GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

Santa parade shows what you can do on a bike!


“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!


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