GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

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.


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!

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