#biketoria 491: the inside track

billbordGuest post by Sara Lax

Last semester I was a part of the #biketoria course that was created in partnership between UVic Geography and the City of Victoria.

As a fourth year student in Geography and Environmental Studies here at UVic, I have enjoyed delving into as many different layers of geography as possible, from Parks and Protected Areas and Coastal Marine Resources to Sustainable Cities and Political and Economic Geography. However, last semester I found a course that tied my passion for connecting people with place through UVic’s Geography 491 #biketoria course.

My interest in #biketoria began about a year ago when I traveled to Northern Europe on the UVic Geography Sustainability Field School with a team of 30 classmates and UVic Geography professor, Dr. Cam Owens and cartographer and instructor, Ken Josephson. During this trip, I experienced cycling in Copenhagen and Amsterdam for the first time.

Cycling alongside Danish and Dutch families through these metropolitan cities on smooth, protected bike lanes made me feel as though I belonged in these Northern European cities. Welcomed by the critical mass of cyclists and encouraged by the ease of the cycling amenities, I dreamed of bringing this experience home to Victoria.

City Studio

City Studio biketoria classroom downtown on Johnston St., Victoria

When I returned from field school in September, Cam told our class about an opportunity we had to make a presentation to the Victoria city council on some of the important topics we had learned about in Northern Europe. I knew immediately that I wanted to present on my experience cycling in Northern Europe, and when I found out that Victoria was working on a #biketoria network, everything seemed to cycle into place.

We gave our presentation on October 1st and shortly after, had a follow up meeting with Victoria Mayor and city councillors. We discussed the possibility of having a community engaged teaching and learning classroom where students could learn from and collaborate with city planners on important urban development topics. As a result of this very positive and supportive meeting, the City Studio classroom and the #biketoria course were born.

Inside City Studio Victoria

Inside City Studio Victoria

Led by Geography faculty and City of Victoria staff, Geog 491 #biketoria was designed to provide students with a unique, applied learning experience focused on active transportation planning. The course was built around student projects that directly supported research and outreach, specific to urban infrastructure needs of the city. A key focus was an ambitious plan to build an all ages and abilities (AAA) cycling network connecting each of Victoria’s 13 neighbourhoods by 2018.

This course engaged various community members from all backgrounds including city councillors, city planners, transportation planners and a range of business owners. Many of these community members gave guest presentations to our class discussing their role and involvement with the #biketoria plan and other urban changes within the CRD. These lectures and discussions were extremely inspiring and informative, providing illustrious opportunities for students to taste what real, on-the-ground urban planning looks like.

The City Studio classroom, for which this course was held, provided an opportunity for students to get to hear engaging presentations from community members on a topic they were passionate about. But more importantly, our class benefited enormously from intimate, meaningful conversations with these community members. Having the opportunity to connect with the people who work hard every day to design and improve our city, was a truly galvanizing experience.

I believe it was because of these dynamic presentations and the wide range of approaches to different planning aspects of #biketoria, that our class was so successful. By the end of the course, our group had produced a very impressive collection of projects including but not limited to:

1. A comprehensive video showcasing the #biketoria course experience itself.


2. A complete Google MyMaps with highlighted Biketoria routes and embedded links to YouTube cycling videos that focused on place-based narrative tours of 8 neighbourhood corridors in the #biketoria network.

Interactive Map

3. A website dedicated to addressing the challenges employees might face cycling to work and providing solutions for encouraging cycling to work.

Employees Biking

4. An infographic showing Youth and Parent Engagement in #biketoria.

Engaging youth in cycling

You can find full details of these and other related projects on the UVic Geography Sustainability Field School website under the #biketoria banner.

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