By: Todd Snelgrove
Today the Citizens for Safe Cycling parked their 50,000th bicycle at Ottawa'sRBC Bluesfest, presenting a commemorative certificate and a prize package to lucky rider Allie Thompson. RBC Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan joined CfSC president Hans Moor in congratulating Thompson with cake and balloons as nearly a dozen photographers and reporters descended on the surprised winner.
“It's pretty exciting,” exclaimed Thompson, who turns 23 next week. Ironically the Minnesota native who moved to Ottawa last year was riding a bike for the first time in years, deciding on a whim to cycle in from her home in Westboro for that evening's Lady Antebellum concert rather than take the bus.
It was a lucky decision, as Mark Monahan handed the smiling Thompson a gift certificate for $500 from Kunstadt Sports before tagging her bike with a special label marked #50,000.
Currently located just east of the War Museum on Booth Street, Citizens for Safe Cycling began their bicycle valet program at Bluesfest in 2006 when the festival was still at city hall. When Bluesfest moved back to LeBreton Flats CfSC came along with them, and with the move came a sharp spike in the numbers.
“In our first year at the Bluesfest we parked 1,193 bikes, and now we park nearly that many every day,” says former CfSC president and volunteer Area Leader for the Bike Park, Charles Akben-Marchand. “Our busiest night ever was the last night of last year's festival when we parked 1,319 bicycles. We were packed to capacity that night, but we still didn't have to turn anyone away.”
“As a matter of fact,” explains Akben-Marchand, “We haven't turned anyone away since 2007.”
That's good news for Sandy Hill residents Jillian Allinson and Nathan Ireland who came to the RBC Bluesfest to see Caitlin Rose and the Drive-By Truckers. Longtime RBC Bluesfest attendees, they've decided to cycle to the festival for the first time this year. “It's guaranteed safe,” says Allinson, explaining why they decided to use the bicycle valet. “I feel my bike won't be vandalised if I leave it here.”
Ireland agrees. “It's a smoothly run operation, and I trust these guys.”
In addition to providing a secure and efficient valet service, CfSC's 100+ volunteers also offer RBC Bluesfest patrons free lights if they find a bicycle in need. And while their valet service is free, suggested donations of $2 per bicycle are welcome. Funds raised go to the RBC Bluesfest's Be In The Band program and to CfSC who use the funds to promote safe cycling in Ottawa and to advocate for safe cycling projects.