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 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.
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.
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.
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:
Worked with partners at the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to secure the largest investment in cycling infrastructure in Ontario's history - $150-$225 Million for new cycling infrastructure as part of the Climate Change Action Plan, including $50 Million for cycling in 2017 alone;
Worked with partners across Ontario to secure an initial $25 million investment through the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program, which helped to build cycling infrastructure in 37 different communities and on provincial roadways;
Worked with partners at the CAA and other road safety groups to institute changes to Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, including a 1m safe passing law for people cycling and increased penalties for "dooring";
Brought together more than 200 stakeholders from around the province to identify a way forward for cycling education in Ontario
Helped more than 70 municipalities map out their path to being safer places for cyclists through the Bicycle Friendly Communities Program
Reached millions of Ontarians with public awareness campaigns in partnership with municipal and provincial governments, the Canadian Automobile Association, Uber Canada and others.
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.
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.
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