Samantha Garvey, Contributor Ω
From May 28 to June 1, cars were sharing the road with hundreds of cyclists on their way to and from work, celebrating the 5th Annual Bike to Work Week.
Dozens of volunteers were responsible for the success of the Kamloops event. The goal was 100 teams, the highest number since it began five years ago. Teams consisted of work colleagues, clubs, friends and existing cycling groups.
On Monday, day one, the force grew to 103, and by the end of the week, 108 was the grand total number of teams, with a total of 462 individual participants. Last year there were 73 teams and 301 participants.
Celebration stations were located around the city serving as a pit stop for bikers to meet other riders, grab supplies, water and even freshly made smoothies from the Bike Blender.
“What we’re hoping is if we can get people to at least try it even one day this week, it might get them thinking a little more about it, in terms of its not as difficult or challenging as they thought,” said Colleen Lepik, City of Kamloops’ Transportation Coordinator, and Bike to Work Week volunteer.
Lepik said improving bike paths and connectivity around the city is a major focus of the event. “[We are] trying to make it easier for people to make that choice.”
Monday’s station was in front of the ‘Tournament Capital’ sign next to Overlander Bridge. Late in the day a group of more than 45 cyclists of all ages flooded the area as a part of the Critical Mass, which has been going on regularly in Kamloops for three years and held a special edition for this event.
Critical Mass is a worldwide movement in which cyclists ride together, usually in a sidewalk to sidewalk herd, in order to raise awareness about the need to share the road with cyclists, as well as general bike safety. Its format was originally a protest, but has grown to be more cooperative and awareness focused.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger every year,” said Jeff Porter, who joined Kamloops’ Critical Mass earlier in 2012.
“Kamloops is definitely a car-centric city,” Porter said. “We need awareness on how dangerous it is to bike on our roads.”
“It is unbelievably dangerous.”
The group in Kamloops meets every last Friday of the month at 5:15 at Riverside Park and everyone is welcome to attend.
While Critical Mass’ main objective is making vehicles aware of riders and rider safety, it also shares the goals of Bike to Work Week: promoting a cleaner mode of transportation for the environment as well as a healthier lifestyle for the cyclist, physically and financially.
Jay Williamson and his three-year-old son Gabriel joined the large group on Monday. He says events like these are good for raising awareness.
“We’re a car-dominated society but it can’t keep going on like that,” Williamson said.
“We use way too much energy and our energy source is unclean. Bicycles are a good way to cut down on energy usage and be healthy.”
He gestured towards his bike and said with a chuckle, “I’ve had this bike for about 20 years and it’s paid for itself I don’t know how many times.”
Also in attendance was Lee Kenney, also known as the “Kamloops Bike Guru.’
He appeared in a bright pink shirt with the caption, “Real Ryders Wear Pink,” referring to competitive Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal.
On May 27, Hesjedal won the title at Giro d’Italia, finishing only 16 seconds behind the fastest time ever recorded at that 3,500 km race. Kenney said Hesjedal is putting cycling in minds of Canadians.
“There are more people bicycling,” he said of Kamloops, but the space for them in the city is not good enough. “Right now, people are concerned. It has to improve.”
The week ended Friday with a wrap-up barbecue for participants and volunteers that saw over 100 people attend. This event was supported by local business Conscientious Catering using local beef from Heartland Foods.
Co-sponsor of the event, for the first time this year, was TRU Department of Sustainability.
“An event like this won’t affect people who ride all the time” said Tom Owen, chair of the department, “but will for the people who might want to come out and try it, or used to bike all the time. It’s a stimulus for people to start biking again.”
The City of Kamloops website recommends the following for bike safety:
Always wear a helmet and always wear brightly colored or reflective clothing so that motorists can see you, walk your bike across all crosswalks, and use recognized hand signals to show motorists and other cyclists that you want to stop or turn.
For more information go to biketowork.ca/kamloops or search “Critical Mass Kamloops” on Facebook.