Organizers estimate some 1,000 people participated in Sunday’s Saanich Cycling Festival celebrating the municipality’s cycling network.
Sunday’s event also doubled as a birthday party as the first festival happened ten years ago, when 700 riders cycled from the Gordon Head Recreation Centre along Shelbourne Street to Shelbourne Plaza as a way to pressure the municipality into improving Saanich’s cycling infrastructure.
Interest was so high, cyclists were still leaving the recreation centre, when the first arrived at the Shelbourne Plaza, said Coun. Judy Brownoff.
The event has since undergone at least one format change before settling on the current format that sees cyclists check in at ‘celebrations stations’ along Saanich’s cycling network with the parking lot of Saanich Municipal Hall serving as the central gathering spot for the fourth straight year, where riders can also check various booths and activities. It is also the starting point of the Kids Bike Ride.
The change in format has coincided with a change in focus, said Brownoff. Whereas the inaugural format sought to raise awareness about cycling lanes on Shelbourne Street, the current focus of the event lies on families and encouraging them to explore Saanich’s cycling network that the municipality has created over the years.
“It has become an opportunity for families to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” she said.
Alex Castillo, his wife, and their two children, Andres (2) and Bella (4), were among those families attending Sunday’s event. He said the family uses the local cycling network for recreation about three times a week with the expectation that this number will go as his children become more comfortable on their bicycles. “It’s going to go up a lot,” he said. This said, he himself does not commute by bicycle.
Brownoff said the municipality would like to see Saanich residents use the cycling network for both commuting and recreation.
“Our goal is a healthy community,” she said. “We know that by statistics, that if young children can bike to school, they start school that day with a fresh outlook. So it is really both. On the weekends, families can go out and explore it [the network] together instead of sitting and playing video games.”
Saanich, along with the rest of the region, has a mix of riders, said Brownoff. “So we are trying to accommodate all,” she said. “But the main goal is all ages and all abilities.”