Magnificent Magnolias on a Magnificent Ride!

magnolia ride forsey 2This year’s Magnificent Magnolia Ride held on Saturday May 7, was truly a sight to behold.  Not only were the Magnolia trees magnificent, but the number of people who came to ride was splendid as well.

magnolia ride forsey 1Organized by the Guelph Hiking Club and advertised as a part of the weekend’s series of Jane’s Walks, the ride this year drew in 55 people, ranging in ages from 1 to 70 something. Participants rode through mainly quiet residential streets, admiring the 50+ Magnolia trees along the way. Organizer Ned Coates,  inspired the riders with his love and knowledge of Magnolia trees.  20160507_134729_resizedAs well, Lise Burcher, from the school of environmental design and urban development at the University of Guelph landscape planning, gave a talk at her home, explaining that she actually chose to purchase the house she lives in partly because of the beautiful Magnolia tree adorning her front yard.

IMG_2830Another highlight was the garden party held at Bob and Anna’s on Arthur Street North.  Riders enjoyed cucumber cream cheese sandwiches on pink and green bread, as well as tea and other treats.  A great end to a great afternoon.

20160507_134705_resizedPrizes were awarded to Best Dressed, won by Ruth Tabata, Most Outlandish, won by Richelle Forsey, and best spring pants won by Victoria Coates.  Thank you to Speed River Cycle, Goldie Sherman pottery and Wike for the great prizes.

Come join us for a Magnificent Magnolia Ride on May 7!

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Magnificent Magnolia Ride, May 7, 1pm-3:30 pm
Come join The Guelph Hiking Club for a free, casual bike ride to kick off Spring and enjoy the Magnificent Magnolia trees in blossom. We will ride about 12km and visit several Magnolia trees and other spring blossoms in and around Downtown Guelph.  We will be riding mainly on quiet residential streets and trails. Make sure you pack your camera and get some beautiful shots!
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For added fun, we’re having a costume contest to brighten the day.  There will be prizes for: The Best Dressed Cyclist, The Most Outlandish Ensemble, and The Best Spring Bonnet, so get your best outfit ready!
The trip will begin at Speed River Bicycle at 135 Wyndham St. N. at 1pm and end on Arthur Street N., for a free garden party where refreshments will be served. There will also be lemonade along the way!
Prizes and refreshments courtesy of Speed River Bicycle, Wike, Goldie Sherman Pottery and Guelph Coalition for Active transportation.
Helmets are encouraged.
For more information, please contact activeguelph@gmail.com or wendygates243@gmail.com

 

 

 

James Gordon, Musician, City Councillor, Commuter Cyclist

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A few weeks ago, I caught up with James Gordon , City Councillor for Ward 2, who was bike riding to a gig with a guitar on his back. I knew that he was a very interesting guy, and thought I would get his perspective on cycling in Guelph. He was kind enough to do an interview with me. Here are some of the issues we discussed.

Why is riding a bike important to you?

I’ve been a musician my whole adult life. I tour by car. It feels like I drive for a living. The lifestyle of non- stop touring is pretty brutal on the body. You work for a few hours then get back in the car. It has become extra important to me personally, when not on the road, to keep the car in the driveway. The physical activity is important to me.

How has riding a bike changed your relationship with your community?

I connect with my surroundings more readily while on a bike. I’ve become more accessible; people stop me when I’m on my bike. Some people want to talk about my vintage bike. I think that since I and the bike are recognizable, it does make it a conversation starter.

Regularly riding a bike around Guelph has also been an awareness raiser for my job on council. Now, when issues come up related to bike trails and bike paths, I know what people are talking about. Near my place on Dufferin St. for example, at first I didn’t like that they paved the Trans-Canada Trail and put a big fence by the tracks, but now I realize that it does make an efficient bicycle highway. The TCT is an enabler for active transportation. It increased my awareness of its value.

What are the factors involved in deciding to use a car or a bike?

As a musician, I am usually lugging around sound equipment, so I need a car for this. I bike more now that my car died; only my wife has a car. For now, I’m seeing what it’s like to not get a new one. I now rent a car when I tour, and so far it seems to be a better deal than owning one.

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What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?

Almost everywhere I cycle in Guelph, I become aware how inadequate bike safety is. So I sometimes take the sidewalks when I don’t feel like there is a safe option. In Guelph, we should have options so that you don’t feel like you have to go on the sidewalk to avoid getting killed. Also, with my 3 speed, the hills are hard!

Also, when my mother was in the hospital, and needed help, I noticed that I was limited on a bike by what I can carry and what I can get to.

Were there fears you had about city biking in the beginning that have been disproved? Any that have been proven valid?

I actually had a bike accident 10 years ago when I wasn’t a consistent helmet user. I was blown off the road by a transport on Elmira Road. I landed on my helmet and I lost a tooth. Now, I know better that you’ve got to watch out, and you’ve got to wear a helmet.

Do you find yourself trying to convert non-cyclists to utilitarian cycling?

I’m not that zealous about it. I do it by example. For instance, when there are council meetings, my bike is often the only one there, though councillors Allt and Hoffland often bike, and Mayor Guthrie rode his bike in a couple of times.

What kind of bike do you ride?

It’s a Raleigh Superbe, and it’s 40 years old. It still has the sticker of Forum Sports on Wyndham Street. As a Guelph history buff, it means a lot to me.

There is a cool story behind this bike. The bike was given to me by my dad when I was a teenager. Later, it was given back to me by my own kids after they fixed it up.

I notice that since I really like my bike, I bike a lot more. It suits my personality. I like how I can sit up on the bike rather than lean over. Having a great bike is like having a beautiful musical instrument. If you have a beautiful instrument, you will play it more.

It was a free bike and that was important too!

How would you respond to people who feel a car is just safer?

I think that I have a particular perspective, being on the road so much. It can be really dangerous riding a car. For example, especially in the US, there is a real macho car culture. It is very common to see a guy with his SUV, 4 wheel drive, think he is invincible. People like that get into accidents all the time. When on a bike, I am constantly aware of my surroundings and am very careful.

In Europe where they figured out the bike, they don’t have to have to wear helmets because they are safer riders and they have better infrastructure.

What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?

I think that in order for us to spend our energies on bike safety and make things more inviting, we have to reach a critical point where people think this car thing is no longer the best option. So far, only very aware activists think this way.

Ten years ago, the price of gas went up, so people were looking for options. Now, there is gridlock, so people often don’t get to work on time if they use the car.

Another point of advocacy is getting off consumerism. You don’t get any traction trying to get people to spend less. But if you get them to look at other communities, you see that switching to bikes is not a sacrifice. Now that we are getting bike infrastructure, it is no longer a valid argument that it is not good to go by bike.

As well, we need more people recreational cycling so that they can see that commuter cycling can be done. Car culture is so entrenched that we don’t even know that that we legally have a right to share the road. If you think that you are in the way of cars, you haven’t shifted your thinking.

What are the top 5 five things you think people get out of utilitarian cycling?

Cardiovascular exercise, community connection, the satisfaction of lowering your carbon footprint, having an economic advantage. Also, an urban biker feels more connection with nature than a car driver.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?

When you actually get on the bike, you can find your own comfort level. You will know what you can do and can’t do. Find that comfort zone. Do what you can, then work yourself up to greater distances if you want.

What kind of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure would you like to see on York Road?

This design study is an opportunity to really think about what kind of bike/pedestrian infrastructure we want.

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York road east of Victoria Road. Please click on image for clearer view.

York Road between Victoria Road and Watson Road, is undergoing an Environmental design study, The purpose of the study is to improve the road for all users….those who drive cars, trucks, ride bikes, or use their sneakers to get around.

To save time and money, the original Environmental Assessment that was done in 2007, is being used to determine the design for the road.  This design will impact road use for the next several decades, so a closer look at the details are in order.

Here are the design improvements that are listed on the website:

  • Widening York Road from two to four traffic lanes
  • Adding a bicycle lane (1.5 metres wide), sidewalk, curb and gutter on the north side
  • Adding a bicycle lane (1.5 metres wide) and shoulder on the south side of York Road
  • Adding sidewalk, curb and gutter from Victoria Road to the Elizabeth Street intersection, and from the entrance at 919 York Road to the eastern City limits
  • Adding traffic lights at the intersection of York Road and Elizabeth Street, adding a southbound left turn lane and realigning Elizabeth Street to meet York Road at 90 degrees (perpendicular)
  • Closing the Beaumont Crescent entrances onto York Road (properties along Beaumont Crescent and Cityview Drive will access York Road via Elizabeth Street)

How is York Road being used now?

This section of York Road is unique.  It serves a purpose for just about everybody.

  • It serves as Highway 7 to get cars and trucks in and out of Guelph.

    https://i1.wp.com/media.zuza.com/5/e/5ee6943b-92db-42bd-aeac-de861c0d5b05/bb078c37428f97730e09a166417d_Content.jpeg?resize=360%2C237

    A gift to the city: Prison labour created much-loved ponds off York Road (Guelph Mercury)

  • It serves as a gateway to Guelph from Guelph-Eramosa Township.  Along the way, it passes alongside a “Provincially Significant” heritage property, known as the Ontario Reformatory, including a heritage stone wall constructed by the inmates. It is also home to some beautiful parkland, a couple of relaxing small ponds, and the scenic Clythe Creek.
  • This section of York Road will also host a commercial district located between Victoria and Elizabeth Street.
  •  York Road is also a gateway to the booming east end development that will significantly increase the density of the area.  While that means more vehicle traffic, it will (hopefully) increase foot traffic and bike traffic as well.

Bike lane as painted line, or is it time for something better?

So, how should we accommodate people on bikes in the area?

A painted line, as is currently planned,  is better than no bicycle infrastructure, for sure.  I ride on roads with painted bike lanes, but I admit to getting a little nervous riding beside big trucks, especially on a windy day.

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An example of a multi-use path.

Now, what would stop the city from considering a multi-use path, particularly on the south side of York Road? There are almost no driveways to speak of to make it dangerous for bikes. A multi-use path in this location would allow for a scenic, pleasurable bike ride or stroll beside the creek or parkland. Right now, no pedestrian infrastructure is included on this side of York Road, so a multi use path could be considered for both.

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An example of some “fresh kermit.”

The north side of York Road is a bit trickier to fit a multi-use path as there are more driveways. How about buffered lanes instead of just a painted line? Coloured demarcations aka “fresh kermit” paint could be of use too.

These issues are always complex and there are no easy answers. But at least we can let the City know that people on bikes and in sneakers want to ride and walk in safety and comfort. In so doing, road congestion can be reduced by riding and walking  instead of driving.

Perhaps you can help with your own creative suggestions for accommodating cycling and walking on this stretch of road!

Have your say

Please add your voice to this discussion in the comments.  Better yet, please come to the open house on Feb 23 at City Hall, 6-8pm.  If you can’t do that, follow the link to the bottom for other alternative to add your voice. http://guelph.ca/living/environment/environment-planning/environmental-assessments/york-road-environmental-design-study/

 

 

 

 

Woodlawn MUP to be extended in 2016

Have you been on the Multi-Use path on Woodlawn yet? Pretty cool indeed.  To see the side of Woodlawn Road go from an undignified goat path to a brand new, 10 foot off road “shared roadway” is like a cyclist’s/pedestrian’s/transit user’s dream. The area currently covered is from Nicklin Avenue to Silvercreek Parkway.  The even better news is that is going to be extended.

Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation and other individuals attended budget meeting after budget meeting explaining the importance of providing safer passage for individuals on this road.  With over 100 businesses, workplaces, restaurants, etc. on this busy stretch of road, it was mind boggling to see that the only people given proper access to these places were motorists.  Because of consistent public pressure, council decided to build to first phase in 2015, and actually extend it in 2016.  This year, the path will be built from Silvercreek Parkway to Imperial, crossing the Hanlan.

This stretch will be more complicated.  Storm water drainage, culverts and retaining walls will have to be constructed.  The city is budgeting $1.5 million dollars for this section, which also includes crossing the Hanlan Expressway.  A public open house will be held in the Spring, advising the public of the construction.

This project shows what can be done when individuals stand up and express their views on making Guelph more equitable, sustainable, and offering people transportation choices.  The real work in any city begins when citizens become engaged in making their city a better place to live.

The Transformative Power of Walking

The transformative power of walking

Guelph Mercury

Winter will soon be here, and for me, it is the season where I put my bike away, put on my warm winter boots, mitts, down coat and very long scarf, and start walking to the 3.5 kilometres to work. After reading “Born to Walk, The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act,” by Dan Rubenstein, I feel extra good about my choice of commuting by foot. There are so many benefits to walking, it’s mind boggling that it has not become a national pastime.

In his book, Rubenstein elegantly extols the benefits of walking from several perspectives. He amply describes how walking benefits not only the body, but also the mind, society, the economy, politics, creativity, spirit, and family. I’ll highlight some of these important ideas.

First of all, as Rubenstein states, walking normalizes the workings of the body. Humans were meant to keep active. It is not new news that walking protects us from obesity, coronary disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. However, I had never thought about the thousands of interdependent internal mechanisms that keep us walking, and why they are crucial to our health. For example, our bodies contain synovial fluid, which is a yolk-like liquid in our knees, hips, ankles and shoulders. When we move, this “human motor oil” supplies oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and becomes more easily absorbed by cartilage. Without this cycle, the cartilage deteriorates, and our joints don’t operate as they should. This is but one example of why we need to keep moving.

A regular walking regimen might also be prescribed to ward off or to treat mild to moderate depression. I can personally attest to this benefit of walking, as my morning stroll definitely transforms me from a grumbly bear upon awakening, to a cheerful person by the time I start my work day. During my walk, I might mentally work through some problems I’m experiencing. Other times, I feel a sense of awe and wonder when enjoying the crisp wind on my face, or when witnessing the morning frost clinging to the trees.

Society itself also benefits when cities are designed to be pedestrian friendly. When we have meaningful places to walk to, we walk more, and in turn, we have more opportunities for casual encounters. These encounters help us develop a sense of belonging in our community. Walking also gives us opportunities to see or interact with people we don’t normally engage with in our work, or who aren’t part of our social circle. A walk downtown, for example, might remind us that there are fellow citizens out there who have lives that are much more difficult than our own. It is important to be reminded of this reality in order to feel more compassion toward the disadvantaged in our city.

Walking also contributes to a city’s economic viability, as property values are now increasing in walkable neighbourhoods that are close to useful amenities. Housing prices in areas with a good “Walk Score” remain much more stable during housing bubbles and real estate market shifts. Cities that have inviting, mixed use, walkable city centres draw people in to spend their money. These days, consumers are just an Amazon click away from a desired product. To entice people to spend locally instead, personal customer attention is key to staying afloat in the retail and restaurant business. Most small downtown businesses enjoy the pedestrian activity and offer these important perks.

I will end with comments from my favourite chapter in “Born to Walk.” Rubenstein leads us to consider how a walk with a friend or a family member can strengthen bonds. Many of us find it difficult to maintain eye contact while discussing a painful subject with a loved one. Rubenstein has a poetic way of describing how a walk together can ease this discomfort. “Alongside a friend or relative, or even casual acquaintance, your footfalls can settle into an unconscious synchronicity — an indicator of social interaction … Simultaneously soothed and stimulated by the motion, you are primed to open up, and to listen to what someone else has to say. An intimacy develops — between lovers or siblings or pals, or between parent and child but also a maturation of the relationship between you and your surroundings.”

Wow. I knew walking was good for me, but I didn’t know just how powerful the act of putting one foot in front of the other really is. Now I know. If you still need inspiration, read the book. You will surely be inspired to experience the transformational power of a walk as well.

Yvette Tendick is a member of the Guelph Mercury Community Editorial Board.

Another Award for GCAT at the Guelph Community Santa Parade!

This year’s Guelph Community Santa Parade was a great success.  With the balmy weather, it attracted more families in Guelph than ever.

And, for the second year in a row, GCAT got a parade award.  This year, we won “Best Community/Non-Profit” Award.  That made us happy.

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But what made us happier was the number of people that participated. Last year, we had about 10 people. This year, we had 25.

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We also had a greater variety of participants, but with a surprisingly common theme…canoes!  We had Mr. and Mrs. Canoehead, (Ned Coates and partner Goldie Sherman) as well as Suzanne Gates and Bob Bell pulling canoes with their bikes….showing that you can truly do anything on a bike!

We also had more families participate.  Some who regularly ride their bikes and wanted to show Guelph what is possible.

IMG_20151115_131637Two suggestions were made for next year’s parade:  we need musical accompaniment (in the form of a boom box and theme related music), and more walkers.  Getting around on foot is important too.

To me, this Guelph Community Parade illustrated just what a sense of community can be developed through making it easier for people to participate actively in their community.  Most people love riding bikes, so it is hoped that the City of Guelph will continue to “step up to the plate” and make it easier for ordinary people to get around the city by bike safely. IMG_2174Not just to race, not just to be in nature, but also to get their daily needs accomplished:  going to work, visiting friends, picking up a thing or two at the grocery store, going to the dentist.  We need safe bike infrastructure for this to happen.

It can be done.  Lets do it!IMG_20151115_132041

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Bill Barrett, co-owner of Planet Bean and Cycle Commuter

IMG_20150817_103007Why is riding a bike important to you?

I’ve always ridden a bike. I was born a cyclist; I didn’t become one. I’ve always worked within proximity to where I live. I was born on the hills and have never really owned a car. I co-owned one for a while but I have never actually owned a car.

I think that my community is not keeping up with my bicycle. I always cycled in town and the bicycle seems to be unappreciated now. I’ve seen the city grow immensely over my time here. I am disappointed that more cycling infrastructure hasn’t been created. I’ve been to places where cycling has had more prominence.  Montreal, Ottawa, Holland, for example.  I also lived in Sapporo, Japan, and had a bicycle there. Lots of people rode bicycles even with the similar climate to ours.

Where do you go on the bike?

To work and home.  Mostly commuting.  I do like to go for a ride on a summer afternoon.

When do you use the car? What are the factors involved in deciding which to use?

I am a member of Community Car Share. In fact, I am one of the people who started the car co-op 15 years ago so that I could own a car with 15 other people. Mostly, it’s work related . I live close to Dublin Street United Church, so the downtown ones are handy

What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?

Besides the hills, it is the absence of infrastructure that offers safe bicycle commuting.  It’s spotty.

Were there fears you had in the beginning that have been disproved?

I haven’t been hit yet, knock on wood!

Do you find yourself trying to convert non-cyclists or recreational cyclists to commuting? What factors do you see determining whether these folks remain committed drivers or give bikes a try?

I don’t proselytise, it’s not a religious thing for me. I think bicycle is the most amazing invention. Fire was good. The wheel too. The bicycle is an amazing piece of engineering, both by in terms in of its use in transportation and the pleasure that you get from that efficiency. So what I have done, and am happy to do, is help when asked.  I was asked to teach someone’s kid how to ride a bicycle. They asked me because they saw me ride a bicycle. That’s how I encourage people is by riding myself:  It’s not a conscious thing, it just makes sense to me. Fossil fuels are useful but terrifying.

How did you come to your current bike set-up? How does it work?

I’m a co-op nerd and I’m also interested in finding ethically sourced things. There is a worker co-op called Urbane Cycle and they had the most ethically sourced bicycle that I could find in my price range.  It’s called an “Urbanite”. Its not fancy; it’s not a racing bike or a mountain bike; it’s just comfortable to ride.

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How would you respond to people who feel a car is just safer?

Well if you’re in it, it is. But if you extrapolate that safety to humanity in general, and look at the consequences of the unbelievable use of automobiles around the world, you are living a fantasy because the feeling of safety is false. The damage that the infrastructure causes, and how cars impact the global ecology, as well as the damage to human lives, far outweighs  the advantages of driving. The bicycle is a beautiful technology; it is both creative and efficient.

What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?

I think, realistically, autos have to be too expensive and oil has to be too expensive. That would create a need to make alternatives more viable, such as car share, biking etc.

I think there is a marked increase in aggressive driving, and not just in relation to the bicycle.  People get angry in the car; It is far too fast.

Describe your commute.

Across downtown.  Oxford to Woolwich and  left on York and up Stevenson then Victoria. Everything’s fine until Victoria. At that point, I just use the sidewalk.

What is the best part of your commute?


The first part through town. Through the quiet streets

What is the worst part of your commute?


Victoria.  It’s only for 150 metres but it’s terrible.

IMG_20150817_102729What infrastructure change would make your commute better?

It would be nice to have bike lanes or bike paths on Victoria. Victoria is like Speedvale. If you’re gonna have bikes you need to have separate paths for cyclists. When cars are going that fast it’s hard to co-mingle.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?

Have fun!

Public input from GCAT public meeting, Oct. 14

GCAT - Open Meeting - 2015There was good attendance at the public meeting on Oct. 14.  The group was diverse, from high school age to seniors.  All were interested in getting around the city using healthy transportation.

Xander Huggins, an engineering student at University of Guelph, welcomed the audience and thanked Planet Bean for the use of their space.  He then gave the audience in introduction of Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation. He spoke about some of our goals.

  • Establishing partnerships with local organizations and residents
  • Organizing community events and engagement via social media
  • Increasing cycling modal split to 6% by 2022
  • Advocacy for increased on and off road connections in the city, with the Cycling Master plan and the Active Transportation Network plan as our guide.

Yvette Tendick, president of GCAT, spoke about has happened in the last two years with GCAT. She spoke about the events we hosted or sponsored, such as

  • The Magnolia Ride,
  • Riverside Cycling and a Pint,
  • Two Active Transportation parades,
  • Discussion of the movies “Bike City, Great City,” “The Human Scale”, and “Bikes vs. Cars”.
  • “Happy City” book club
  • Santa Claus parade entry “You can do anything on a bike

She also spoke some advocacy that took place this year.

  • bike lanes re-instated on Downey Road,
  • Speedvale reconstruction
  • underpass under Speedvale Bridge
  • a Woodlawn Multi-use path
  • Active Transportation network study.

Justin Hall from the City of Guelph spoke about the Active Transportation Network Study and other city initiatives.

Bryan McPherson rounded off the evening about future directions of the group.

  • GCAT to become incorporated in 2016.  This will help us in 3 ways:  give us credibility, increase our profile, and allow us to apply for community grants related to GCAT initiatives
  • Will continue representing a community voice at City delegations and meetings with City staff
  • Increase GCAT profile & build our volunteer base
  • Will continue organizing bike rides, movie nights, book talks and other AT events.
  • Revisit our strategic plan – establish priority areas for AT infrastructure improvements.  Improve our understanding of the municipal process in decision making, work with likeminded organizations to represent a unified community voice to better facilitate AT priorities.
  • Facilitate a ‘pop up’ installation related to AT design *
  • Promote the reinstatement of GotBike
  • Website & blog, facebook, twitter enhancements – continue posting media related to local, national & international AT initiatives).  Potential for interactive mapping application.

Public input:  Here were some comments from the public:

  • Need for education in high schools about benefits of cycling.. So far, the only focus in from CELP and HEADWATERS programs, need a wider focus. We need to get off of environmental focus and relay that cycling = Freedom!
    • peer role models from university would help with this
  • Motorist education also needed so that they realize that bikes belong on the road
  • Flags on the side of the bike are a great way to remind motorists about new 1 metre law
  • Guelph should consider modeling a program after Wisconsin to stem the bike thefts happening in Guelph, where bait bikes with GPS are put out to catch criminals.  GCAT has been in contact with Guelph police over this initiative
  • We need more workplace support-showers, bike racks
  • Parking Study currently done by city of Guelph.  Contact Transportation Demand manager to let them know that there is a demand for more cycle parking in Guelph
    • City hall employees should be encouraged to cycle rather than park.  A financial incentive would be best.
    • incentivize businesses to get employees to come to work by bike
  • Active Transportation Network Study-will be at Farmer’s Market on Oct. 31 –looking for input on what kinds of network is preferable
  • We need better traffic signs and education. Examples include priority crossing, bike boxes, etc..

So that’s it, folks!  What else would you like to see happening with Active Transportation in Guelph?

Santa parade shows what you can do on a bike!

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“You can do anything on a bike!”

Welcome to Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation’s (GCAT) theme for this year’s Guelph Community Santa Claus parade, taking place on Sunday, November 15.  We are adopting the same theme as last year’s parade because we didn’t want to mess with a good thing.

We must have done something right last year, because GCAT won the “Best Overall Walking Entry” award. Not bad for our first try.

GCAT’s mission is to increase the quantity, quality, safety and fun of Active Transportation in Guelph.  We promote cycling and walking through advocacy and fun events, such as neighbourhood parades and cycle rides that end with food and drink. We also encourage City Council to improve biking and walking infrastructure in the city in order to provide residents with a wider variety of healthy transportation options.

You may be wondering why we decided on the theme “You can do anything on a bike” for last year’s Santa parade. Well, partly, it was just for fun.  We just wanted to see what kind of costumes the participants would come up with.  Sure enough, people showed up in a variety of imaginative costumes.   I cycled in a wedding dress, and others showed up in dapper suits.  One guy cycled with a canoe on his head. (From now on, Ned Coates will be affectionately known as Mr. Canoehead!)  Another participant transported skis by bike, while another dressed as a chef, carrying a large mixing bowl in his hand the whole time! One woman cycled in a robe with a towel wrapped around her hair as if she had just stepped out of the shower.  A French woman came wearing a beret, and cycled with a baguette and cheese in her wicker picnic basket.  The crowd was delighted, and so were we.

The theme “You can do anything on a bike” was also chosen because it addresses the important issue of mobility in a fun way.  Many people feel that riding a bike limits their ability to do things….like carrying objects, getting from A to B without looking a mess or needing a shower. GCAT is working to convey the message that while there are barriers to everyday cycling, with a little imagination, many of these barriers can be addressed.

I really enjoy riding my bike, so I am fortunate to be able to choose my bike for transportation about 95% of the time, including my daily commute to work. By exercising in the fresh air, I’m able to burn off excess nervous energy which in turn makes me calmer and more reflective. My husband and I use the car when we go on long trips (such as when visiting family at Thanksgiving), and when we do our bi-monthly grocery trips for bulk items.  But generally I’m pretty good at choosing the bike, even when I have a load to carry.

I use panniers on my bike for weekly grocery shopping, for work, and for picking up odds and ends. These panniers are a game changer in my effort to use the bike for more than just an object for recreation.

Other times, I have to be creative when transporting more challenging items.

I remember making a lasagna dish for a potluck a few months ago. However, I had no idea how I would transport the large dish on my bike.  The shape of the pan meant that I would have to carry it on its side in a pannier, which would make the lasagna spill out.  I considered transporting the lasagna by car for this reason.  But then I thought, do I really need a 2 ton vehicle just to carry a lasagna 4 kms away? Other people have figured out how to transport their young children by bike; surely I can transport a lasagna dish. Finally, I managed it with the help of my bicycle back rack, a box and bungee cords.  There.  Job done.

When I was in Holland a couple of years ago, I saw people carry all sorts of things with their bikes.  They hauled their friends, large guitars, athletic equipment, luggage, you name it, all while riding their bikes.  Of course it is safer to ride there, as they have protected bike lanes and sturdier bikes, but it still opens up the possibilities of what can be done with some will and imagination.

Now it’s your turn. Maybe you want to show the parade audience that “you can do anything on a bike” as well.  If so, grab a costume and come join GCAT on November 15.  It will be great fun! Please contact activeguelph@gmail.com for rules of entry and for further information.  If you can’t join, please come out and enjoy the Guelph Community Santa Claus parade. Maybe you’ll get some ideas of what you can do on a bike!