Hans Moor, also known as Hans On The Bike, is an Ottawa cycling blogger who focuses on casual cycling and cycling infrastructure. We recently had a chance to catch up with him to learn more about his content and future plans as a content creator.
What is your channel called and what is it about?
My blog is called HansOnTheBike.com. I focus on casual cycling and cycling infrastructure in Ottawa and Gatineau, or what is sometimes called the National Capital Region of Canada. Think of commuting, 20-50 km casual day rides, local neighbourhood riding, bike rides with the kids, trips to the grocery store and the dentist to name but a few destinations.
When did you start it? What motivated you at the beginning?
I started the blog in 2009 when I was the president of Bike Ottawa. I wanted to push out more information and more diverse content on what other countries do to encourage cycling so I started writing under my own name. The media covers only so much unfortunately and not always in an unbiased way. It is often a bit click baity based and that doesn’t help. A blog gave me a bit more freedom on the content obviously.
Who were you inspired by? Any influences?
Marie LeMay, a former CEO of the National Capital Commission approached the Netherlands Embassy where I worked, asking for speakers on cycling infrastructure from The Netherlands. Around the same time, Paul Dewar, a former MP in Ottawa, organised a meeting on safer cycling in the city. After I attended that meeting, I got involved in cycling advocacy: different leads were coming together. But I really had never been involved in cycling, other than just cycling around and complaining about how bad the infrastructure was. So I needed to expand my knowledge rapidly.
In 2009 I started reading blog posts by Eric Darwin and Charles Akben Marchand, who wrote a lot about cycling and walking infrastructure as well as city regulations, transit and developments. They showed how you can leverage existing conditions and work with other people to make the city become friendlier for residents who don’t necessarily travel by car.
How would you describe your audience?
From the people I know who read my blog I would say my audience tends to be highly educated. There are business owners, people from the media, politicians, professors, researchers, woodworkers, health care workers, people from the high-tech industry, bike mechanics, you name it. They are from all age categories and fairly evenly spread across genders. They definitely have an interest in well-designed cities for everyone, in a healthy lifestyle, in our environment, in traffic safety and are very passionate about Ottawa. From my LinkedIn account posts, I can see that engineers, planners and the civil service like to read what I have to say. I can see quite a bit of professional interest from Toronto and Vancouver too.
What is your creative process? Do you have people who work with you?
There is not much of a process, to be honest. I write when I feel like it, sometimes once a month, sometimes twice. Writing a proper blog takes time as you have to check all your resources and references: I don’t fill the pages with musings. English is not my mother tongue so I spend quite some time correcting and rewriting and shifting content around. I try to use as many of my own photos as I can, which means I sometimes bike to the other side of the city just for a photo of a pedestrian bridge. When I am on holiday I am always keeping an eye out for interesting cycling content that people in Canada and the US might like. Usually, I produce a few posts about my latest cycling and hiking adventures in Europe after a visit. I don’t have people working for me.
How do you monetize your content? Do you also have another job?
I have never considered monetizing my blog. I write mostly to share news about casual cycling in Ottawa as we hardly have any media in the nation’s capital left anymore. I am also showing examples of how certain infrastructure solutions from abroad could easily be implemented here. I would have to write a lot more to make a few dollars. I am semi-retired after working at the Netherlands Embassy and I am now a bicycle tour guide for a cycling rental company on Sparks Street now. This is a great job because I hear all the awesome feedback from our visitors. People really love the cycling network here.
What is your favourite piece of content you have created?
Some posts are obviously better than others, but as I mentioned, I write for the fun of it so I never have to write fluffy stuff just to keep the readers coming. Recently I started to create maps for my blog. I am receiving more requests from people outside Ottawa who come to a conference and want to do an extra day or two of cycling. If you search online, it is quite hard to find proper material. It is usually the GPS apps that show people’s rides but they don’t give much context, if any. So I am creating in Inkscape custom overview maps of our region which show you where to go, and what you will see and I include a GPX file (in ‘Komoot’, an awesome app that focuses on nature and the environment you bike in rather than on speed, sweat and stamina) that you can upload in your app of choice or your Garmin tools.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
Before I write something, I do some research. I really enjoy that. I learn a lot, be it a historic rail track in Ottawa turned into an active trail, European School Streets, a cycling network on the fringes or an 800 km route gravel bike around the capital region. It can become pretty nerdy: cyclist infrastructure buffs can get excited about a curb cut! Sometimes that research leads you into a rabbit hole and you end up reading up on only vaguely related information you were looking for, but still super interesting. The best part is the awesome feedback that I receive. It is a bit weird to be recognised on the bike paths sometimes. People greet me: “Hey, Hans on the Bike, keep up the good work”. When I sit in my little office researching and typing away, I don’t always realise that hundreds of people actually read what I produce.
I can’t really think of bad things. Cycling advocacy can be pretty depressing sometimes, with the unfiltered comments on social media, but when I take a step back and read my old blogs and see what we have accomplished in the Capital region, I realise there has been lots of progress. Ottawa and Gatineau score quite high in the People for Bikes rankings for cities. People enjoy reading my blog and they do notice and mention the tongue-in-cheek humour that I mix in. I rarely get negative feedback, not even on Twitter. I don’t take myself too seriously and I think that helps in this crazy anger-infused social media era. I have received several awards, from the Mayor’s Office, the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (!) and even from the Governor General of Canada (the representative of the King of England), so really, nothing but good stuff to be honest. It has been an awarding and humbling journey.
What are your future plans for your channel?
I am hoping to increase my storytelling skills as I really have no professional experience in writing. I also want to expand my popular section with cycling maps. It is now by far the most popular part of my website. Eventually, I will have to upgrade to a better template for my website to highlight certain pages better. I am familiar with lots of software such as WordPress, Inkscape and Shotcut, but I can’t be bothered to go the video route. It just takes so much time.
Where can we follow you?
I keep my presence on social media limited, it takes too much of my time, but you can follow me here:
And of course, on the website (front page: sign up with your email account)
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Canadian content creator that you love?
I am always astounded about how many high-quality blogs are being written with text that never makes it to the newspapers. James Powell for example, writes highly interesting stories about Ottawa’s history.
Matt Pinder is a very engaged Ottawa citizen and traffic engineer who produces great content about traffic solutions.
Brian Smith writes about short bike tours in Ottawa, be it a route along homes designed by a certain architect, about homes cladded with a material called Insulbrick (TM) (fake asphalt brick cladding), free little libraries or a safe ride to the airport. People can put in requests for a route to a destination.
A very comprehensive site is Urbsite, about buildings and architecture in Ottawa. Very informative for me for my guided bike tour guides.
Finally, I follow a travel site by a retired couple who moved to Portugal from our neighbourhood in Ottawa (a professional writer with great photos on their blog).