Special Report: Cycling

Greg's Ride is Coming to Hamilton: Why It Matters, and Why You Should Go

We've moved it to Hamilton to celebrate the City's growing cycling culture and because it's a place where staff and Board members have strong connections.

By Justin Jones
Published September 14, 2017

The weekend of September 23 and 24 will be extremely exciting for me this year. It marks the first time ever that Greg's Ride: Ontario's Ride for Safer Cycling is hosted in Hamilton, bringing my love for the City of Hamilton and my passion for building a more Bicycle Friendly Ontario together into one glorious weekend of socializing, riding and fun.

The festivities get underway on Saturday, September 23 with a night of music, food and friends at Shawn and Ed Brewery in Dundas, and then continue on Sunday September 24 with the 12th Annual Greg's Ride - offering distances of 8 km, 37 km and 77 km.

There really is something for everyone, no matter what kind of rider you are, and I hope that you'll consider coming to support the work that Share the Road does.  

Let me give you a bit of history behind the event, why Share the Road's work matters and why I am involved.

Greg's Ride

Greg's Ride reflects the roots of our organization. The ride is named for Sgt. Greg Stobbard, an OPP officer who was struck and killed while riding his bike in Milton. After Greg's death, his widow, Eleanor McMahon - now the MPP for Burlington and current Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport - founded the Share the Road Cycling Coalition to advocate for a more bicycle-friendly Ontario where everyone feels safe hopping on a bicycle.

Since then, Share the Road has acted as the voice for cycling at Queen's Park, successfully advocating for the launch of CycleON: Ontario's Cycling Strategy, cycling infrastructure investments of up to $225 million and new legislation like the 1m safe passing law.

Each year since Greg's passing, people have gathered in Milton to ride in memory of Greg and all those who have been affected by cycling collisions, to celebrate how far cycling has come over the past 11 years and to raise funds in support of Share the Road's advocacy work.

This year marks the 12th Annual Greg's Ride, and the first time the event will take place in Hamilton. We've moved it to Hamilton to celebrate the City's growing cycling culture and because it's a place where staff and Board members have strong connections.

Our Executive Director, Jamie Stuckless, did her Master's degree at McMaster and is a proud member of Hamilton Bike Share even though she relocated to Ottawa more than five years ago.

Ian Brisbin, a board member for Share the Road, is an active member of Hamilton's cycling community.

I will personally always remember Hamilton as the place where I found my calling - it's where my love for cycling deepened and my passion for creating better communities through safer cycling really came to define my personal and professional ambitions.  

Yes We Cannon

While I may not call Hamilton home anymore, it still holds an incredibly special place in my heart. Every time I visit the City I ride the Cannon Street Cycle Track from end to end with an almost maniacal grin on my face, remembering the exhilarating feeling that all of the Yes We Cannon team felt when every single Hamilton City Councillor rose in support of that project.

Hamilton is the place where I learned to really love my bike.  In other cities, I liked my bike as a tool for avoiding crowded public transit and as a way of bypassing  traffic jams, but in Hamilton I learned to love bikes as a community building tool.  I came to see people biking as an indicator of a healthy, safe, welcoming and prosperous community.  I saw bikes as a tool for creating  a more equitable community, where all residents have access to the services that the City has to offer, regardless of if they can afford a car or not.

My love of biking also got me started on the professional career path I am on today. When I moved to Hamilton, I had just lost my job as a researcher with a GTHA non-profit.  I felt like I was lacking a purpose, and I didn't fully know what I wanted to do with my life and my two (seemingly useless) University degrees.  

I looked for ways to get involved in the community, and when I was approached to help with a campaign to get bike lanes on Cannon Street, I jumped at the opportunity. At the time, I knew I was passionate about cycling, but didn't really know how to be an effective advocate. In February 2013 I started working on the Cannon Street campaign, and in March 2013 my entire life changed with one phone call.

I had seen a job posting to work with Share the Road, and I had submitted my resume. I had gone through the first round of interviews, and had a call scheduled with Eleanor McMahon for a second interview.  The call went extremely well, and while my memory of it is a bit fuzzy (it was a bit of a blur), I seem to recall that Eleanor offered me the job on the spot over the phone.  I was elated.

Share the Road

In the first few months of my time with Share the Road, I learned an incredible amount about the value of effective advocacy. I watched Eleanor talk with politicians, stakeholders and community members - I saw how she offered an easy path to "yes", even for those prickly nay-sayers, and I saw how she made her case supported by data and evidence, but how she also didn't ignore the human side of advocacy.  Her data was always backed up with a story.  

Without the guidance I received during those first few months from Eleanor and the rest of the Share the Road team, I genuinely don't know that I would have been as effective at organizing a community around an ask on Cannon Street, nor can I say with confidence that I would have been able to handle some of the more contentious meetings with Councillors in the manner that I did.

I was but one part of a large machine working towards getting Cannon Street off the ground, but I was the person that Councillors looked to. Because of what I was learning from Eleanor and the Share the Road team, I was able to be an effective advocate and spokesperson for the Yes We Cannon campaign.

I tell you this story because I think it's illustrative of how Share the Road operates. Share the Road isn't an organization that leads local campaigns like Yes We Cannon, but it provides the background support so that similar campaigns across the province can flourish. I was able to be a more effective member of the Yes We Cannon team because of my engagement with Share the Road, but you don't have to be staff to benefit. Our organization supports similar campaigns across the province through our research, programs and advocacy.

Incredible Team

In June 2014, Eleanor left Share the Road to become an MPP, and many people wondered what would happen to the organization. I never wondered, because Share the Road was never just one person.  Eleanor had created an incredible team, so I wasn't surprised when my fellow colleague Jamie Stuckless put her name forward for the job.  

Since becoming Executive Director, Jamie has continued Share the Road's tradition of building partnerships to support cycling in ways I couldn't have imagined, resulting in a growing list of accomplishments on the cycling file over the past 3 years.

Since 2014, Share the Road has:

There's much more that has been accomplished - and even more in the works - but these are definitely the big-ticket items that have been accomplished as a direct result of Share the Road's advocacy and capacity building efforts.

Legislative Victories

You won't always see the immediate impact of provincial advocacy on local campaigns like Yes We Cannon, but this provincial work does make it easier for similar campaigns to happen across Ontario. The legislative victories that have been won at the provincial level take time to filter down to the municipal level, but they're already being felt this year with the 37 projects funded by the province through their original $25 Million OMCIP investment.  

Imagine what up to $225 million over four years will mean for communities - it's a transformative level of investment, and it didn't just fall out of the sky.  It came about because for a decade, Share the Road has been at Queen's Park changing the conversation.  We've moved the needle on cycling from being a  "special interest" issue to one that is recognized as a "public interest" all across the province.

Share the Road will never be an organization leading the charge for a specific local infrastructure project - that's a job for grassroots and local organizations. But we will be working hard to ensure that there is money for those projects on the table, that provincial design standards are such that projects make new riders feel safe, and that legislation is in place to protect all road users across the province.  

We'll be the ones working to get cycling taught in more schools, sharing best practices with municipal practitioners and continuing to build the case for cycling to make it easier for politicians at all levels to say "yes" to cycling. In short, we see our role as being a constant and growing tailwind for local cycling projects and campaigns.

Greg's Ride is our main fundraiser each year and 100% of the proceeds go towards supporting our advocacy work.  Your participation in Greg's Ride helps to ensure that we can be a consistent voice for cycling at Queen's Park, keeping cycling on the provincial agenda. I'm beyond excited that Ontario's Ride for Safer Cycling is in Hamilton this year, and I really hope that you'll join me and my team at Share the Road as we work together to make Ontario more Bicycle Friendly.

Justin Jones is the Manager, Bicycle Friendly Ontario at the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. Justin is a project manager, sustainability professional and rabble rouser with nearly a decade of experience in the sustainability field. His work with student groups, municipal governments and NGOs has taken him all over the country. He is passionate about civic engagement, with a special focus on active transportation issues and the creation of liveable cities through better infrastructure and education.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 14, 2017 at 21:16:13

I just finished filling out the form to volunteer for this event.

STR fills a very important role. Most advocacy work is done at the municipal level, and rightly so. However, the province fills a very important role in providing funding and standards. It is vital that there exist a provincial advocacy group.

Why? Because the Ontario's "Bicycle Facilities" design manual is rather crappy. And we need to have proper funding of bicycle infrastructure by the province, instead of multi-billion dollar car-only highway boondoggles or bailing out the car industry with billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars. And we need to get rid of stupidity such as a child helmet law that so strongly discourages children from cycling. And bizarre things such as an enormous provincial subsidy for electric cars and zero for electric bicycles. Etc, etc.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2017-09-14 21:17:23

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By LifelongHamiltonian (registered) | Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:49:00 in reply to Comment 121948

"And we need to get rid of stupidity such as a child helmet law that so strongly discourages children from cycling"

Are you really suggesting that you want poor, undeveloped childrens heads smashed and crushed against the pavement, killing or irreparably damaging them? Are you really suggesting that you want poor children to have traumatic brain injuries that could last for the rest of their life, because you don't see the value in wearing a helmet?

Would you suggest that children get into a car and don't fasten their safety belt? How do you think travelling along a gravel or paved path at 20-30kmh will treat a soft, young skull? Should I tell you how my brother was tragically killed last year due to a Traumatic Brain Injury caused by negligence not dissimilar to failing to wear a helmet?

I suggest you read this from the CDC to tell you how easily most brain injuries can be avoided.

https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/...

Stop spreading a false narrative that people shouldn't wear helmets when doing an activity like biking or skateboarding. As an adult you are acting irresponsibly by suggesting that kids will be fine if they don't wear a helmet. Keep in mind most children are growing and clumsy. Kids haven't gained fine motor skills that a grown man may have achieved and wearing a simple styrofoam and plastic helmet may very well save their life one day. You may say "but I was fine without a helmet growing up" and you're right, but time progresses and improvements in all facets of life are made all the time.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 15, 2017 at 17:11:36 in reply to Comment 121950

Sigh... I don't know if you are being serious or a troll.

So I will point out that the safest place in the world to ride a bicycle is in The Netherlands. Where the proportion of children that wear helmets is approximately zero. The introduction of helmet laws has strongly reduced cycling wherever this has been done. With serious resulting consequences in child obesity and diabetes. Perhaps I should imitate your style and ask, "Do you really want child obesity and diabetes and children set up for a lifetime of health problems"?

In Ontario the lack of enforcement has largely mitigated this problem. But what is the point in having a law that the police quite rightfully refuse to enforce? Best to get rid of it.

For more information, please see this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34FyWCut...

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By LifelongHamiltonian (registered) | Posted September 15, 2017 at 18:34:31 in reply to Comment 121951

Sigh...Unfortunately I know you're being serious.

In answer to your question. Yes. I would rather children have a reversible (obesity), managable (diabetes) condition that they can live with until their old age than an acute case of something severe like death. What I'm hearing from you is that you would rather see kids die from a TBI than going out on a bike less? I can't believe that you're advocating setting children up for severe injuries and possibly death; that's pretty savage.

Why do kids avoid wearing helmets? Because it wasn't modelled for them. Neither I, nor my children go in their bikes without helmets, not because it's the law, but because we've seen first hand what a brain injury looks like, and it would be awfully cool to avoid that ourselves.

Also, anecdotal evidence, I very rarely see kids in my neighbourhood riding without helmets, and most are out daily. Managing a helmet consists of hanging it up on your handlebars when you're done riding for the day. Nothing more, nothing less.

The fact of the matter is that we are not Dutch. I know their mode share is mich higher than here, and their dedicated cycling infrastructure is far and away better than what we have here. Respecting that, why would we try to implement a solution that would endanger the portion of the population which is forced to ride their bike on the road? There are lots of hard surfaces out there that you don't have control over that include, but are not limited to: asphalt, concrete, gravel, cars etc. Maybe there will be a time in the future where we don't need helmets, but that time is not now.

If you could save one life by wearing a helmet, why wouldn't you? Why would you set yourself up for failure?

Edit: to paraphrase someone on this site: When the behaviour kills children, I prefer to use a more emotive tone.

Comment edited by LifelongHamiltonian on 2017-09-15 19:38:39

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By HammerBorn (registered) | Posted September 15, 2017 at 22:11:11

sigh Don't mind Kevin, he's far too busy resisting arrest and then blaming it on the Police (because nothing is his fault, you can resist arrest in the Netherlands!!) to have a valid opinion.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted September 16, 2017 at 19:41:24 in reply to Comment 121950

It's important understand that helmet wearers run a far higher risk of neck injury than non helmet wearers.

The only near fatal cycling accident I ever had, I was wearing a helmet and my lower body was almost run over by a semi making an illegal right at yonge and queen in Toronto. ( I was saved by 2 pedestrians who pulled me from under the truck before I was squash(ed). I no longer wear a helmet.

The most important thing about the helmet law is that it is not enforced. Which means it will be enforced selectively. Which means it will be like carding a tool for the police, which has nothing to do with safety.

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