What exactly does Big Bike do for Folk Fest?
David Winkler is the founder of the Big Bike company. Two years ago, in 2010, he approached the Folk Fest and thought it’d be a good fit. He approached them to find out what they thought about pedal powered transport instead of golf carts. It had some appeal in terms of reducing the eco footprint, but it builds into the overall movement of the Folk Fest’s Eco-Initiatives Program. There’s multiple levels of Eco-Initiatives. That’s the volunteer crew that I work on at the Folk Fest, and I also work with David himself on a lot of projects throughout the city.
Do you actually ride the bikes at the Folk Fest?
Yeah. Last year I was a volunteer at the Folk Fest and for every shift I would ride it for at least an hour or so. One shift I rode it for almost my entire shift, just shuttling mostly recyclables or other materials we needed around the island. It was a big hit. One of the cool things is that people really love seeing bike-powered transit, so the festivalgoers really picked up on it and really enjoyed seeing volunteers using the bike.
How many volunteers are there and how many bikes?
There’s probably about 35 to 40 people involved with the Eco-Initiatives and the recycling program, but not all of them use the bikes. It’s just dependent on who’s comfortable using it, what the shift was, what they need it for. This year there’s going to be two bikes; David owns a couple of bikes, they were originally prototypes but both of them have a power assist. Electrical pedal assist. And that helps when you have a larger load or when you’re starting from a stop, it gives you the boost to get going. It also helps with hills, although that’s not a problem on Prince’s Island.
Can you describe the bikes to me?
The Big Bike is a three wheeler with a sturdy steel frame designed to transport small commercial loads, instead of gas-powered vehicles. It has an application where the distances are not too great or urban centers where traffic congestion is an issue. Obviously the overarching goal is to reduce the ecological imprint of operations, but it’s also a money saver because insurance costs, gas costs, liability, purchase costs of vehicles are higher. The Big Bike is obviously much cheaper, and it’s also healthier for people to use and more convenient in busy urban cores like Calgary.
What do you do with the bikes for the rest of the year?
David is the founder of The Area in Inglewood, and The Area is kind of the home base for the bikes. so they’re there. Sometimes we use them for promotional purposes, like with the Calgary commuter challenge, the Cyclepalooze festival or other pedal-powered events. So we use them for promotional purposes. One of the Big Bikes has a chuckwagon back, so we’ve even hosted acoustic performances in the back of it before. We hosted a band in there and rode around while the band played. Pedi-cabs have been around for a long time, but this is a little bit different. It’s not just people in the back, it can be used commercially as well as at cultural events like the Folk Festival.
When you’re riding around for the whole Folk Fest, is it hard to enjoy it?
No, because often in Folk Fest there’s a lot of people. We have 10,000 people and 2,000 volunteers, so you’ve got a small city of 12,000 people every day at Folk Fest. So the congestion is great because there’s everybody there, there’s lots of people. It does make it hard to get around but it’s not like you’re pedaling at a very high exhausting rate of speed. You’re pedaling at fairly leisurely speeds, you’re interacting with patrons of the festival, and I’m an avid cyclist so it does require a basic level of comfort and fitness, but you don’t have to be a superhuman to do it. It’s not really that tiring and it gives you a chance to smile and wave at people as opposed to being on a golf cart. On a golf cart you’re basically a vehicle, but when you’re riding on a bike people see you as a person on a bike so it’s a really unique experience. For the Folk Fest it’s a great fit.