Next week, Penticton commuters can expect to see more cyclists on the road during their morning drive.
Or perhaps, you’re one of the cyclists who has chosen to take part in Bike to Work Week, which takes place from May 27 to May 31.
This is the fifth year Penticton has taken part in the event, which has the goal of raising awareness about cycling as a commuter choice and a healthy lifestyle. But this year, participants will also be enjoying some of the city’s first steps to implementing Penticton’s cycling and trails network plan.
“We are trying hard to provide a safer infrastructure. Our surveys have indicated that more people would cycle if they felt safer about it. The way it is right now, they end up only being weekend cyclists, when they can get to the KVR Trail,” said acting mayor Garry Litke. “There are a lot of people that do cycle but they don’t feel safe on the streets, so we are trying to fix that.”
Cyclists are invited to ride to work as many times as they want, and can travel part way, one way or both ways by bike. All levels of participation are encouraged and all workplaces that register will be entered to win bicycles and other prizes.
The event started in Victoria in 1995 with about 500 participants. But in 2012, there were nearly 20,000 participants, commuting for a total of 903,216 kilometres and saving 209,610 kilograms of CO2. Penticton contributed 241 cyclists commuting 10,475 kilometres to that total.
Coun. Andrew Jakubeit has prepared a video to help promote Bike to Work week. It features the results of the last two City Hall/Regional District challenges, which ended up with city hall on the losing side and Mayor Dan Ashton paying the price, which included riding a tricycle and a penny farthing bike.
The annual competition is to see which organization contributes the most bicycle commuter hours. It’s a challenge that Penticton has yet to win, though Litke hopes this will be the year to break city hall’s string of defeats.
“I’ve already been biking to work, I will be biking all next week and I’m just saying to the RDOS folks they can eat my dust,” said Litke, already an avid cyclist. “They just have a younger demographic over there. We have more experienced folks over here. They happen to have youth on their side.”
This year, the losing organization’s administrator and an elected official will be riding a bike built for two while wearing chicken and deer costumes. It’s all in fun, but Jakubeit said getting more people commuting by cycling has some serious benefits. He spreads the challenge out to the rest of the community.
“Our challenge to the regional district staff is in the hope that other organizations and businesses in the community challenge their colleagues to a friendly competition to engage their workforce. A healthy employee is a happy employee,” said Jakubeit, who is also a cyclist. Biking to work, partaking in some exercise and fresh air, he added, is invigorating and leaves you ready to face the day.
“This is all about motivating people to do it on a regular basis. Whether we can get more of the staff to follow us down the bike path, I don’t know,” said Litke.
Other events during the week include bike and helmet safety checks at the Bike Barn and Freedom Bike Shop. And all registered teams are also invited to the free events held throughout Penticton each morning from 7 to 9 a.m. during bike to work week. Stop by for free coffee, snacks and a chance to win prizes.
Monday kicks off with the Celebration Station at Gyro Park for a burrito breakfast. On Tuesday, the location moves to the First Baptist Church, Wednesday the Shaw Cable parking lot, and Thursday to the Penticton Fire Hall on Dawson Avenue. On Friday, the Celebration Station heads back downtown for smoothies at Nanaimo Square.