Cyclists are all in this together. We need to find ways to leverage positive change where we can, in a way that benefits as broad a section of the community as possible.
By Andrew Iler
Published September 16, 2011
Having a connected series of bike lanes and dedicated bike paths is an asset for any community - no question!
Over the past few years, far too many cyclists, young and old, have been seriously injured or killed on Hamilton roads and around southern Ontario. These are tragedies that send chills through the cycling community and through those who care about safe streets and roadways.
I find it amazing that the last version I looked at of the MTO's Driver's Manual had sections about how to handle driving situations around animals and debris on the road, but nothing about how to share the road safely with cyclists.
The City of Hamilton has been working hard through its Cycling Committee to address safety concerns and accessibility around the City by bike.
Hamilton has been extremely progressive and successful with respect to cycling, specifically in the hiring of an alternative transportation manager, through the adoption of a cycling master plan and a budget for cycling infrastructure, and with a number of successful cycling-related events.
These are all amazing accomplishments and these advancements absolutely have added to the quality of life in the City for kids, commuters, competitive cyclists, and for visiting cyclists.
The City Cycling Coordinator's position did not exist before Hamilton hosted the 2003 World Cycling Championships. This event, and the high-profile nature of the competitors, did a lot to elevate the profile of the sport of cycling and cycling as a recreational activity.
It inspired thousands of youth and adults. A number of young kids watching those Championships, who never thought about cycling as an athletic outlet, were so inspired that they are now competing on Canada's National Cycling Team.
By the way, the World Championships also made money for the City.
I can say from my perspective running almost daily group rides out of the Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster, that at first, most of the vehicular traffic in the area did not appear to be pleased with have to pass groups of 6-15 young cyclists.
However, once the athletes started to gain recognition for their achievements and the public gained an appreciation for what was happening at the Centre, the attitudes quickly changed from impatience to applause.
People recognized that some of the riders might become Canada's next Olympians or World Champions. We started to get waves of encouragement instead of middle fingers and horns.
The fact is that all cyclists are in this together, whether they be commuters, couriers, racers, or kids riding around the neighbourhood.
We need to find ways to leverage positive change where we can, in a way that benefits as broad a section of the community as possible.
I strongly believe that a successful velodrome with active, vibrant and mainstream youth and community cycling programs, standing alone and feeding high-performance programs will allow for significant progress in increasing awareness about cycling and it will allow for a further development of other essential cycling infrastructure.
You only need to look at Portland, Bogota, Melbourne, Copenhagen, and now pretty much anywhere in the U.K. to understand the benefits of working on both ends of the cycling community.
All of these cities have very successful cycling facilities for recreational, commuter and competitive cyclists. It took all of the various sectors of the sport, working together to achieve their successes.
Remember: we are all in this together.
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