You may have noticed the parade of glowing cyclists around Hamilton during the summer months and wondered what exactly was going on.

Glowriders is a friendly, group bicycle ride around Hamilton that sees both bikes and riders decked out in glowing lights. Originally launched in 2012 by Tyler Roach and a group of friends, these monthly rides are open to anyone of any cycling ability. 

The project began as a relaxed cycling event to promote good cycling in the city and to show the public that cycling can be fun. Since then, the project has grown to nearly 120 participants each ride, fostering a sense of community for cyclists and building a harmonious relationship between cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. 

Roach is expecting this season to have the biggest turnout yet. 

“We started with about a dozen people and every year we’ve kinda doubled in size,” said Roach. “This year we’re expecting two to three hundred people at every ride. Now we have music, people with huge sound systems, families, tandem bikes, unicycles and the whole spectrum of cyclists and those who want to participate.”

Every month, glowing cyclists gather in Durand Park until it gets dark. Once the sun sets, the group makes their way on an extensive bike tour through the city’s best cycling spots, including Victoria Park, Locke Street, the Princess Point trail and James Street North. The ride ends at Augusta Street for a celebratory refreshment.

As the rides began growing in size, Roach became weary of the logistics behind organizing a hundred-person bike ride. However, citing Toronto’s annual Bike Rave, which sees nearly 700 participants every year, and mentioning that interactions with Hamilton Police have been positive, Roach and his team have been able to keep shining for nearly seven years. 

“I was hesitant to let it get this big because I was worried about how we were going to manage having hundreds of cyclists on the street,” said Roach. “We kind of let it grow organically and slow to start, and eventually we kind of realized that this is manageable, we can do this.” 

Roach and the Glowriders team launched the 2018 season on May 26, and are expecting to keep growing over the next few rides. As for what’s next, Roach is hoping to continue passing along good cycling vibes, in addition to building this glowing community. 

“It’s really hard to say what’s going to happen with how it’s growing,” said Roach. “If we’re going to get to the point where we have too many people, it might get challenging being on city streets but I’d like to let it keep growing and keep fostering a community.” 

The next Glowride takes place on June 23, following a monthly schedule until their final ride on September 22.

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By: Benita Van Miltenburg

As both a Hamiltonian and a bicycle user, I was deeply troubled by the recent death of Jay Keddy. Keddy was a well-prepared and thoroughly practiced cyclist, equipped with bicycle lights and a helmet, obeying the rules of the road. Despite his diligent behavior, he was struck by a car and left lifeless on his commute home from work this past December. No one emerged from the horror of Keddy’s death unscathed — his friends, family and acquaintances, not the kindergarten students whom he taught, and not the members of the wider Hamilton community.

Around the same time Keddy was killed, two pedestrians were struck in our city, one killed and the other seriously injured. These realities indicate that we must demand safer transportation infrastructure. Not only have the lives of these individuals and their families been forever affected, but the lives of those responsible have also been irreparably damaged.

These were preventable accidents that mustn’t be forgotten a mere two months later. They were needless accidents with immense consequences. This type of tragedy must not happen again.

I see myself settling in a community I can safely enjoy by way of foot or bicycle, not just by car or bus. As it stands, Hamilton is evidently not the place for me. 

Currently, the rules of the road mandate that a bicycle and a three thousand pound vehicle occupy shared road space. When accidents happen, the ones who suffer most are almost always the more vulnerable road users. This is not a system that is safe for people on bikes, and it is likewise not a system that works well for automobiles. Many residents of this city regularly make use of multiple means of transport, and nearly all road users understand the difficulties inherent to this outdated system. We, as citizens of this city, as shared users of the road, must demand more.

We should ask ourselves: what kind of city do we desire? What sort of community are we presently fostering, building for our children, for ourselves and for our seniors? Where do we see this city in five, fifteen and fifty years? I see myself settling in a community I can safely enjoy by way of foot or bicycle, not just by car or bus. As it stands, Hamilton is evidently not the place for me.

In Hamilton, pedestrians have a 42 percent higher risk for injury than the provincial average. Hop on a bike and that figure doubles to 81 percent. This is wholly unacceptable.

Hamilton is blessed with abundant potential. Situated between Lake Ontario and the beautiful Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton is home to several fantastic post-secondary institutions, vibrant art, music and culinary communities, outstanding social programs, and just enough character to keep things interesting. However, the city is currently doing itself a terrible injustice by consistently catering to one road user over others, sometimes at the expense of residents’ lives. As such, we are bypassing the opportunity to create a socially inclusive community in which residents can truly enjoy spending their time.

Transportation modes such as walking and bicycle riding allow the individual to move at a leisurely pace, stop and start with ease and engage with their environment in a way that is simply not possible from the isolated box of the automobile. I say this not to demonize car ownership, but to encourage planning that supports multiple forms of transportation.

This is a call to all residents of our community to work with city planners and legislators to make desperately needed improvements to our active transport infrastructure. Improvements that will in turn put all road users at greater ease, and ensure not one more life is needlessly cut short on account of poor planning or lack of action.

With the city-wide Transportation Master Plan in review and a notice of motion put forth to adopt Vision Zero, Hamiltonians have some crucial decisions to make. Are we to accept this subpar status quo? Are we to remain Ontario’s second most dangerous city to walk in? Can we risk any more unnecessary tragedies?

Or will all road users — pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers and transit goers alike — come together and support positive change? We need change that caters to all forms of transportation equally, change that fully protects all residents from risk of injury and as such, protects all residents from the risk of injuring others. Let’s come together and insist on safer active transportation options in 2016. We all have the right, to enjoy our city out of harms way.

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Tomi Milos
Features Editor

Although cycling has long been hailed as a formidable mode of transportation for city-dwellers, most Hamiltonians can be reluctant to hop on a bicycle for fear of their safety. But the threat of grievous injury does not seem to be deterring McMaster students from gravitating towards such an affordable means of transportation, as a 2010 poll of faculty, staff, and students conducted by University Sustainability discovered. Results showed that 34% of respondents biked to campus everyday.

Maclean’s recently recognized this cycling quassi-renaissance and dubbed McMaster one of Canada’s top-five cycling schools in its annual university rankings issue. In its summation of why the school deserved the recognition, the national weekly news magazine rather vaguely said, “The school’s Sustainability Office monitors and improves biking infrastructure, bolstered by Hamilton’s increasing municipal efforts on alternative transportation.”

Seeking to understand just how McMaster has garnered such acclaim, I spoke to Kate Whalen, senior manager of University Sustainability. The Strathacona resident undertook the role in 2009 and practices what she preaches; she does not own a car and cycling is her main mode of transportation.

Whalen praised the work that the city has done saying, “McMaster is surrounded by incredible cycling infrastructure; [Hamilton was] one of, if not the very first city to have our buses outfitted with bike racks.”

She also acknowledged that certain areas of the city aren’t incredibly bike-friendly: “There are many areas of the lower city that have substantial opportunity for improvement in both road infrastructure and bicycle parking space. With its high population density and variety of land uses, the downtown area also presents some of the biggest opportunity within the city to increase walking and cycling through these improvements.”

But it remains to be said that some improvements could also be made within McMaster itself, where the bike parking options fail to meet increasing student demand. One only has to take a stroll by Gilmour Hall at noon to notice how many students have been forced to lock their bikes to the steel banisters on the stairs for lack of a free spot on a nearby rack.

Whalen maintained that University Sustainability is aware of and working to rectify the problem, indicating that the 2009 installation of a secure bike storage facility opposite Chester New Hall with the financial assistance of Metrolinx Bikelinx program as well as Cyclesafe lockers display McMaster’s “committment to providing many and various types of bicycle parking and storage.”

She highlighted the fact that University Sustainability runs an annual poll of students, faculty, and staff to determine which areas need bike racks and then pass along the information to Security and Parking Services who invest into expanding bike infrastructure.

“Through the feedback obtained through community consultation, we have been able to place new racks in all requested locations each year since 2009.”

Whalen has high hopes for the future and pointed to exciting developments for cyclists, “Most recently, investment into campus bike racks was also included in the McMaster Climate Action Plan including the addition of 600 new bike parking spaces over the next three years.”

The document indicates that 20 bike racks will be added across campus this year, with a special focus on the intramural sports facilities by the David Braley Athletic Centre.

Even with the addition of more racks, one issue that Macleans skated around is theft. 84 bikes were stolen from McMaster in the last calendar year, and 36 have already been pilfered this school year.

Ian Holley says Security Services is working on cutting down that number. The special constable investigator is a staunch promoter of cycling culture, having served as the auctioneer for MACycle’s annual bike auction. If Security Services can pinpoint a pattern occurring at a location — or better yet — a specific culprit, Holley says they’ll set up one of their own bikes to be stolen and monitor the area.

Holley asserted that the thieves might not always be students, noting that many would-be perpetrators can be drawn to the campus because, “McMaster has the biggest collection of bikes in Hamilton, and they’re generally nice ones.”

What irks Holley is that many owners of these high-end bikes are using shoddy cable-locks that are all too easy to cut.

“We see almost no theft involving good U-locks, even at our regular racks. We’ve made a big push towards educating people and saying, ‘Please use U-locks or make use of our secure storage facility.’”

The secure storage facility Holley is referring to is situated beside Chester New Hall, which he admits is not the best location for everyone. But $5 per term to lock your bike within a fenced-off structure that’s monitored by camera doesn’t seem like a hefty price to pay. When asked why there aren’t more of these facilities around campus, Holley said it’s hard to justify building more in better locations when they’re not seeing use in the one they do have.

While the cycling infrastructure at McMaster and in its immediate area seems to be on the right track, things don’t happen to be as rosy in the city’s core where cyclists aren’t afforded the same privileges.

The new bus-only lane on King Street that stretches from Mary to Dundurn Street may ensure a speedy commute for the approximately 1,500 HSR riders who traverse the corridor each hour, but the poorly planned initiative has thrown bike safety under the rug. The lane poses a problem to cyclists who risk a $65 fine for entering it, which leaves them with the choice of taking an inconvenient route, or facing the danger of becoming a part of a car-bus sandwich.

Christine Lee-Morrison, media contact for the pilot project, said, “Certainly a reserved vehicle lane is typically a safer place for a bicycle to operate; however, bicycles typically travel slower than a bus. A mixed usage situation would not allow the City fully test the acceptance and impacts of a future rapid transit scenario.”

Rather than encouraging bike riders to take parallel routes, Hamilton City Council could take a cue from London, England where the bus lanes are made available for use by both cyclists and motorcycle riders. The decision was brought about by a 2008 study conducted by Transport for London which segregated powered two-wheelers and bikes from the main traffic flow and found that bike usage actually increased.

The further trouble with the parallel bike routes is that many of them end abruptly. Although the city has spent approximately $1 million a year since 2010 on adding 35 km of bike routes as part of their master cycling plan — Shifting Gears —building a safe continuous route across the top of the North end has been neglected.

Some web-savvy Hamiltonians recognized this error and organized an online petition called Yes We Cannon whose aim it was to establish a bidirectional bike lane on Cannon Street in time for the impending 2015 Pan Am games when many would be commuting from the James North Go Station to Tim Hortons Field. The petition has amassed 2172 online signatures and was a determining factor in city councillors dedicating $600,000 in September to the instalment of a two-way bike lane between Sherman Avenue and Bay Street.

Cannon Street was the best setting for the venture since it doesn’t experience high traffic volumes, moving only 2300-2600 vehicles per lane, per day as opposed to Mohawk and Garth Streets carrying 6600-9850 vehicles per lane, per day.

Daryl Bender, project manager of Alternative Transportation for the City of Hamilton, is optimistic about the city’s efforts to revitalize the bike scene. Citing a Portland, Oregon study that suggested that better cycling infrastructure and an increase in cyclists reduces the collision rate rather than collisions themselves, Bender said,“We are not certain if the same will be the experience here in Hamilton as our cycling infrastructure increases, but it would be ideal to see the number of collisions also be reduced.”

Despite poor downtown framework and a campus plagued by bike theft, cycling culture in Hamilton and at McMaster seems to be surging forward with the persistence of a Tour
de France peloton.

McMaster has been ranked by Maclean’s as the fourth best cycling university in Canada. This is due to the city of Hamilton’s ongoing efforts to improve cycling infrastructure, and the ease of biking on McMaster’s spacious campus.

The cheepest generic viagra following infographic explores some of the facts and figures that influence the student biking experience, including an anecdote from a student who experienced a downside of cycling at McMaster.

Click here for an interactive Google Map with the locations of bike thefts on McMaster's campus from 2012-2013.

 

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