OOE Resident Denise Inglis Wins Prestigious Ottawa Cycling Award

By Theresa Wallace

Denise Inglis, recipient of the City’s top cycling award, is pictured with her bike and trophy on Merritt Avenue in Old Ottawa East. Photo by Theresa Wallace

“It was a purple bike with a banana seat. I used to do wheelies with it down the dirt road I lived on in Timmins,” recalls Denise Inglis.

This year’s winner of Ottawa’s top cycling award lives in Old Ottawa East and still has some of the components from her first bike. That bike and every bike since have taken the Merritt Avenue resident on countless adventures, many of them involving helping others.

The Bruce Timmermans award is traditionally presented by the councillor for the ward in which the winner lives. Inglis received hers from Councillor Shawn Menard, also a cyclist, at a City Hall ceremony on June 5.

The award recognizes one exemplary Ottawa citizen and one local organization. EnviroCentre won this year’s group award, which was presented by councillor Catherine McKenney, another cyclist.

The individual honour bestowed on Inglis is for a citizen who “publicly promotes the benefits and virtues of cycling as a principal mode of transportation” and includes “leading by example, advocating for cycling and supportive facilities, teaching cycling skills, and encouraging others to start cycling.”

Through a busy combination of paid and volunteer work, Inglis does all this and more. She teaches cycling to groups and individuals, helps organize cycling events and rodeos, and hauls a super-heavy trailer behind her bike to deliver Meals on Wheels downtown. She was one of the organizers of Capital Spokes in June and teaches kids’ biking camps during the summer at the Firehall.

Inglis is an optician by profession. In 2011, once her two children were in school fulltime, she became a CAN-BIKE instructor.

She has a great sense of humour and the ability to improvise on a moment’s notice, essential qualities in her profession. When she has cycling students who, for example, drop their knapsack and bike basket smack in the middle of a major downtown intersection during rush hour—okay, I admit that was me—she has to think fast and stay calm.

She must also have realistic expectations with her first-time students because some of them have had a whole lifetime to develop bad habits. “I consider that first course a success if you retain two skills: how to do a proper shoulder check and how to position yourself on the road to be visible to drivers.”

Since 2012, Inglis has partnered with Vélo-Vanier, which offers a free bike lending service, cycling lessons, and community bike rides. Part of her work with Vélo-Vanier involves teaching CAN-BIKE courses to teenagers, many of them new Canadians, and leading them on cycling excursions.

Rose Anne Leonard, Vélo-Vanier coordinator, says Inglis has an infectious joy that brightens everyone’s day: “So many children have learned from her. Teen volunteers specifically ask to help her run rodeos at kids’ summer camp programs. Our neighbourhood is safer as a result of Denise’s work.”

This story is part of an occasional series of articles highlighting the amazing volunteers of Old Ottawa East. Do you know someone whose efforts inspire you? Please put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and submit a story on them to The Mainstreeter! Stories can be up to 500 words and, ideally, accompanied by a photo or two. Story ideas can also be sent to editor@mainstreeter.ca.

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