Thursday, Jun 04, 2015 06:00 am By: Tanya Foubert | Local News | Rocky Mountain Outlook
Canmore gets spinning for bike month
You don’t have to go far anywhere in Canmore to begin noticing it is a community that is in love with bikes and everything bike friendly.
From the yearly additions of bike racks, seasonal bike corrals on Main Street, bike events, bike signage and bike fix-it stations to the future development of bike lanes on all major roadways – biking is part of Canmore’s raison d’etre.
A variety of events are planned throughout June to celebrate bike month, but it was local Olympian, business owner and bike enthusiast Sara Renner who spoke to how being bike friendly can benefit businesses at the monthly Lunch and Learn event held by Canmore Business and Tourism in May.
Renner and husband and fellow Olympian Thomas Grandi own and operate Paintbox Lodge in downtown Canmore and they have gone the extra mile to incorporate bikes into their business.
“The most important step for us was to lead by example and ride our bikes,” Renner said. “So the next step was to ensure our staff did also.”
The pair offered all staff, full- and part-time, up to $250 to put towards buying or improving their two-wheel transportation. They also established a fleet of bikes for their guests to encourage them, once they arrived in Canmore, to leave the car parked and experience the community in a different way.
Renner said people slow down when riding a bike and have a different sense of discovery of their surroundings – including the downtown core.
“They cruise around Canmore and they instantly feel like a local and it is the best thing we could have done for our business. Their cars stay parked for their vacation,” she said. “For me, I think one of the nicest experiences on my bike is that sense of community. All of a sudden streets are not something you are passing through, but you are experiencing.”
The Town of Canmore has established a grant this year for businesses interested in improving their cycling infrastructure and the Paintbox Lodge is one of those already approved.
Grandi and Renner built a barn structure to house bikes for staff, guests and surrounding businesses – all are welcome to park two wheels as it encourages people to use bikes as their main form of transportation around the community.
“If our staff and us personally bike to work it frees up (parking) stalls for the people who really need it and I think that is going to be key for downtown Canmore,” Renner said.
She added feeling safe on a bike while riding is important, especially for visitors to the community, which is why dedicated bike lanes are critical.
“I think we are really lucky that we have incredible paths and they are a great way to get around town, but we need that missing link so people can float around town and feel safe,” she said.
Andy Esarte, Town of Canmore manager of engineering, agrees that bike lanes are important. This year, he said, the municipality is going to paint bike lanes onto all main roadways wide enough to accommodate the dedicated use and clearly mark other roads as shared lanes with bikes for vehicle drivers.
Esarte said this year the grant program, which Paintbox has been successful in accessing, provides up to $2,500 for businesses to help install bike infrastructure.
“Wherever people want to bring their bikes, that is where we will be looking to add bike racks,” he added.
Other bike-focused initiatives this year include improvements to the bike skills park on Benchlands Trail, improved connections for the Legacy Trail and improvements for crossing at the Bow River Bridge.
In 2014, council accepted the integrated transportation plan developed for the municipality and Esarte said its goal is for Canmore to become the premier walking and cycling community.
Another large part of cycling for Canmore, Esarte said, is the Legacy Trail and its success in connecting Canmore with Banff National Park and the Town of Banff. He said the trail is on track for another record-setting year. There are also plans to extend the trail through Canmore to the Nordic Centre and Esarte said wayfinding, or signage, will be an important part of the project as well.
For the last nine years, Canmore Community Cruisers has existed to encourage cycling in the community. Board member and Communitea Cafe owner Marnie Dansereau said it has been amazing to see how the community has embraced cycling culture over the last decade.
Dansereau said CCC has focused on making cycling accessible to all people by facilitating the reuse of old bikes in the community.
“We try to encourage people to, instead of throwing bikes away or retiring bikes, use them for transportation around town. It has really taken off with all the workers who come to town needing a way to get around,” she said.
For Bike Month, CCC is accepting old bikes at its recycling roundup on June 8-9 at the old library in downtown Canmore.
Last year the group worked with the municipality, Canmore Business and Tourism and the Biosphere Institute after receiving a grant from Alberta Ecotrust to establish bike-friendly Canmore.
April Economides, a North American expert on developing bike friendly business districts, was brought in to give a talk and create a guidebook to connect businesses and help make Canmore more bike friendly. They also established bikecanmore.ca as a hub to create awareness about cycling and events.
Dansereau said this year the Cruisers have received a grant to deliver a Road Safe Canmore program the encourage education around avoiding conflict between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.