Dick Louch is a retired Bell Canada employee and avid cyclist who would like to see more emphasis on cycling in Ottawa. Dick didn’t just sit around waiting for that to happen – he’s the driving force behind Ottawa’s only bicycle festival, Capital Vélo Fest, which will take place at Ottawa City Hall on Saturday,June 4th. One of the planned activities, Tour la nuit, is a nighttime ride through closed off city streets, and Dick graciously supplied Frugal Fun Ottawa with two passes for a give away. (Congrats Stephan!)
I think this bicycle festival is a terrific idea - as I wrote in my previous post, I’ve been toying with the idea of biking to work, and finding the Capital Vélo Fest website encouraged me to take the first steps towards making that happen. I imagined that putting together a bike festival wouldn’t be easy, and I chatted with Dick about how he made it happen.
Dick told me that he came up with the idea for an Ottawa bicycle festival while listening to NCC Chief Executive Officer Marie Lemay speak about how the NCC wants to partner with private business to expand festivals in the region. Dick had participated in bicycle festivals in other cities and was surprised that Ottawa didn’t have one, so he incorporated a non-profit organization, Capital Vélo Fest Inc. and set about putting together a great bike festival. He consulted City staff and received support on various fronts, getting the help of an intern from Algonquin College, getting website hosting from the National Capital Environmental Non-Profit network, and receiving advice from the City’s Special Events Advisory Team on how to obtain permission to close off streets for Tour la nuit; not an easy task as the City, the NCC, OC Transpo, and the police department all have to be consulted!
Dick’s own experiences as a cyclist also helped him bring his vision for Ottawa’s bicycle festival to life. In addition to being Chairperson for the MS Bike Tour organizational committee, Dick organized has been involved in a yearly bike rally that he started in 1984 for his friends (various participants now take turns organizing it). Now all cyclists in Ottawa can benefit from the work that Dick and his friends have put into their rallies, as the Capital Vélo Rally will soon be available through the Festival website (a sign up form is now available). Dick hopes to continue adding additional routes to the site as time permits.
Dick’s passion for cycling is evident when speaking to him, and when reading Capital Vélo Fest’s mission, which is to inspire people of all ages to ride a bike more often by providing interesting programs to encourage youth, families and seniors to ride; organizing and implementing cycling events and activities; partnering with cycling groups to provide educational programs related to cycling safety, bicyle maintenance and various cycling options; and partnering with businesses and government agencies to increase the use of existing, and encourage the development of new, cycling infrastructure.
Dick, I think your plan to encourage cycling in Ottawa is working! I know that Capital Vélo Fest and the great comments I got on my previous blog post about it have motivated me. My bike has been tuned up, I’ve located the key for my lock, and I’m all set to start biking in to work tomorrow. I’ll let you all know how it goes :)