RESIDENTS OF WESTBORO will have access to bicycles with the purchase of a membership starting May 2012 with the launch of Right Bike, a bike-share program run by the Causeway Work Centre. The centre put the program together with help from the community, local businesses, the City of Ottawa, and Earth Day Canada, an environmental granting agency.
“Right Bike was formed out of an organization called SLOWest, a grassroots organization in Hintonburg and Westboro, formed of concerned citizens trying to reach ways and means to bring realizable action and change to their community,” said Shane Norris, community program coordinator of Right Bike.
SLOWest’s goal is to promote west-end living that is environmentally sustainable, develops local economies and culture, and addresses challenges of social inequity.
“Bicycles are a virtuous means of transportation,” said Norris. “They emit a zero carbon footprint and all the bikes we are using are donated from the community.”
Causeway Work Centre, a not-for-profit organization that assists individuals facing barriers to employment, manages Right Bike. The centre had a preliminary launch last November to introduce the program to the community, and will officially launch the program in May 2012.
The plan is to introduce 40 bicycles in the first year starting this spring and increase the total number to 60 in the second year of the program. Anyone within the neighbourhood of Westboro and Hintonburg can use the bicycles to access local businesses that, according to Norris, are supportive of the program.
“Businesses were having a hard time trying to get customers into their stores,” said Norris. “This idea that cars bring customers is an antiquated view that a lot of business in the neighbourhood realize. They see bicycles as a way to support their community, promote local economic activity, and to create more foot traffic and more customers.”
Norris said in addition to the partnerships from the City of Ottawa, community business, and the government sector, Right Bike was one of 11 projects in Ontario that received funding from Earth Day Canada and Sobeys.
“We have two grant periods and we get 100 applications each grant period,” said Keith Treffry, director of communications for Earth Day Canada. “We end up funding around 40 [programs] per year and the money we give out ranges from $250,000 to $500,000 annually.”
Earth Day Canada funds projects based on their need for resources, effectiveness of addressing environmental issues in innovative ways, and sustainability—characteristics Treffry believes Right Bike possesses.
“The idea of encouraging more bike riding as opposed to driving your own vehicle is good for the environment and the individual,” said Treffry. “It is an innovative project based on the business model they have adopted. Having this community owned and operated initiative with a focus on a social enterprise aspect is unique.”
Right Bike was designed around the needs of certain neighbourhoods. Norris explained the City of Ottawa has undertaken studies examining the feasibility and effectiveness of the program so it can be implemented elsewhere.
Treffry believes programs like this are necessary to help the environment while benefiting local communities.
“These initiatives are gaining publicity,” he said. “These kinds of things are important from an environmental perspective, a health perspective, and a personal perspective.”
Go to Rightbike.org to find out more about becoming a member or donating to the organization.