In 2018, the Town of Waterloo was awarded, for the first time, a bronze level VÉLOSYMPATHIQUE certification, positioning itself as the first municipality in the Haute-Yamaska MRC and 3rd municipality in the Eastern Townships to receive this recognition.
Launched by Vélo Québec in 2015, the VÉLOSYMPATHIQUE movement is inspired by the Bicycle Friendly America program, created in 1980 by The League of American Bicyclists, and implemented by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition in Ontario since 2010 and in the rest of Canada since 2020. It is a program that encourages communities and organizations to make cycling a real transportation and recreation option for all.
According to a press release, communities wishing to join the VÉLOSYMPATHIQUE movement fill out a comprehensive questionnaire to describe their initiatives in the five areas essential to the development of a true bicycle culture: Environment, education, encouragement, support, evaluation and planning. The applications are then evaluated by a committee composed of experts working in the fields of health, environment and urban planning.
Among the successes that Vélo Québec highlighted in Waterloo achieving this recognition were the special efforts made in terms of education, winter maintenance of the network, the large budget devoted to the development of cycling in the area, and the sustained efforts of the municipality and the community since the first application.
“In Waterloo, we feel that cycling is a real asset to the quality of life of its citizens and a tourist attraction that is promoted at every opportunity. It is remarkable to see a municipality of this size dedicate resources to clearing snow from its bicycle network. It’s a sign that Waterloo understands the benefits of cycling for its residents year-round. It’s a great inspiration for all the neighboring cities,” stated Jean-François Rheault, president and CEO of Vélo Québec.