As an avid cyclist there had been too many times in the past where I’ve been cut off, dangerously passed and sadly often yelled at for being on the road. As frustrating as this was, I thought that this was simply the way things were and would remain. It wasn’t until 2014 when my fiancée and I were riding together in and around Lexington, Kentucky, that I realized that the safety revolving around cycling in Northern Ontario was not normal. When riding in Kentucky, motorists would usually wait to be waved through even when on straight country roads! On top of this, the majority of the time we would be waved at while passed! We were astonished by how welcome we felt on these roads. So much so, that we have since been back with friends to ride again and intend to go again. This results in bringing tourism to the area and money to the local economy.
It was this stark difference in feelings while riding that told me something needed to change, and that maybe I could try and make a difference. After several months of brainstorming and pondering the idea, I decided to get in contact with Dave & Jade Nighbor, owners of 9 Lives Design to discuss an advertising campaign here in North Bay. As a former world cup skier and devoted athlete, I knew that Dave understood personally, what it felt like to share the roads here in Northern Ontario. It was through working together with 9 Lives that the 3 of us were able to form a partnership and a shared passion with an aim to improve our community as a whole. Although I knew I wanted to increase awareness around safe riding and sharing the road, I could not imagine how to do so. This is where the experience and creativity of 9 Lives was able to make this idea a reality and bring it to the next step.
Together, through 2015 we worked as a team with myself securing 4 billboard spaces and 4 co-sponsors to go alongside my business to cover the cost of the signs. 9 Lives Design worked countlessly at creating an awesome visual medium to convey our message for our first summer campaign. 2015 was a great success and a great start to this important message. Through the winter of 2015/2016, we decided that more needed to be done to build from the results of 2015. There is an ever growing trend towards active communities and active transportation that is spreading through the world as we speak. We set our goal for 2016 as having 2 Billboards each month over the course of 4 months (May-August) rotating throughout the city. This meant involving more co-sponsors. Altogether 16 local business and organizations have been on board in helping make this vision a reality. Without the support of these businesses and groups, we would not be where we are today. It is with this help from the community that we are able to continue to push this very important message.
To build on the planned growth of our 2016 campaign, I was in contact with an individual at the MTO during the early part of the year who encouraged us to apply for grant funding to further our campaign. Bill 31 which took effect September 1st, 2015 focuses on Distracted Driving and Safety for Cyclist. “The safety of all road users is paramount and that includes cyclists. These cycling changes are directed at encouraging cycling, promoting road safety, and sharing the road. Drivers must keep a one-metre (3 feet) distance when passing cyclists.” It is on this premise that our application was submitted in order to help further the reach of our campaign. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to be awarded and granted with $9,000 to continue to spread and build awareness around this important message.
As of mid-summer 2016, we have launched the new name and face of our campaign; CycleSafe.ca. With an interactive user friendly webpage with cycling tips and information, as well as a social media presence, print media, and much more to come. In addition, we have also managed to secure a further seasonal billboard with the help of council in the Municipality of East Ferris. This has greatly expanded the impact and reach of this campaign.
Together, with your help, we can continue to work together to set an example as both cyclists and motorists to lead the way for a more dynamic future here in Northern Ontario.
David Weiskopf, The Weiskopf Team & Dave & Jade Nighbor, 9 Lives Design Inc.
Co-founders of CycleSafe.ca