When people ride their bikes down to the farmers market at Spirit Square in Campbell River this Sunday, there will be a fence set up with a bunch of bikes stowed safely inside.
The River City Cycle Club (RCCC) recently got a grant for over $3,000 from the British Columbia Cycling Coalition, which they used to set up a bike valet program. The club used the grant to purchase some folding bike racks and other necessities to get it off the ground and will be setting it up for the first time this weekend.
“One of the obstacles to riding downtown is leaving your bike somewhere,” said John Elson from RCCC. Elson is one of the members of the advocacy committee, which works to make Campbell River a more cycling friendly city. “We thought this is something we could actually do ourselves.
“We thought we’ll start with the market – often people are riding down here and it’s a great destination for families,” he said. “If we can provide people a free place to leave their bikes, then we’re making making it a little easier to cycle in town.”
The idea is not new. RCCC hosted a bike valet at Canada Day last year. They have also learned a lot from a similar program in downtown Victoria, which after a successful pilot project last year will be open permanently until at least December, 2023. In Campbell River, the plan is to start a bit slower than that.
“Wouldn’t it be great to grow in that direction?” Elson said. “The more people that are riding, the more comfortable people feel. So it’s one direction from which to push for a more cycle-friendly city.”
When riders do come down to the market, there will be a cordoned-off area near the sea can at Spirit Square. People can go up to the volunteers and drop off their bikes — complete with their helmets, bags and other accessories — in exchange for a coat check-like tag. Then after enjoying the market, they return to the valet site, give their tag back and ride off.
Elson hopes the idea catches on and they are able to help out at other downtown events as well. They do plan on attending Canada Day, and have their eyes on other events, depending on whether they can find volunteers.
The goal is to help more Campbell Riverites feel safe cycling downtown.
“From a public policy perspective, every time you take a vehicle off the road. You’re making it safer for everybody,” he said. “We’re (also) in the midst of a climate emergency and facing robust emissions targets that we can never meet without reducing our dependency on cars.
“Most people who ride bicycles don’t belong to the bike club,” he added, saying the whole thing is a “chance to talk to people and build a bit of a community. So that’s our goal.”
To volunteer to work the bike valet for a few hours on Sundays this summer, email email@example.com.