Free supervised bicycle parking returns to Bluesfest in 2012

The bicycle parking is integrated into the whole Bluesfest site (photo by Charles Akben-Marchand)OTTAWA - Local cycling advocacy group Citizens for Safe Cycling and the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest have partnered for the seventh consecutive year to deliver free, supervised, valet bicycle parking to Bluesfest patrons and volunteers during the 12-day festival's 2012 edition.

As with last year, there will be two compounds: one along Wellington Street at the intersection east of Booth, and where Booth Street meets the pathway along the Ottawa River.

"Our capacity last year was about 1000 bikes over the two compounds, and we came close to that a few times," said Charles Akben-Marchand, the former CfSC president who manages the bike park and its more than 100 volunteers. "That's a long way from our first year parking bikes at Bluesfest in 2006, when we parked 1200 bikes over the whole festival!"

The free service allows cyclists to drop off their bikes and pick them up at the end of the night.

"Like a coat check for bikes, leave it with us and we'll park your bike for you. Because the Bike Park volunteers are the only ones allowed in the compound, you don't need to lock your bike, and you can leave your helmet and lights on your bike instead of having to carry it with you inside the festival," said Akben-Marchand.

While the service is free, donations are encouraged. Funds raised by the bike park go to Citizens for Safe Cycling and Bluesfest's charity, Blues in the Schools.

Happy bicycle parking volunteers at the 2011 Bluesfest (photo by Charles Akben-Marchand)"Even though this service is free, the generous donations make this our biggest fundraiser of the year," said CfSC President Hans Moor. "And the interactions with so many cyclists gives us a great opportunity to educate the public about cycling safety and answer their questions. We sold nearly 300 lights last year, which means that many more cyclists riding home more safely than if they didn't park their bike with us."

"We couldn't have done this without Bluesfest's support for green initiatives and alternative transportation," said Moor. "It's a great benefit to both of our organizations."

Approximately five to six percent of Bluesfest patrons and volunteers biked to the festival in 2011. Of those, 60 to 70 percent used the Bike Park compound. "We've parked over 30,000 bikes in our compound over the years and never lost a single one. People who lock their bikes to fences or other objects aren't always so lucky," said Akben-Marchand.

The bike parks are open from 2:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Booth Street compound) on festival weekdays, and 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (noon to 11 p.m. at the Booth Street compound) on weekends.

The 2012 RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest runs from July 4 to 15, 2012 in LeBreton Flats Park.

In 2011, the bike parking compound parked 9,335 bikes and sold nearly 300 bicycle lights. CfSC expects to park its 40,000th bicycle at Bluesfest in 2012. Twitter hashtag: #OttBikePark

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