Riding a Bike Gave Her Independence, Freedom and Health

Martia made quite the impression in Kelowna this year – pedaling around town with a big clunky air-cast on her left foot! Her voice shakes as she tells me her story but as we talk (and laugh!), it becomes clear that she is unwavering in her conviction that a bike is “not just a toy” but a vehicle for independence, community, health and joy.

“As a kid, I had a bike but when I became a teenager was when I really discovered how it could give me some independence.  My parents were fighting and I had this strong impulse to ‘get out of this house’.  I just wanted some freedom, so I told my Mom, ‘I’m riding to the lake’.  We were living in Wisconsin at the time and the lake was 25 miles away, my mother was concerned but she ended up letting me go.”

Martia’s early escapes by bike grew into a lifelong passion. “In the 80s, I took a bike across Ohio.”  “My husband and I have biked for ten years in rides for the MS Society and in that time, we’ve raised over $40,000.”  She says she will continue to ride for MS until she is no longer able, joking that, “these fundraising efforts are quite selfish since the more I ride, the better I feel!”

Working as a health professional, alpine ski & swim instructor, and wellness entrepreneur, Martia says riding her bike expresses her “value of helping others and promoting health while staying in shape”.

She regularly participates in Bike to Work Week but over the years Martia has also been involved in advocacy efforts to improve riding conditions. “I was active with People for Bikes in the early years. It brings together cyclists with planners and municipal to look at road designs and ensure that it works and makes sense for bike riders.”

Martia has a unique perspective having lived in Boulder, Colorado, a city with a reputation for making biking, walking and transit as easy as a “Hop, Skip and Jump” (which is what they call their famously convenient transit service). A model for other bike friendly cities.

Comparing Kelowna to Boulder, she says: “what I noticed is that here there is still this entanglement between cars and bikes.  Some car drivers don’t even realize that bikes are on the road.” Although Martia credits Kelowna for having some good bike lanes on the main streets, she says there are other areas where it just disappears.  Martia believes that a consistent network throughout a city or town is what is needed to get more people feeling comfortable and safe on bikes.

“In Boulder there are bike lanes on every thoroughfare and they also have a lovely, green pathway system. They seem to have considered how to include bikes into the whole transportation system – they have consistent markings on the road and signage. The whole thing is marked so that there is space made for bikes and it’s very clear that cars must share the road.”

She makes the case that community planning has to look ahead instead of backwards. “Once baby boomers like myself exit, then the next big generation is the millennials and they are going to want to do things differently.  They aren’t driving cars like older generations. They want to live in city centres so they can access what they need by bike and access transit, and car-sharing with things like Uber.”

Asked if she has anything to say to the BC Government on the issue, her response is, “Alternative transportation is beyond wise. Not only does it keep the environment clean, it helps people to be healthy and it saves our resources. Everyone wins – it’s a triple win!”

We couldn’t agree more!  And if you agree, please click on this on-line petition to send a message to decision-makers in Victoria about the need for more active, healthy transportation options.

p.s. Martia says, her foot recovered from the reconstructive surgery BETTER because she figured out a way to still keep biking!!

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