In creating the Base Camp of the 1000 Days for the Planet mission, Space for Life launched a movement for biodiversity. The ambassadors, people who decided to make public the action that they’re taking for the planet, are so inspiring that we wanted to share their story with you. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired and become an ambassador yourself!
Getting ready to put your bike away for the winter? Be aware that there are citizens out there, like urban warriors, who keep riding their bikes even when the temperature drops below zero. This is the portrait of a winter-bike ambassador who makes you feel like showing up for work all red-cheeked!
My bike and I have been around…
Close to 90 percent of cyclists stop riding in the month of November.1 Sandra Giasson-Cloutier isn’t one of them. She doesn’t throw in the towel at the sight of the first snowflake. This winter she’s starting her fifth cold season on a bike. A Montrealer for 10 years, Sandra is originally from L’Islet, in the Chaudière-Appalaches region. The bubbly athlete claims that her parents played a major role in her love for the open air. Camping, the cottage, bike rides: as a young girl, she couldn’t get enough.
For her, adopting a bicycle as a means of transportation in town was a no-brainer. The year she was hired at ENvironnement JEUnesse she decided to not put her bicycle away in the fall. Then a colleague suggested that she do like him and extend the cycling season. And so it was that Sandra glided gently, helped by a mentor with skillful maneuvers, into the clan of two-wheeled fans of the cold fresh air. “It’s the pleasure of being outside and breathing fresh air that brings balance to the fact of my living in the city,” she says.
Equipped to keep the chill out
Studded tires, an internal hub allowing for gear changes without freezing and a carrier rack for bags are the keys to comfort, according to Sandra. “If you don’t have a car to shovel out, I think that’s something else you’ll like,” she adds, laughing. The upkeep is minimal, because she leaves maintenance care to professional mechanics, the same way you’d take your car to the garage to put winter tires on. The bike is her vehicle, after all.
As far as clothes go, you dress the way you would for playing outside, it’s that simple. “I wear the same things I wear for snowshoeing or taking a walk.” For windy days she adds ski goggles, so she has no fear about seeing clearly. Nothing to it, then, this Nordic cycling!
Dreaming of an all-bicycle city
The advantages of taking this route are many. You save money, you avoid contributing to greenhouse gases, you keep in shape and you get to work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The popularity of bicycles is climbing, but certain all-bicycle cities, like Copenhagen, make you dream. In Denmark’s capital, 37 percent of citizens use a bike as the principal mode of transportation, whereas that figure is roughly two percent in Montréal. “In Copenhagen, when it snows, they clear the snow off the bike paths first, then the sidewalks and lastly the roads,” Sandra tells me. “So people say to themselves, I’ll just take the bike. That’s really an example of a different mentality!” She says that the greatest difficulty with a bicycle in winter isn’t the equipment but sharing the road. Drivers and cyclists often have confrontations here. Is it possibly the right time for organizing citizen discussions aimed at rethinking how we share road space?
Meanwhile, ENvironnement JEUnesse has been organizing wintertime bike rides for the past 10 years. The event, coupled with the information site 2roues4saisons.org, is one of the initiatives that’s really caught on with the public. A terrific way to break the ice.
“I still find it pretty impressive, the fact that you can ride a bike in winter. It’s a little like being an urban adventurer. In the world, there’s less opportunity to explore new territory. So citizen adventure can become your lifestyle.”
1L’État du Vélo au Québec (The State of the Bicycle in Québec). 2010 report by Vélo Québec. Next report scheduled for 2015.