When faced with something new, we tend to react in one of two ways: we can embrace the change in a curious manner and learn about it, or we can turn our back on it and rationalize our fear of something we don’t understand.
After the fantastic Steaming Nostril cycling event a couple of weeks ago, a couple of local newspapers reported that the Township of Wellesley council, including mayor Joe Nowak, did not see the benefit of this event. Here’s an article in the New Hamburg Independent (that also appeared in the KW Record):
Some quotes from councillors:
“Wellesley really doesn’t benefit from hotel occupation or a lot of the things that sport tourism is supposed to generate … we don’t have the facilities to take advantage of that,” (Coun. Peter Van der Maas)
“There’s no question that this is an imposition to the community,” said Mayor Joe Nowak. “We hear it from our residents … we are representing our people and they are the ones telling us that this isn’t the greatest thing for them.”
I understand that some residents may not like being stopped by police for a minute or two while cyclist race through an intersection. I understand that cyclists travel faster than horses/buggies. However, I’ve been riding in this area for years, and I’ve been in this race many times. I pass Mennonites on buggies all the time (in the race and on other rides) and they always wave with a smile on their face. Many of them are cyclists themselves. I also know a few people who live in the Township of Wellesley and they fully support these kinds of events that bring people to their hometown.
There are many benefits to having this kind of event. My friend/co-worker/fellow cyclist Gaelen Merritt responded to the above article with an open letter:
Not only does Gaelen discuss the benefits of these cycling events, he also comments on the negativity surrounding cycling in the Township of Wellesley and the frequent anti-cycling news articles that appear in the local newspapers.
I’m writing this blog entry for two reasons: (1) to voice my support for cycling events, and (2) to articulate my thoughts on car culture and the sense of entitlement that many car drivers have.
My support for cycling events can be expanded to include my support for cycling in general. The benefits are well documented (Sharetheroad.ca has many good aritcles on this):
Cycling events promote the sport of cycling in many ways, and Gaelen has summarized many of these in his open letter. While out-of-town cyclists who came to race in the Steaming Nostril may not have stayed in a hotel in Wellesley, I can guarantee that they had a positive experience in the area and many will come back, not just for the race, but to explore more. Many of them bought maple syrup from local farmers. Each cyclist brings money into the Region which, in turn, gets transferred to the Townships. So, to say that this event does nothing for the Township is short-sighted.
Now… on to car culture…
A little background: The Region of Waterloo includes the Cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge and the Townships of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot and North Dumfries. Wellesley includes: Wellesley, Bamberg, St. Clements, Linwood, and the west half of Heidelberg. Woolwich includes: the east half of Heidelberg, Elmira, St. Jacobs, Breslau, Conestogo. Wilmot includes: St. Agatha, New Hamburg, New Dundee. North Dumfries includes Ayr, Branchton.
In 2016, the Region of Waterloo council voted to allow side-by-side cycling on regional roads. This was a huge victory for cyclists, and it involved countless hours of effort from local cyclists, including past-president Alain Francq. Mayors from two of the townships (Wellesley and Woolwich), however, voted against this, and the bylaw prohiting side-by-side cycling still exists in their townships.
Our culture is, without question, centered around the automobile. Just about everyone owns a car. Many car drivers believe the roads belong to them and any other road users are imposing on “their” roads. The problem isn’t just this sense of entitlement; it’s that they’re driving 2,000 pound machines travelling at 90 km/h.
I remembered some basic rules of right-of-way for boating from when I was a kid, and thought I’d look them up. I found this (www.boatsmartexam.com):
When approaching a non-powered craft, such as a sailboat or canoe, you are the give-way craft and do not have the right-of-way. You must take early and substantial action to keep clear of non-powered craft. You should alter your speed and course, and approach non-powered craft with caution.
This seems simple enough and it should be easily transferable to the road. The faster, higher-powered vehicle should give way; the right-of-way belongs to the smaller, slower, lower-powered vehicle.
I started writing this blog to share my cycling experiences and to give a voice to cycling for the purpose of cycling, and I leave you with this quote:
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. H. G. Wells
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