Two Ottawa brothers riding across Canada on wooden bikes to support jobs with an environmental angle stopped in North Bay to promote Project Learning Tree (PLT).
The program is federally funded and gives employers a wage subsidy to hire students during the summer for outdoor work.
The North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority is one of those employers and the agency was able to hire four students under PLT.
The two brothers making the cross-country trek are Nick and Zac Wagman.
They started their 8,750-kilometre journey in Victoria, B.C. on May 13th and expect to be in St. John’s Newfoundland by the end of September to coincide with National Forest Week.
Along the way, the brothers have met with employers and students who are benefitting under PLT.
Zac Wagman says what they hear a lot from students is how passionate they are with their outdoor work.
“They tell us they’ve never been more excited than to get up and go to work in the morning and they’re learning more on the job than they are in school,” Wagman said.
He adds “many employers have told us the program has been instrumental in them hiring young people for the summer.”
Wagman also says employers tell them without the funding they would not have been able to hire the students or would not have been able to hire as many.
They expect to have met with about 100 employers by the time their nation-wide ride ends in a couple of months.
The journey for the brothers has been pretty good so far except for the strong headwinds they run up against from time to time as well as some hail and lightning.
Zac Wagman adds they’ve been chased by farm dogs on a few occasions and came within 10 feet of a grizzly bear while riding through Jasper National Park.
As for why make the journey on wooden bikes, Zagman says it’s another way to promote a green economy and adds the bikes are just as good as traditional bicycles.
Wagman says unloaded they only weight about five pounds.
But that jumps to about 60 pounds because the brothers are hauling all their gear which includes food supplies, clothing and tents.
As for the quality of the ride itself, Zac Wagman says it’s been great.
“The wood absorbs a lot of the vibrations when you’re riding so it’s an easier and smoother ride,” Wagman said.
The wooden bikes are made by Picolo Vélo, a Montreal company which Wagman says began making wooden-framed bikes about a year ago.
Wagman believes we’ll see more bikes made from wood in the future and he adds since they’re also laminated they can last as long as other bikes and help store carbon which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The bikes made by Picolo Vélo are from ash trees.