Over 350 cyclists descended on city hall Sept. 28 in a massive show of gratitude to city councillors for the new bike lanes downtown.
The group, called I Heart Bike Lanes, was organized by Daren McLean. He got the idea upon returning from a trip to Victoria to find the new shared lanes downtown.
Cyclists started at CaffÃ© Sola and, with police escort, rode down to the river past city hall, finally winding around to flood the main entrance of city hall, bells ringing. Carrie Catherine, a friend of McLean, played music for the group as they biked, sitting on a wagon pulled by a cyclist.
After a brief pep talk, cyclists flooded the council chamber. With only 180 seats in the chamber, many people had to stand along the back wall. McLean presented council with a plaque in thanks for the new lanes.
Mayor Donald Atchison said the city was able to pay for the new lanes with money from the federal stimulus package.
Charlie Clark, councillor for Ward 6, said thanks should be given to the Cycling Advisory Group, a group of citizens passionate about biking. He said they rescued the city’s bike plan from the dustbin.
“In 2002 the city made a bike plan. It did get a little dusty over the years but this group took it down off the shelf and dusted it off and really got things moving,” he said.
“Seeing how many people came out on such a cold day just proves cycling is a very legitimate and bona-fide part of our transportation system.”
McLean admits the new shared bike-car lanes downtown mean little has actually changed for cyclists but the progress encourages him.
“It’s a first step and a lot of the councillors know that (more needs to be done) but they can’t do this massive elaborate thing,” he said.
For McLean, the strategy was to kill them with kindness. “Attitude gratitude,” he said.
“I think it was a real example of what a powerful community we have here.”
Two weeks ago, councillor Tiffanie Paulsen made a motion in council for the City of Saskatoon to look into submitting a proposal to world-renowned architect and city planner Jan Gehl to make Saskatoon his next project. According to the minutes from city council, Paulsen said Gehl could facilitate the transformation of Saskatoon into a more pedestrian and bike friendly space.
“I think as much support as we can put around that proposal is great,” said McLean.
He’s not sure what the future has in store for I Heart Bike Lanes.
“I’m not really sure what the roles of it is yet. I think it’s actually a lot more than just bikers,” he said. “There were a lot of people there that believe bike lanes are just one part of making the city one they want to live in — a creative, green, cool Saskatoon.”
photo Robby Davis