UPDATE: Vancouver City Council has approved spending $250,000 on two mass bike rides.
In 2015, the provincial government considered spending $150,000 for a mass yoga event on the Burrard Street Bridge, but it was quickly canceled after being widely ridiculed.
The following year, the City of Vancouver spent approximately $150,000 on policing and clean-up costs for the 420 event at Sunset Beach.
And this year, the municipal government is contemplating on providing financial support to a different type of mass participation event.
Local cycling advocacy organizations have banded together to ask the City of Vancouver to provide a one-time, combined funding commitment of $250,000 to help cover the planning, policing, and logistical costs associated with the two separate mass bike rides planned for this summer.
Organizers say they are aiming to attract 10,000 participants to each of the two proposed rides – Our City Ride and Bike The Night – for a combined attendance of 20,000.
M1 Sports Management, the company that organizes the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix, wants to host a non-sport, non-competitive leisure bike ride in August. The ride would have a 15-km-long route along the seawall and through city streets in downtown Vancouver, including Gastown, Yaletown, Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, and the West End, and consist of entertainment and festivities before and after the ride.
Plans separately submitted to the Vancouver Park Board for approval show David Lam Park in Yaletown converted into a one-day festival site with a main stage, vendor tents, kids zone, food trucks, bike valet, and 500-person beer garden. The ride will begin and end at David Lam Park.
“Our City Ride is a new and exciting annual mass participation cycling event that is centered around a festive atmosphere,” reads a Park Board report. “The initiative will be hosted in cities across Canada, and other strategic cities globally; the Vancouver ride will be the inaugural event of the series that will launch Our City Ride in 2017.”
“The goal in each city is to bring communities together through an inclusive, family-oriented ride and cycling festival. The inaugural Our Cityride Vancouver initiative is intended to be a signature event for the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board.”
Our City Ride is intended to be an expansion of the 2016 ‘Dutch Ride’, which had 150 participants.
If funding is approved, HUB Cycling’s Bike The Night event will return this year as an improved and expanded nighttime cycling ‘spectacle’. Participants deck out their bikes with glow sticks and LED lights and ride along a route en masse.
The event began last year as a revival of the unsanctioned annual bike rave, which was canceled in 2015 over permit issues due to its growth in attendance. The last unsanctioned bike rave in 2014 saw 7,000 participants.
As part of its crackdown on unsanctioned events, the municipal government asked organizers of the bike rave to cover the event’s policing costs, which was something organizers were unwilling to do and forced the cancellation of the ride.
Complaints over the rowdy behaviour of participants were also a factor in the decision to end the event.
“There is also the reality that they (police) received hundreds of 911 calls from over reactive and nervous citizens,” said Bike Rave organizers Crank Cycling at the time of cancellation. “Literally old ladies afraid of riots or some invasion, locking themselves in their bathrooms and calling repeatedly for the two hours it took us to pass.”
HUB Cycling is proposing a bike route from David Lam Park over the Burrard Street Bridge, and then returning to David Lam Park, for the route of the 2017 ride.
Last year’s Bike The Night event had over 700 participants.
The City of Vancouver says both mass bike rides help promote ‘active transportation’, thereby aligning with the Transportation 2040 plan’s goals, and are low-barrier and family-friendly. Such events are modelled after similarly large, multi-mass rides in cities like Montreal and London.
“These rides will build on the experience and excitement from 2016 and lay the groundwork for larger scale events in the future,” reads a City staff report.
“Staff believe it is appropriate for the City to sponsor and enable these events as a pilot. These events have unique logistical and other challenges and require organizers who have this specific experience, combined with a deep knowledge of Vancouver, to be able to do it well.”
Vancouver City Council will consider the funding request on Wednesday.