Only in Cochrane: Swim with Polar Bears, Ride Free Bikes

The town of Cochrane is one of a kind. Where else in the world can you swim with a polar bear, borrow a free bike, splash into a lake on a public slip n’ slide, and hammer out a tune on an outdoor piano? Soon, residents and visitors can add separated bike lanes to the must-see attractions that make this small town one of the most vibrant places in Northern Ontario. It’s always exciting to hear about new separated bike lanes, let alone ones being built in remote communities with 6,000 residents.

The proposed bike lane will help connect the commercial core along 6th Avenue to the Tim Horton Event Centre in the east side of town. The project is currently pending an engineering review, which will help mitigate any impacts on the existing road network.

Despite its small size and remote location, local leaders and elected officials continue to demonstrate what a community can achieve with the right leadership and a willingness to experiment. In 2014, 8 80 Cities worked with the Town of Cochrane to implement a free public bike share program, which led to an immediate spike in the number of people riding bikes. The program returned in the summer of 2015 with more bikes, and even more riders. Residents now have access to 50 free bikes located at five bike share stations throughout town.

Cochrane’s transformation to a bike-friendly town is a legacy of the Doable Neighbourhood Project, which was led by 8 80 Cities in 2013-2014. During the project, more than 400 residents provided nearly 800 ideas to enhance the walkability, bikeability, and vibrancy of public spaces in Cochrane. In addition to the bike share program, one idea that emerged was to build a waterslide along the beach of Lake Commando, which is located in the heart of Cochrane. The Town staff and volunteers got to work, and by July 2014 a public slip ‘n slide was built on a hill leading into the water. The town also partnered with CGV Builders and Scouts Canada to build and install twelve Free Little Libraries around town. Finally, this past summer, a pop-up piano was brought onto the streets of Cochrane for anyone to play.










In 2016, the Town’s Doable Neighbourhood Committee plans to launch a new pedestrian and cycling wayfinding system, and implement new beautification and placemaking efforts along 6th Avenue.

Keep an eye on Cochrane, and pay them a visit if you get a chance. You never know what might pop up next as they continue to bring the 8 80 principles to life in their streets, parks, and public spaces.

More info:
Hear JP Ouelette explain how Cochrane launched a free public bike share at the Doable City Forum in Chicago, June 2014.

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