People-powered push for active transportation

FOR some, “valet service” conjures up images of people in uniforms parking expensive cars at posh parties. For a local organization, a valet service is a way to encourage active transportation.

Since 2010, Bicycle Valet Winnipeg has offered its services to local event promoters interested in reducing traffic and parking congestion.

The program works like a coat check for bicycles: people check their bikes into a secure compound and can retrieve it later with a claim ticket.

Bicycle Valet Winnipeg provides the equipment, setup and volunteers.

Guy Bonnetta volunteers with the program because it reflects his interest in cycling. “I enjoy talking and rubbing shoulders with other cyclists,” the 67-year-old says.

Now retired, Bonnetta got into cycling when Bike to Work Day was introduced in Winnipeg. (The 12th edition of the annual event ran June 17.) Intrigued by the idea, he decided to cycle the 15 kilometres to his job on campus at the University of Manitoba from his home in Charleswood. He enjoyed the commute, and began doing it regularly. “I really liked it,” Bonnetta says. “I just felt a lot more healthy.”

After he began cycling regularly, he joined Bike Winnipeg’s board.

Eventually, he started volunteering with the bike valet program.

One of his favourite experiences with it was volunteering at IG Field for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup games Winnipeg hosted. “It’s a big rush when everyone arrives at the same time and leaves at the same time, and you’ve probably got 500 bikes or more,” he says. “We were really running off our feet, and that was a lot of fun. The busier we are, the more enjoyable it is.” Bicycle Valet Winnipeg is scheduled to offer its services at a number of events throughout the year, including the MS Society of Canada’s Gimli bike tour, ManyFest and Nuit Blanche.

Crystal San Filippo, 11, also volunteers with the program.

“I help people fill out their tickets and then I keep all the (slips) in order,” says Crystal, whose aunt was involved with the program and recruited her to help. “It’s really fun.”

“I think that everybody dotes on (her),” says Karen San Filippo, Crystal’s grandmother. “She’s quite shy, or has been quite shy, so what we’ve noticed at bike valet is that she knows what she’s doing there, she has her job to do, and it’s really helped to make her more confident.”

Bicycle Valet Winnipeg has worked more than 20 events this year, including the Winnipeg Whiteout street parties, the Rise Up concert in Old Market Square and Canada Day at The Forks.

Volunteers also look after trailers, strollers, skateboards and more. The bike valet is always open to new volunteers, says Stephanie Chow, who runs the program. Anyone interested can email

“Amazing volunteers are essential to our service,” Chow says. “If (you) love festivals, bikes and being outdoors, there are many great opportunities.”

If you know a special volunteer, please contact