Prizes among the perks for Bike to Work Week

Celebration station set for Oak Bay May 31 at municipal hall

Dianne McGillis cycles to work from James Bay to Oak Bay

Despite working at the busy junction of Fort and Foul Bay, parking isn’t a problem for Dianne McGillis.

It never is for the cycle commuter, traversing from Oak Bay to the legislative buildings area for a decade, and now for the last decade commuting from James Bay to the busy intersection where Victoria and Oak Bay meet.

“The streets of Oak Bay are great,” she says, adding they’re well kept and often feature a variety of cyclists, from dawdlers to racers.

For the past six years she’s parlayed that spinning experience into a team leader role for Bike to Work Week.

“There are so many reasons. It’s exercise. It’s time to yourself. You get to hear the birds and smell the flowers,” she said. “You feel like you’re 12 years old again as soon as you get on the bike.”

Gillis says it doesn’t take much to be a team leader – show up for the launch and get your free T-shirt, do a little paperwork and pour on the encouragement of teammates. She quite intentionally scores six riders each year, appropriately called the six pack that works at the BC Liquor Store at Fort and Foul Bay.

“I have what I call a six pack,” she says with a smile. “Two or three of us ride all year and the rest are fair-weather riders.”

The Greater Victoria Bike to Work Society organizes the annual Bike to Work Week event in Greater Victoria. From 50 teams and 500 participants in 1997 the event grew to 728 teams and 9,127 participants in 2015. The 22nd annual Bike to Work Week is May 30 to June 5.

“There are all kinds of events. The one I think is the most fun is the passport,” she says. “I have won prizes every year.”

Registered participants tour the city as they stop at multiple locations for a stamp on the passport that they then turn over at a celebration station in a bid to win prizes. Stations, set up across the region, are fun events to reward cyclists new to commuter cycling – 13,500 since inception – purposefully placed to encourage the exploration of the cycling infrastructure system available throughout Greater Victoria, while also acknowledging regulars. Oak Bay hosts a celebration station May 31 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at municipal hall 2167 Oak Bay Ave.

“All the major bike stores set up tents and do repairs,” Gillis says, gesturing to Oak Bay Bikes across the avenue, noting that’s where she bought her first bike. “There are all these major perks.”

Alongside bicycle triage the stations offer free food, free drinks and an opportunity to mingle with like-minded commuters. The event offers $30,000 in prizes by random draw to registered teams.

“Those who cycle regularly,  cheered on by the enthusiasm of Bike to Work Week,  can of course, extend cycling into their leisure time,” Gillis says. “There are so many local adventures to discover. At the BTWW launch, a local author spoke about such, in fact copies of his book on the subject were given as door prizes. Personally, over the years I have cycled and camped through the surrounding islands,  the coast of California, and parts of England, France and Germany.”

In 2015, 9,127 registered riders cycled 439,620 kilometres and 1,346 of them were first-time cycle commuters. Those are heartening numbers for Gillis, who acknowledges drivers may be wary of the first-timers on the road.

“Bike to Work Week has little mini courses for people to acquaint themselves how to ride on the road, or how to ride period,” she says.

Visit biketowork.ca/victoria for a map of celebration station, to register or to find an urban cycling course.