I could not give you a status report on the progress we are making without you understanding the point from which we started. At the time it was pretty dire for roadies and yes Team Race and Hazel have a shared history!
About five years ago, in my early riding days with the Team Race boys,everyone was complaining about the lack of facilities for roadies in the city and how dangerous it was to ride out there. I certainly agreed and having seen Hamish in full road rage mode I thought we had better do something quick before he attacks another car. As was my nature at the time ( foolish me!) I decided to start a petition that we could present to the city council rather than just squeak about it on our morning rides.
So with the help of the city clerk, we organized a deputation to city council. It was a cold day in October early morning and the standard cast of characters met in Clarkson dressed in their finest Team Race kits. Our plan was to ride to city hall and to make our deputation to council in cycling kits to emphasize the point. Unknown to us, these deputations were televised ( closed circuit throughout the city) and Mississauga News covers all the council meetings so we got great photos and a write up. (Fred the MN journalist is also a cyclist and a friend of Freddy’s) Team Race has got connections everywhere!
So we are sitting in the gallery freezing while local residents complain about traffic lights and stop signs until our turn to speak comes up- and we all stand. Well the room went silent. Apparently we were a big deal in what is normally a dull day in council. I presented our petition to Madame Mayor Hazel and the council were receptive but voiced the common roadblocks to improving the cycling network, cost and lack of resident interest et al…
To her credit the mayor challenged us to make a difference by getting involved with the committee responsible for cycling that reports to council called the Mississauga Cycling Advisory Council.
So I took her up on this.. as did Paul D and Hamish.. When we showed up at the first committee meeting the committee was in shambles. Conflicts with old members and lack of direction. Hamish and Paul couldn’t stomach it and I thought that the only way to get things moving was to take on the position of chair which is what I did. With no chair experience, in a very formal municipal committee I was very much out of my league with a steep learning curve. There were some really vicious attacks from older curmudgeon staff and committee members who resented a the new course I was planning and my lead at the front (sounds like a Team Race ride!)
It took the first year to tame the committee, restructure it and gain the confidence of city staff. Up to this point, the city was building beautiful recreational trails, but did not buy into the trend that people wanted to use their bikes to commute. Hazel said show me the cyclists and I’ll invest in the network ( at that time the roads were virtually void of cyclists). My plan was the standard Team Race Race tactic- attack on two fronts.
1- Build a riding culture in the city and 2-connect the road network so that it would be used. So to build the culture we started Tour de Mississauga which is now in its 5th year. It showcases the city by quadrant, is free admission and this year we expect 2000 riders. We have started a ride with your councilor every Friday night. We also attend trade shows to promote the city, and most importantly have completed the cycling master plan for Mississauga. This document details the routes,facilities and timeline for completing the on road cycling network. The goal is ambitious. We are adding an average of 30km of routes per year to take the city from 330km to 900 km over the next 20 years. Twenty years is a long time and we could move faster but every new route is a battle. Residents are invited to open houses and many times they voice their opposition to the road diet that would allow for a bike route to go through- go figure? Every study we have seen shows that property values and village shopping increase dramatically in places where cycling is established and safe.
What can you do to speed up the process? Even though this city has over 650K In population very few people attend council meetings or voice their opinions to their councilors, so council is very sensitive to letters and emails. I’ve seen situations where we have been called before council to respond to one letter of complaint! What you can do is take notice of the changes that we are making, you’ll see them everywhere. New signs for cyclists, road sharrows, lined cycling routes, multi-use trails and send an email directly to your city councilor with your APPRECIATIVE
comments. Your opinion matters. The more we show council that we as cyclists like and need what they are doing, the more committed they will be to the master plan and the faster it will be completed. To reach your city councilor, go to the Mississauga.ca website and look up their email address. It’s that easy. I would cc the mayor too
It will take a Team Race effort to win this race!