Curator on two wheels

- Rachel Goldsworthy, coordinator, Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation, Gustavson School of Business

Bike to Work Week May 27–June 2

As soon as her cousin taught her to ride a two-wheeler on the bumpy lanes on her uncle’s farm, eight-year-old Mary Jo Hughes was hooked. She and her brother promptly started nagging their parents for a bike and when they got one—to share—they fought over who got to ride it to school.

Now, a few decades later, the director of the University of Victoria Art Collections doesn’t have to battle for the use of a bike and, unlike during her childhood in Ontario and her early career in Manitoba, she can ride every day if she wants. And she does.

In fact, the prospect of biking all year round was a big draw when she was considering a move to the coast from Winnipeg where snow, then melted snow, then sand make the roads miserable for cyclists from October until April. At least.

“I don’t ride in snow or [severe] wind,” she concedes, but otherwise she’s in the saddle every day. She even got rid of her car three years ago. That way, she says, she has no excuses, although her husband would be happier if she did; he’s nervous about her riding.

There are some roads that scare her, she admits, and calls herself an “avid but cautious” cyclist. She firmly obeys the rules of the road and has even taken other bikers to task for blowing through stop signs or red lights.

“I think that every cyclist who breaks the rules makes it harder for cyclists to be respected,” she explains.

She has a teenage daughter who, like all kids, learns by example, but Hughes can’t convince her to bike to class.

“It’s the hair thing,” she explains. Helmet head isn’t a good look in high school.

Hughes herself has a personal style that goes from office to bike to boardroom, and nobody has yet complained that arriving on two wheels is unprofessional. On the contrary, the most common comment she gets is, “Oh, I should ride my bike!”

As far as Hughes can tell, there aren’t many reasons not to saddle up. Victoria has a great climate and it’s often almost as fast to bike as to drive. Sometimes it’s faster.

One day, Hughes was on campus with a colleague who zipped out to her car immediately after their meeting, saying she wanted to be back at their offices at the Legacy Art Gallery in plenty of time for her next one. Hughes lingered and chatted with a few folks before unlocking her bike and heading downtown. She was at her desk at the gallery and halfway through her lunch before her colleague arrived.

And aside from any possible time savings (it takes her half an hour to get from downtown to campus and 20 minutes to make the reverse trip, thanks to gravity) she has more concrete reasons for riding.

“I do it for sustainability,” she says, “but also to keep fit.”

And if anything will keep the cardiovascular system in good trim, it’s a trip from her office in the sea-level Legacy Gallery to UVic—a journey she makes for meetings three or four times a week.

And on the days she doesn’t bike up to campus?

She goes to spin class, of course.

Registration open for Bike to Work Week

Registration for Bike to Work Week teams is now open at UVic regularly contributes over 40 teams in this regional event that celebrates cycle commuting and encourages new people to give it a try with the support of colleagues. Fun events and chances to win prizes happen all week, as well as cycle safety seminars. If you’d like to host a team or join a team, contact to find out more.


In this story

Keywords: cycling

People: Mary Jo Hughes

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