Comox Valley woman could win national contest with bicycle idea from France

Casey Watamaniuk's idea to develop a bicycle bank in the Comox Valley has earned her a crack at $5,000 in a national contest.

The Courtenay resident's project is dubbed Vélos.

It involves a central depot where old, unused and damaged bikes could be donated, repaired and distributed to the less fortunate members of the community who rely on their feet for transportation.

"It seems there's lots of bikes floating around that people either can't sell because bike shops wont take them back, or there's not as big a market for it as I think there probably should be in the Valley," said Watamaniuk, 18, a North Island College engineering student.

"I would like to see a lot more people biking around. We do have enough of a base where there are enough old bikes floating around."

Her idea was partly inspired by a trip to Paris in 2011. At every street corner, people could insert coins and rent a bike for the day.

"Why is that not implemented in Canada? That would be so convenient."

She has yet to decide whether Vélos could incorporate this option. For now, she's concentrating on the bike bank.

"It's so good for you, and it's fun," Watamaniuk said of cycling. "It doesn't take very long to get many places in the Valley. A bike is totally practical."

Watamaniuk is one of six finalists in the Start Something with Alesse contest, which empowers young Canadians to articulate their goals, and to receive mentoring and financial support to start something unique.

The contest drew hundreds of entries from entrepreneurial types across the country.

Until Feb. 17, people can vote once a day for their favourite idea at

Two winners will receive a $5,000 grant to get started with their project. They will also be paired with a mentor in a related field to provide guidance on their project needs.

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