‘A lot of us are motorists and cyclists part of the time’
By GORD YOUNG, The Nugget
David Weiskopf realized a few years ago that cycling on city streets doesn’t have to be the precarious pastime for which he had become accustomed.
Riding with his fiance, Laure Larocque, in Lexington, Ky., was an eye-opening experience for the North Bay resident who had come to believe that getting cut off, dangerously passed or yelled at for being on the road just came with the territory.
“I realized that what we experience in Northern Ontario isn’t the norm,” said Weiskopf, who was initially taken aback at how motorists in that community would yield for cyclists, often offering up a friendly wave as they pass.
He experienced a newfound level of comfort while riding that has not only prompted return visits to Lexington, but has sparked a local cycling awareness campaign that’s gaining steam.
Weiskopf teamed up last year with Dave and Jade Nighbor, of 9 Lives Design, to try to improve the safety of city streets with a series of billboards promoting sharing the road.
And now, with the help of community sponsors and a $9,000 grant from the Ministry of Transportation, the three are expanding their efforts with the aim of changing the mindset of both motorists and cyclists when it comes road safety.
“A lot of us are motorists and cyclists part of the time,” said Dave Nighbor, noting the campaign is not aimed at pitting the two against each other, but rather at educating both sides.
The latest phase of the campaign, which was launched Wednesday evening at the Raven and Republic, includes additional billboards – including one in East Ferris – promoting the safety rule that came into effect last year requiring drivers to leave one metre of space when passing a cyclist. The campaign also includes a new website and social media push.
“It’s not just a North Bay message. It’s a message that goes all around the world,” said Nighbor, of the potential to reach far beyond the community.
The public is being encouraged to take the road safety quiz at the campaign website – cyclesafe.ca. And people are being asked to help spread the word by liking and sharing the campaign’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CycleSafeNorth/?fref=nf. Everyone who does so will automatically be entered into a weekly prize draw over the next eight weeks.
Supporters also are urged to share photos of positive sharing experiences on Instagram using the hashtag #CycleSafe.
Weiskopf said there’s a global trend toward cycling that Northern communities are beginning to wake up to. And, he said, safer roads and better infrastructure will help to lead to more active lifestyles and tourism.
If there’s a next level to the campaign, Weiskopf said he would like to see it spread to other communities.