Activities that are fun for the whole family have been somewhat restricted since the start of the global pandemic, but for Jen Sault Turla, Aurora’s trails and green spaces have been a balm for the soul for her and her cycling family.
For Jen, it is not just something you can do with your whole family, but it also allows you to connect with your community in a very different way than behind the wheel of a car.
“Cycling as an activity is so good for your body and your mind,” she says, adding that she and her husband were brainstorming ways to increase awareness of biking options around the community.
Thus, the wheels began to spin on Cycle Aurora.
Cycle Aurora will take place around the community between June 5 and July 1. Complete with a series of challenges, registration for the event is on now and is open through May 31.
Powered by the GooseChase app, volunteers have been working with the Town to develop missions designed to get cyclists on, perhaps, the trails and bike lanes less travelled, and collect points along the way.
“When COVID-19 arrived, it almost created a different opportunity for this in that a cycling event doesn’t have to be done on a specific day,” says Ms. Sault. “Biking has been something that has really gotten us through the last year, just having a few minutes to get outside, still be able to get out and about around Town, in a safe way.”
One of the volunteers behind Bike Aurora, a one-day event planned for 2017 that ultimately got washed out by Mother Nature, Ms. Sault says Cycle Aurora spread over nearly a month is a way to both underscore “cycle culture” and create an event that has legs.
“A new angle with this, which is really kind of cool, is creating this positive thing that people can still do in the middle of a pandemic but also after. We’re super-excited. I think it is going to be something really positive for people to partake in and I know that has been really positive for me being part of the building of Cycle Aurora – it is such a positive thing to focus on and we need things like that!”
Integral in the building of Cycle Aurora has been Shelley Ware, Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Aurora. Part of her mandate has been ensuring the sustainability of an event like this throughout the pandemic and beyond.
“I think the format we have come up with means it isn’t going to be just a one-time-only event; hopefully it is with us for the next 20 years,” she says. “With Cycle Aurora, GooseChase enables you to choose your mission, your number of outings, everything within your motivation on a particular day. There are some really aggressive missions in it and others that are just discovering a part of Aurora that maybe you haven’t visited. The designs of the specific missions have really been Jen’s baby.”
Adds Jen: “The app is just perfect because we have set missions and we can launch new missions throughout the event – and people can complete missions on their own time. They can pick up a race kit at the Farmers’ Market on June 5 and they have a month to complete the different challenges. We have created a mix of challenges that are great for you to get out and about in Aurora exploring. We have Get Sporty, which would be biking to any park and going to play basketball, soccer or tennis. We have a Cool Off which is biking to a splash pad. We’re also looking to incorporate our businesses into this to Support Local as well like Grab a Coffee with merchants involved as destinations with [a route to bike your beverage] to a park. From a COVID perspective, it is really helping to support local businesses at the same time.”
Participants who register in advance through the Town’s ePlay platform – a requirement – will be able to collect points along the way for each mission. Bike-related prizes will be awarded to those who complete three missions or earn 1,000 points, and kids completing certain challenges will be able to collect sticker badges as well.
“I love the fact there are some [business-related] challenges because we are looking to support local business as well and I think what people will realize that a local coffee shop or business is so close to home, so convenient and using a different mode of transportation will make us all feel good about getting exercise, saving greenhouse gas emissions, and it is good for our mental health,” says Councillor Rachel Gilliland.
Adds Ms. Ware: “I think this will open the door to people realizing you don’t have to jump in the car; you can ride to the Farmers’ Market, fill your bags and ride back. Hopefully we’re also providing an experience that is going to be turned into a habit! Through the [first wave of the pandemic] the bike in June became what toilet paper was in March! We know a lot of these tools are now in the hands of the community and even though they have the ability to go out today and go for a bike ride, hopefully we’re providing them with a creative way to do so that totally fits within their family’s schedule.”
For more information on Cycle Aurora, including how to register, visit aurora.ca/cycleaurora.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran