Why do you ride? I ride for a variety of reasons – mental health, physical health, for fun, to save money, and because it’s an easy and fun way to get around town.
At Cycle Hamilton, we’ve been asking this question for the last few days as a lead-up to Cycling Advocacy Week.
Perhaps you’ve seen the red bikes floating around town? With the Red Bike Project, led by our student partners from McMaster University’s Sustainable Future Project, we’ve put the question of #whyride out there to the Hamilton community.
Whether answering the question directly on the red bikes (keep your eyes out for them and add your feedback when you spot one), or via the #whyride hashtag on social media, we’ve heard from many Hamiltonians across the city about their reasons for riding, including:
- Because riding is fun!
- To travel in a healthy and sustainable way
- Because riding a bike is faster and more reliable than transit
- Because riding is a great form of exercise
- Because it’s one of the best ways to enjoy Hamilton
- To get to school and work
- To take a break from the car
- “Wind on my cheeks and in my hair makes me feel so free, it’s so fun.” – @Cindy_stranak
- Because it’s the best way to move forward
This is just a sample of the feedback we’ve received, but as this list shows, Hamiltonians have many answers to the question of #whyride.
These reasons, and many more, are why a number of cyclists and cycling organizations came together over the past few years to create a new organization – Cycle Hamilton – to build a strong community of friends, families, and organizations who want to work together for a healthy, safe, and sustainable cycling culture in Hamilton.
Cycling Advocacy Week
Starting Monday, November 7 and running until Saturday, November 12, Cycling Advocacy Week is our way of both celebrating the amazing cycling culture and infrastructure that we already have here in Hamilton, while also pushing us to consider how we can improve our cycling culture-as an organization, as a City, and as a community.
Celebrating Hamilton’s Cycling Culture
In terms of celebrating, there’s much to celebrate these days and we are the first to acknowledge the incredible steps made in recent years, such as:
- Hamilton Bike Share: The SoBi system isn’t even two years old, but for many of us it feels like those beautiful blue bikes have been part of Hamilton forever. SoBi has seen success well beyond what many imagined was possible in Hamilton, fostering a ridership of over 10,000 people and serving as a strong advocate for community building through programs oriented towards low income neighbourhoods and recent newcomers to Hamilton. Kudos to our friends at SoBi, the City, and Metrolinx for making bike a share a staple of our community seemingly overnight.
- Improved Cycling Infrastructure: After a strong outpouring of community support for safer cycling infrastructure, the City installed the Cannon St. Cycle track in 2014. More recently, new bike lanes on Charlton and Herkimer were installed, and the City recently revealed plans for new Bay St. bike lanes from the mountain to the waterfront. City staff and councillors deserve a great deal of credit for having the fortitude and vision to implement these projects.
- Growing Cycling Community: Groups like New Hope Bikes, Bike for Mike, SoBi, and the Hamilton Glowriders, along with numerous cycle shops throughout the city, continue to serve and foster a strong cycling community in Hamilton. These groups are taking leadership in both developing partnerships to provide safe riding skills and bikes to Hamilton youth while also organizing social rides and experiences to bring people together.
With all of this positive change happening, some might ask why is there a need for Cycling Advocacy Week? Or potentially even, why is there a need for Cycle Hamilton?
Despite all of the positive change happening in Hamilton, we can still do better-much, much better-than we are doing in terms of providing safe infrastructure, educating cyclists and drivers on what new lanes mean and how to share the road. Some examples of where we would like to see improvement include:
- Invest in Cycling Master Plan: City staff recently acknowledged that the City of Hamilton’s 20 year Cycling Master Plan, launched in 2009, is more likely to take 40 years at it’s current rate of implementation. The research Cycle Hamilton did into progress on the Cycling Master Plan (11% has been achieved though 35% of the timeline has elapsed), suggests that 40 years may be optimistic at best given the current investment the City is making in cycling (less than 50% of what staff identified as necessary to complete the plan in 20 years). We made recommendations to the City earlier this year regarding possible budget opportunities (including using a red light camera fund that is meant for road safety updates), though these recommendations have yet to be explored.
- Follow the Cycling Master Plan: We recently launched a Cycle Safe Sydenham petition, asking that the City include bike lanes as part of the City’s planned traffic calming on Sydenham Road, which identified as a priority for cycling lanes in the Cycling Master Plan.The City has responded by telling us that: A) the Cycling Master Plan was not used as a cross-reference when road work was being planned, even though it should have been; B) because the current roadwork is not actually repaving the road, bike lanes won’t be included; c) they acknowledge the plan to narrow the road and install bike sharrows on this route is more dangerous for cyclists than the current road without bike lanes; and d) that Sydenham is not a priority for bike lanes right now, as other Cycling Master Plan priorities in Dundas must come first.
In short, the City is not taking advantage of time, resources, and energy already being applied to a project, but rather is delaying any install of bike lanes for another 2-3 years. The kicker? Dundas has yet to see any cycling infrastructure as identified on the Cycling Master Plan installed since the plan launched in 2009.
- Be proactive rather than reactive: We’re ecstatic to see that the City will be installing a cycle track on the Claremont Access (another priority on the Cycling Master Plan), but the frustrating and upsetting reality is that this move came as the result of a cyclist – Jay Keddy, a teacher who worked downtown and lived on the mountain – being hit and killed last December. We can, and we must, do better.Those of us who choose to cycle – an increasing number these days, due in large part to the City’s own investment in SoBi and other infrastructure – deserve the right to get from point A to point B safely. All road users do. We would love to see the City get creative in finding ways to proactively improve our cycling infrastructure to work towards a goal of Vision Zero, the principle that no deaths on roads are acceptable, rather than reacting in the face of unnecessary tragedy.
To the City’s credit, we’re very glad to see Vision Zero being explored as a strategy to work towards safer streets for all (those interested in Vision Zero are invited to attend a City session on November 22).
So, why a need for Cycling Advocacy Week? Because we can, and we must, do better.
We’re hosting Cycling Advocacy Week not to point fingers, but to raise awareness and find some common ground so that Hamilton’s cycling community, the City of Hamilton, and residents throughout the City can engage in a positive and constructive discussion about what it means to truly commit to creating a safe, healthy, and sustainable cycling culture.
We have an incredible foundation to build on and we hope that Cycling Advocacy Week will serve as another step in the right direction.
Interested in getting involved?
Cycling Advocacy Week is taking place from November 7-12. Join the event page on Facebook to stay up to date or scroll down for information on specific events:
- TUESDAY: Viking Biking Like a Boss! This hands on workshop is Tuesday November 8 from 6-8 PM at 186 Hunter Street East (at Ferguson). Bring your bike so we can go over safety checks and best winter riding practices–just in time for the snow! Registration is required at the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/UUx6k8BQPI6xlnTI3. Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1822923784633047/
- WEDNESDAY: Die-In – Wednesday, November 9, 5:15pm-5:30 PM, City Hall. Meet in front of Hamilton City Hall for a group die-in, where we will gather as a group to raise awareness of the lack of safety on our roads and our continued calls for the City to adopt a Vision Zero policy–no deaths on our roads are acceptable. Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/590443457809376/
- WEDNESDAY: Annual General Meeting – Wednesday Nov 9, 6-8 PM, 294 James Street North: Join us to elect our first-ever board of directors, meet other Cycle Hamilton members, renew your membership, get an update on our work over the past year, and discuss plans moving forward. Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1867162633503356/
- THURSDAY: Lessons from Amsterdam – Thursday Nov 10 – 7-10 PM, Winking Judge: Join our advocacy chair, Benita van Miltenburg, as she shares experiences from her time living in Amsterdam and how Hamilton might learn from the city’s approach to cycling. Great opportunity for some informal discussion about cycling in Hamilton! Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/822056024601117/
- FRIDAY: Check out the bikes from the Red Bike Project on display in front of 294 James Street North for Artcrawl.
- SATURDAY: Cycle Safe Sydenham Ride – Saturday Nov 12 – Meet 12:45 at City Hall, Depart at 1pm: Join us for a group ride from downtown Hamilton to Dundas, where riders will have the option to cycle up Clara’s Climb (aka Sydenham Road), on the route where we are currently petitioning the City to include bike lanes as part of upcoming traffic calming work. We’ll end the ride at SHED Brewery (65 Hatt Street, Dundas) for a drink and to learn about our advocacy on this issue. Facebook event: [https://www.facebook.com/events/678629722303446/(https://www.facebook.com/events/678629722303446/)