Cycling Standoff - Can bikes and cars coexist?

The picture sent shockwaves through the cycling community and beyond. It depicted a man in cycling gear being handcuffed by an OPP officer on a rural road as other riders looked on.

According to news reports, the rider had refused to identify himself to the officer, who had stopped the group for a traffic infraction that was apparently caught via aerial surveillance of the group. Some local cyclists accused the local OPP detachment of deliberately targeting cyclists, and not for safety reasons.

The image and the ensuing widespread coverage of the incident – it even sparked a story in the Toronto Star – has triggered a healthy conversation in the Southern Georgian Bay area about how to address the tension that exists between drivers, cyclists and even law enforcement in the region.

“The incident highlighted confusion about what is or is not acceptable, and has led to a better understanding and improved relations with the OPP,” says Noelle Wansbrough, president of the Collingwood Cycling Club.

It has also led to increased efforts to make cycling routes safer and to educate riders and drivers about how to safely share the road. And that’s a good thing, because cycling in the region is exploding in popularity. Where 15 years ago dozens of cyclists graced our Grey and Simcoe county roads on weekends, they now number in the thousands. And the cycling phenomenon extends well beyond the weekend road warriors.

More and more people are using the existing road and trail networks and identified city street routes to bike to work, run errands or just get out into the fresh air for some exercise that provides terrific cardio benefits while being easy on the joints.

Meanwhile, cycling events and competitions are gaining in popularity, bringing an increasing number of participants and spectators to the area, in turn spawning new events that provide an even greater draw.

Why the upsurge in interest in cycling in our region? It’s simple, says Wansbrough, who owns Pedal Pushers Cycling, a company that offers bike clinics, coaching and tours for all levels of cyclists.

“This area – Collingwood and The Blue Mountains – is well-known, not just in Ontario, as a cycling destination,” she says, “it’s known everywhere now. From a marketing standpoint, it’s good for business, it’s good for tourism, it’s good for small business owners, restaurants, hotels, everything.”

Certainly the region has an abundance of opportunity for every type of rider: hills and valleys on picturesque gravel and country roads; a substantial trail network that is relatively flat; mountain bike trails on the escarpment; a downhill course at Blue Mountain; and an increasing number of in-city routes designated as safe for bikes and e-bikes.

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22 Jul 2019