Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps rides her bike down Johnson Street Friday morning.

Mayor aims to make cycling the norm

In some cities, it may seem unusual to see the mayor riding around on a bike — but for Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, it is the norm.

In some cities, it may seem unusual to see the mayor riding around on a bike — but for Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, it is the norm.

Helps, an avid cyclist, travels almost everywhere in the city by bike. She often rides from her home to city hall, city hall to the legislature, and to and from daily meetings, lunches and consultations with the public — all in her everyday clothing from blazers to skirts.

“I ride my bike 99.9 per cent of the time. I hike up my skirt and get on my bike,” Helps said. “You don’t need to do anything different when you’re getting onto a bike versus getting into a car, other than putting your helmet on or adding lights when it’s dark outside. There’s nothing special required.”

It’s a passion she learned at a young age.

Growing up in London, Ontario, she lived a roughly half-an-hour bike ride from school. While she would often ride with her father, by Grade 7 Helps convinced her parents to let her ride her bike to school by herself.

Years later, she continues to ride everywhere she goes.

When she moved to Victoria in 1997, the first thing she purchased was a bike.

As mayor with back-to-back meetings with ministers, councillors and events, Helps said riding her bike allows her to clear her head.

“It’s a way to clear my head, to focus so that when I walk into that minister’s office I’m bright-eyed, clear-headed and ready for a conversation. It’s like a mental health, well-being exercise,” she said.

“It’s that space in between. I do it because when I come to city hall on my bike, my blood is flowing, my mind is sharper, I’m taking deeper breaths, I feel better.”

Helps and Victoria councillors are at the forefront of one of the biggest cycling infrastructures in the city.

Last year, city council allocated $7.75 million to the construction of cycling and pedestrian improvements over the next three years.

They brought in a number of cycling experts who were tasked with enhancing the city’s current cycling network. So far, they have identified eight priority corridors for construction over the next three years, with the first corridor being constructed on Pandora Avenue this spring.

The goal is to make Victoria bike lanes accessible for all ages and abilities.

In a recent presentation to council, Andreas Røhl, cycling specialist with Gehl Architects & Studio and former bicycle program manager for the City of Copenhagen, explained the need to normalize cycling, not as a means of transportation, but as a way to improve the city’s overall well-being.

“It’s not about cycling, it’s a means to an end, not a goal itself,” he said.

“Victoria already has a lot of different types of people riding bikes. Apart from having the infrastructure in place, there’s a gradual process where you see friends, colleagues, people on the street who you can see as yourself which will encourage you to ride a bike.”

He added a sophisticated cycling network that’s safe for all ages means children are able to ride to places, such as after-school programs and sports on their own freeing up more time for parents who normally chauffeur them around.

Helps agreed.

“It’s not about cycling, it’s about being a regular citizen,” she said.

“The point is if we build proper infrastructure then we give people more transportation options and we create a city where well-being becomes the norm.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bill Phelps’s life has changed since he was able to get a safe pharmaceutical alternative to fentanyl after his pain medication was cut off a couple of years ago. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Unhoused community in Greater Victoria struggles to access safe supply

Safer Victoria Project working to connect people sheltering outside with pharmaceutical alternatives

John Roney has been working on Beneath the Emerald Sea for about a year now and expects it to be released in fall of 2021. (Provided by John Roney)
Victoria man films underwater documentary about sea life around Vancouver Island

John Roney expects Under the Emerald Sea to be released in 2021

Cole Byers and Jasmine Grant are taking a leap of faith and opening The Rack Westcoast Bistro in Langford, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Langford residents making “all-in move” opening restaurant amid COVID-19 pandemic

Although The Rack Westcoast Bistro isn’t officially open yet, it’s serving anyone who wanders in

Victoria police are looking for information after a man was seen spray painting over a section of the More Justice, More Peace mural Oct. 31. (Victoria Police Department)
More Justice, More Peace mural vandalized days after new change

A man was seen spray painting over the artists’ statement Saturday morning

A 2.5-magnitude earthquake occurred beneath San Juan Island, Wash. – 25 kilometres from Sidney – late on Oct. 30. (Screenshot via United States Geological Survey)
Minor Washington earthquake felt in Sidney, Victoria

U.S. seismologists report 2.5-magnitude quake late Friday

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are looking for information about William Mack, last seen in Duncan on Oct. 28. (File photo)
Police searching for missing man last seen near Duncan

William Mack, 72, was seen on Gibbins Road on Oct. 28

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Most Read