GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

Profile of Maggie Laidlaw, City Councillor for Ward 3 and everyday cyclist in Guelph

Why is riding a bike important to you?

It is important to me because it benefits the environment and my health.


How has it improved your life?

  • Financially it is much, much cheaper to own a bike rather than a car. You use your own energy rather than fossil fuel energy.
  • It keeps weight and blood pressure within normal range, which can prevent diabetes.
  • It’s also aesthetically pleasing.  Since they temporarily blocked off the McCrae bridge bicycle route, I now cycle through Royal City Park, which is beautiful.  
  • I get to say good morning to people on my bike.  I feel more a part of my community.  
  • Emotionally, it lifts my spirits.  It keeps me fully awake and ready to go when I start work.

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

Canadian winters and bike lanes covered with snow! I still commute in the winter but I do it with difficulty when I have only a narrow strip of road on which to ride.

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

I started biking as an adult.  My first trip was biking across Canada, which is how I met my cycling husband!
I have learned to always be wary of traffic.  I actually check for texters in my rear-view mirror.  I can tell they are texting when they stall at a traffic light even though it turns green.  If I am sure they are texting, I report them to the police.

What is your current bike set-up?

I have a commuter bike which is a regular hybrid bike.  I have a foldable travelling bike that fits into a suitcase and my off-road bike and my recumbent.  We have two tandems and a foldable tandem.

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

More people are killed in cars than on bikes, even when considering deaths and injuries by percentage. Look at all the car recalls and the damage they do.  Bikes are safer.

What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?
  • We need bike lanes within and between cities.
  • We need an update of the Highway Traffic Act.  We should be allowed “Idaho stops”- the Idaho stop is the common name for a law that allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign.
  • We need contra-lanes on one-way streets.
  • We need a one-metre safe passing law.
  • We need to educate drivers about the rules of the road.
  • We need bike infrastructure, such as proper bike lanes that don’t stop 100 metres back from an intersection.
Give cyclists some of these perks for reducing congestion and keeping the environment clean, and we might get more people biking.

What is the best part of your commute?

I like going through the neighbourhoods with beautiful gardens. Because I am cycling, I am able to  stop on the McCrae bridge and enjoy the beautiful sunrise. I once took a photograph at this time.  The water was crystal clear, reflecting the trees.

It’s hard to spontaneously take a picture like this when driving a car!

What is the worst part of your commute?

Winter time, when going up the Gordon Street hill and the snow is scraped off of the road on to the bike lanes.

What infrastructure change would make your commute better?

  • Clearing the bike lanes so that they can be used in the winter time.
  • More workplaces with good showers, and good bike shelters and lockups like at the university.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?
  1. Get a mirror. It will save your life.  Keep an eye on traffic coming from behind and in front.          
  2. Don’t go on main arterials in the beginning.  Start off by using quiet neighbourhood streets.
  3. Dress properly.
  4. No ear buds!
  5. Wear a helmet.
  6. Take the Can-Bike Course.
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