One small bike co-op in New Brunswick looks to the future of cycling on the East Coast.
Story by Cayley James
Toronto is not the only city in the country trying to improve infrastructure and collaboration between cyclists these days. The Atlantic Community Cycling conference, set to take place on May 7 in Dieppe New Brunswick, aims to improve conditions across the East Coast. The conference is hosted by the cycling cooperative La Bikery. The day long festivities are looking to bring together planners, activists and policy writers from across the Maritimes and connect them with the cycling enthusiasts in Dieppe, Riverview and Moncton (aka the tri-community area). Their goal is a day of: “constructive dialogue and networking about how we can work together to make our cycling community stronger, more vibrant, and resilient!” Featuring a trade show, gear swap, key note speakers and panels, the inaugural Atlantic Community Cycling Conference is an ambitious outing.
New Brunswick gets an unfair shake as something of a sleepy drive-through province. But more often than not smaller, post-industrial cities have incredible community work simmering under the surface. La Bikery is a testement to that. The group is a cooperative non-profit founded in 2011 by “cyclists, thinkers, do-ers, leaders, skill-sharers, learners.” Their space is tiny and can fit just about a dozen people. They specialize in rentals, mechanics classes and group rides. I got in touch with La Bikery’s executive director, Krysta Cowling to talk about how the conference and La Bikery are working to change cycling in the region for the better.
Cowling is relatively new to the province. A Vancouver native, she settled in Moncton last year. What immediately struck her was how supportive and enthusiastic the community was in their encouraging of hands on learning. She explained that La Bikery’s goal: “is to act as an unintimidating ambassador for cycling in the community. We want to meet people on their level.”
Last year La Bikery hosted their annual gear swap with a couple of other bike shops in town for the first time. The success of that community collaboration set in motion the idea of a conference. “Once we reached out to one group they immediately put us in touch with other people we should know. The programming was very organic.”
Many of the speakers are from Nova Scotia groups. The province has a robust tourism sector aimed at weekend warriors and long haul road cyclists. But it's community engagement that is at the heart of the conference’s line up. With workshops that are geared towards the activist and organizer over the solo rider.
Titles of workshops include: “Get a bike movement rolling in your community” (presented by La Bikery co-founder Amanda Hachey) and “Opposition to Opportunity”. The latter is presented by Kelsey Lane, the executive director of the Halifax Cycling Coalition, which aims to “harness the feedback from those who are opposed to a project in order to improve bicycling initiatives.” The Halifax Cycling Coalition, is the Nova Scotia's capital’s equivalent to Cycle Toronto. They petition for increased infrastructure as well as access to cycling opportunities in the city. One particularly successful campaign has been the Welcoming Wheels and Buddy Program. Pairing refugees with bikes and community mentors.
Leading on from the 'movement making' is concerns around accessibility. There will be a panel looking at the importance of language and communication in city building. As well as a workshop on best practices of how to break down barriers and make cycling more inclusive for marginalised communities. The latter will be presented by Eliza Jackson and the former will be facilitated by Adam Berry both from the Ecology Action Centre. A Nova Scotia based organization dedicated to the maintaining respect for and health of the natural world.
But it wouldn’t be a cycling conference without a visit from the Copenhagenize folks would it? The ubiquitous design firm will be represented by Michael Wexler, a project manager, who will be giving the keynote lecture.
In the afternoon there’ll be a trade show featuring the best and brightest of shops, community groups and cycling clubs from across New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. As well as La Bikery’s annual gear swap.
Cowling noted that they’re anticipating 100-150 participants. They’ve invited city officials and the Mayor of Moncton plans on joining. As for what it’s like cycling in the area, there is a lot of room for improvement. But considering the conversations that are happening - that are enthusiastic, progressive, and community oriented, Dieppe will surely be leading the charge for New Brunswick’s cycling future.
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