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Plaid Parade: Cycling in “Canadian skin”

By Apartment613 on October 26, 2013

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Yes, it’s chilly outside, but then again, that’s never stopped us Canadians from embarking on new adventures. Case in point: the Plaid Parade, which is quickly becoming an annual tradition in Ottawa. Last year, more than 200 plaid-clad cyclists biked through Hintonburg, down to the Arboretum and back. This year, the Plaid Parade is back in full force tomorrow – this time, raising money for the Right Bike sharing program.

The brainchild of several Ottawans, the idea has caught on across the country. Tomorrow, there will be a simultaneous Plaid Parade in Calgary, where local lumberjacks and cyclists will pick up this cycling spirit.

It’s starting down at Art Is In Bakery (250 City Centre, Bay 112), where they’ll have free coffee to warm you up before the parade. It will then head down along the river, winding up at the Carleton Tavern. The party will continue, with folks from Right Bike on hand to talk about their local bike sharing program, and a chance to show off the best of your plaid wear.

We had organizers Will (Tall Tree Cycles), Zara (Ottawa Velo Vogue), and Chris (Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company) answer a few questions about where the idea came from and what to expect at tomorrow’s ride.

Apartment613: So – what’s with all the plaid??
: I suppose we were inspired by the Tweed ride events that have happened around the world but we wanted it to be a bit more unique, more Canadian.  And while there are those who do wear tweed here, I think you be hard pressed to find a Canadian without a little plaid.
Zara: Plaid’s all the rage these days! I think it’s easier to find plaid in this city than it is to find tweed.
Chris: Plaid is Canadian skin.

What’s so important about cycling events like this? Why are you so passionate about organizing them?
Will: We want people to realize the cycling doesn’t have to be so serious; you can go out in casual clothes and have a good time.  We’ve been seeing a shift in the mentality of North Americans who are beginning to realize that cycling doesn’t just have to be about spandex, neon and racing bikes.  These kinds of events bring people out who may not have done this sort of thing before, and also have a huge impact on observers realizing this is something they might want to try in the future.  Getting more people to ride bikes or at least see the potential of bikes is the driving factor.
Zara: What’s important is that we can get everyone out on a bike together. It’s a great way to get to know people in your community. It’s  great meeting new people and seeing smiles on people’s faces when they’re on their bikes together. People need to realize that you don’t need special gear to ride a bike. You can wear whatever you want and still ride a bike.
Chris: Cycling is easy and fun and getting a bunch of people from around the region together to have some easy fun times is always a good idea, no?

Having a strong community seems to be a big part of the cycling world. Does this ring true for Ottawa?
Will:  Yes and no.  Ottawa has a huge number of cycling communities, however they are very fragmented and often there is little intermingling between the specific cycling groups. For example, road riders might not mix with triathletes, mountain bikers might never have met a bicycle polo player, etc.   This kind of event hopes to bring all the different cycling communities together in a fun non-competitive event.
Chris: A strong community is a big part of this community period. Whether it is biking, skateboarding, eating pho/shawarmas, dancing, drinking beer…all of it.

What’s one thing Ottawa could do to become a better cycling city?
Zara: We definitely need more segregated bike lanes.  We also need more education for drivers and cyclists. More public bike sharing would be great in all areas of Ottawa, not just downtown. Bike racks are also a must, I find it very hard to find bike parking! Also, I wish more people would follow the rules of the road. I guess just make Ottawa a safer place for cyclists. Sorry, that’s more than one thing!
Chris: More paths, more education and more focus on biking from all areas.  We should be more open to promoting cycling in the city and reward those who are.  It is better for everyone.
Will: We need better education for both cyclist and drivers in regards to the rules and rights of all road users. Some simple clarifications and reminders for us all could make this city a safer and more pleasant place for all road users.

What can we expect on Sunday?
Zara: Expect to join fellow cyclists in a parade of plaid. We’ll be  gathering at 1 pm at Art-Is-In Bakery where they will be offering free coffee. If you can you should get to Art Is In before the parade so you can try their delicious brunch!  We’re raising money for Right Bike as well so you’ll see the purple bikes in the parade. There will be a raffle as well so please donate to a great cause. After the parade you can join us at the Carleton Tavern! A fun plaid filled day.
Will: Lots of wild plaid outfitted people showing off their favorite ride, enjoying some great food and drink.

The Plaid Parade kicks off at 1pm on October 27 at Art Is In Bakery, 250 City Centre, Bay 112, and winds up at the Carleton Tavern, 223 Armstrong St.

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