by Deb Doherty, Justin Jones and Steve Varga
This post was written as a response to the Toronto Star’s July 21 article “In Cottage Country, Cyclists Are Clashing With ‘Blue Collar’ Locals — And The Police”.
We residents of Collingwood were shocked to discover from your July 21 article, that we are allegedly on the front line of the so-called “Bike Wars”. As residents and people who bike in this community, this was news to us, especially knowing how cycling has benefited our community and how deep the roots of cycling in Collingwood run.
During the century that shipbuilding was the Town’s primary industry, hundreds of workers would ride their bikes to and from the town shipyards every day. This daily parade of cycling was so iconic that it became the theme of one of Collingwood’s famous murals, one of the first things you see at the eastern entry to the town.
Today hundreds of residents and visitors ride our trails, quiet country roads, and neighbourhood streets for transportation and recreation daily. The per capita rate of cycling to work is one of the highest in the province — surpassing both Ottawa and the City of Toronto. The Collingwood Cycling Club, at over 400 members, is one of the largest clubs in Canada, thousands of people ride the mountain bike trails in our area each weekend, and seeing bike racks outside of schools packed with hundreds of bikes is not uncommon during the school year.
In short — cycling is an integral part of the fabric of our community, one that brings us together rather than drives us apart.
People who ride in our area are farmers, truck drivers, tradespeople, lawyers, doctors, retirees and more, but their vocations matter much less than the fact that they are members of our community. Our experience on the roads has been that most people, whether they’re driving or riding a bike, treat the people around them as neighbours rather than as obstacles.
The vast majority of drivers treat people cycling with respect — they adhere to the 1m safe passing law, only pass when it is safe to do so, and do their best to make sure that everyone gets home safely. Similarly, one of the highest priorities of the Collingwood Cycling Club is to instruct all of its members on the rules and etiquette of the road. Each weekend we have tens of thousands of visitors in our area travelling on bikes, cars and trucks, and the overwhelming majority of those trips occur without incident. When the focus is placed on the negative actions of the few rather than the positive actions of the majority, it does a disservice to the great work that so many of the stakeholders in our area have done, and continue to do, to make cycling in the South Georgian Bay better.
Since the incident described in the article took place, the Collingwood Cycling Club and the local OPP detachment commander have met and discussed ways in which both organizations can do better to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the roads and how we can continue to work together to grow cycling, and indeed all forms of active transportation, in our area.
After all, up here in Collingwood, we don’t see it as a war at all — we see it as a conversation between neighbours.
Deb Doherty, Councillor, Town of Collingwood and Member, Collingwood Cycling Club
Justin Jones, Manager, Bicycle Friendly Ontario with the Share the Road Cycling Coalition and resident of Collingwood
Steve Varga, Vice President, Collingwood Cycling Club