and as a direct by product we get daily doses of fresh air and exercise. It keeps us healthy, allows us to enjoy each other’s company, and troubleshoot obstacles together – all positive aspects that help build a stronger family unit.

Patience, flexibility, strategic planning and proximity

In addition to these very positive experiences, there are some practical steps that need to be taken to bicycle through the winter. While travelling with a toddler in the winter keeps most our trips short, we are brought closer to the local business community, which in turn results in support for local shops. This is also why we chose to live in a location close to everything without needing a car.

In the winter, our family bicycling distance is reduced to about a 6 km radius and 12 km for work. This is a limitation that we actually appreciate, as it simplifies our life and causes us to care more about areas that have become a part of our daily experience.

Not only are most essentials within a shortish distance, but there are a few routes that make it easier and less stressful to get around while sharing road space with motor vehicles in winter. This helps us feel a little more comfortable traveling with our daughter and also makes the trips more enjoyable. It would be much easier – and preferable – if we had direct winter maintained bicycle networks that connected these areas, but for now this is how we make do.

Trips are planned and timed to fit the needs of our daughter. For lengthier trips, we bicycle without our daughter or consider transit, car-share and/or borrowing a vehicle, but these other options require a little more planning. The key is to be flexible.

Outside of route challenges, there are also the normal baby/toddler struggles that can make things tough. These are not exclusive to riding a bicycle, but the bicycle does introduce some unique obstacles. The most difficult of course is the “I don’t want to get in the bicycle” meltdown. Many parents who transport children by car experience this as well, but it can be very tough when it happens while loading a bicycle in the middle of winter. One’s patience will definitely be tested in these moments, but providing room for flexibility and planning trips to coincide with naps and feeding can be a huge help. There have been trips where we had to strap our daughter to our chest and walk our bikes home because that is simply what she wanted to do.

Otherwise, there is the normal child-care planning that requires packing of snacks, diapers, changes of clothes, toys, etc. and all of this can reduce bicycle mobility without the proper preparation. Our cargo bicycle definitely helps by providing ample room for storage. Patience, flexibility, planning and proximity are key to embracing the bicycle as a central transportation choice when traveling with little ones in winter.

Choosing the right bicycle for the job

North America has been a little slow on the cargo bike uptake, so for practical bicycle design we turned to Maayke’s Dutch heritage where cargo bikes have been around for decades. We chose a Dutch bakfiets (box bike or cargo bike) because it provides a cargo/child transport area. This bicycle has truly been a lifesaver, especially in the winter. Our daughter sits in the front cargo box. On cold or snowy days she has the option of being sheltered with a transparent cover, and there is still room to carry groceries. This bicycle also supports baby car seat installation, so it allowed us to travel with our daughter from a very young age. For winter riding we add studded tires. We honestly don’t think we could have managed winters with a young child without this amazing bicycle. We are currently expecting another child so we will soon experience the new challenge of adapting this bicycle to support two children with cargo. We’re looking forward to it!

It’s worth it in the end

We need to remember that dealing with challenges is an extremely important part of life and should never be actively avoided in the sole pursuit of comfort. Anything that is worthwhile presents adversity to overcome – and it is only through this struggle that we truly find value in our lives. Yes, winter bicycling is definitely more problematic, but when work-arounds are found, one quickly realizes the joy it brings – especially when done together as a family. Of course, if there were winter maintained bicycle networks connecting the main urban districts, the safety, ease and popularity of all-season bicycling in Ottawa would be vastly improved. But with all the benefits that bicycling brings to our lives, this is not something for which we’re willing to wait. We carve our own path in the snow, accept our limitations, and look to other successful winter bicycling cities for inspiration. We want to teach our children that there is another way to live besides depending on the automobile. In the era of growing inactivity, childhood obesity, mental health issues and environmental collapse, we feel as parents that it is our responsibility to provide the tools to help our daughter and unborn child combat the challenges their generations will face. We believe the bicycle is one of these tools. As a very popular quote by John Burke suggests, “The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems.”

Michael Napiorkowski and Maayke Schurer are the co-founders of the Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project.

 


 

Opinion: Cyclists speak out

Special to KT by Michael Napiorkowski and Maayke Schurer, Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project

Dear 2014 Municipal Candidates,

As many are aware, the Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project launched a petition this past year regarding the need for protected bicycle lane networks that directly link the main urban districts of Ottawa (a #minimumgrid). The growing response has been immensely encouraging as we now have 1,709 signatures to share with you as election day approaches. We hope this petition reveals the rapidly changing transportation needs of our city, as well as the associated infrastructure expectations and needs of the residents who live here.

If anything, this project is revealing that all-season everyday bicycling is a norm for many in Ottawa, and through our extensive community outreach, we’ve come to learn that the desire to ride bicycles for practical everyday needs extends far and wide and the number is increasing fast. Residents clearly want to be able to use their bicycles as a fast, efficient, healthy and cheap transportation option. Despite this, too many are currently discouraged from following through because they do not feel comfortable or safe without adequate bicycle infrastructure. We keep hearing the call for protected bicycle lanes, and not simply on periphery routes. People want to be a part of their city and move around by other means than the car. One must also consider transportation equity and the high cost of designing our cities solely around the highly expensive automobile. Many who can’t afford to own a motor vehicle or simply wish not to, are left at a transportation disadvantage because cheaper modes of transport are always an afterthought. Needless to say, protected bicycle lane networks would be a huge step forward in closing this gap.

With its new leadership, the City of Ottawa is in a very good position to initiate a major modal shift towards more sustainable transportation by prioritizing investments in practical urban protected bicycle lane networks. On this note, although we appreciate the current “complete streets” strategy, we feel the long timeline for implementation and absence of complete streets as networks falls short of the real demand. Waiting many years for road reconstruction on a street-by-street basis is not an appropriate response to the currently impractical and dangerous system. The City needs to take a more aggressive approach by using cheap temporary materials (paint with flexi-posts, planters, turtle bumps, etc.) in the interim, while more permanent solutions are considered. This approach will be a long-term benefit in two ways:

  1. Immediately establish safe and functional networks as pilots to inform long-term decisions
  2. Ridership will increase dramatically, which in turn will continue to help build the momentum towards permanent solutions.

Also, by fast tracking a temporary protected network now, the city would be providing immediate options to offset the traffic woes of years of LRT construction. With so many other North American cities already taking such extraordinary action, it simply makes sense to move forward on such a strategy now. For example, see Calgary’s urban protected bicycle network for 2015.

As a grassroots organization, we would like to extend our hand in helping the City of Ottawa establish this much-needed urban bicycle network, and are willing to help in any way we can. We hope that the new mayor and council will have the courage and leadership to take such positive and necessary action in building a more liveable Ottawa with streets that truly support all road users and encourage even more to shift towards sustainable transportation.