Whitehorse cyclists form advocacy group

Concerned cyclists have formed a new group to respond to the City of Whitehorse's changing bike bylaws. Jonathan Heaton, an avid cyclist, started the group over Facebook after hearing that the city was looking for a group to work with.

Concerned cyclists have formed a new group to respond to the City of Whitehorse’s changing bike bylaws.

Jonathan Heaton, an avid cyclist, started the group over Facebook after hearing that the city was looking for a group to work with.

Heaton said he is most concerned with safety and with communication between drivers and cyclists. “Sometimes drivers don’t know how they’re supposed to behave,” Heaton said.

The group, called the Whitehorse Urban Cycling Coalition, includes some of the town’s bigwig bikers. Julie DeBrisay sits as the vice-president of Contagious Mountain Bike Club and defends the environment as a lawyer as her day job. She joined the coalition’s first meeting.

She said she looks forward to the widening of the Robert Campbell Bridge, where she has experienced “close calls” of getting hit by cars, even though she obeys the rules and  rides on the road. The city approved in January the widening of an additional bike path on the bridge.

“Sometimes I have to come to a stop, sometimes I have to keep going and have my heart racing until I recover,” DesBrisay said.

She added that the efforts of the city’s environment co-ordinator, Glenda Koh, who also attended the meeting, influenced the creation of the group. She had been “looking for a way to encourage a group to form so that the city could have a cohesive group that they can communicate with on infrastructure, and safety and bylaw and any other issues,” DesBrisay said.

As part of National Bike to Work week from May 27 to June 2, Koh had volunteers hand out treats to people who biked instead of driving or commuting by bus during the week.

Another member is Guillaume Levesque. After losing friends to urban biking accidents, he spearheaded the second 10.5-km Ride of Silence from Riverdale to Whitehorse on May 17 to commemorate victims.

Dean Eyre, owner of the Cadence Cycle bike shop on Wood Street, said he joined the group after reading some “extraordinarily negative” comments expressed by drivers towards bikers on reports on the event. “I had no idea that there was so much hostility towards other cyclists out there, so that kind of prompted me to get involved,” he said.

Eyre also expressed hope that the group would help influence the city’s revision of its bicycle bylaws, which have not been updated since 2003, and ensure that cyclists’ voices are heard by city council “when the decisions are being made about new infrastructure being built.”

Heaton praised the city’s efforts to connect with the cycling community before the group was even formed. “Even right off the bat we’ve had the City of Whitehorse do a survey on the bicycle bylaw,” he said. He looks forward to the public forums the city will start to get their input.

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com

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