Friday, October 10, 2003


With the World Cycling Championship in town, View takes a look at grassroots cycling initiatives in Hamilton.

After the last race has been won and lost, the big wheels of the local bike-world keep on turning. Once the spectator stands are taken down, why not hop on your bike and become an active participant in the city's living cycling civilization. 

Recycle Cycles has been straightening spokes and packing bearings in the basement of Erskine Presbyterian Church (19 Pearl N.) since 1998. With volunteer labour mainstays Dean Carriere and Neil Croft at the right end of a spoke wrench, they've kept thousands of bikes out of the landfill and under Hamiltonian's bums. This is the place to go to get help doing-it-yourself, a community-based, non-profit, all-volunteer bike repair workshop. It's also the place to go to get a cheap working bike or to pick up some handy bike repair skills. Croft is the shop's cycling philosopher and Carriere the heart and soul (and in the running for the happiest-man-alive award. Must be something in the chain grease?) 

Started with help from the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) McMaster, Recycle Cycles is the hands-down best place to go with your bike when your chain gets jammed on a Saturday morning. (Saturdays 9am to 12pm. Call 905.577.7753 to arrange donations, et cetera.) 

Critical Mass arrived in Hamilton in May 1998 with a 70 cyclist ride from Westdale to downtown. The monthly ride gets an average of 30 cyclists out on the last Friday of the month at 5:30pm at Hess and George Streets. The goal of the ride varies from rider to rider, but it generally ends up being a celebration of cycling in the city as cyclists make their way through downtown streets en masse. Typically the Hamilton season runs March to October. This year's March ride was under the banner Pedal For Peace in opposition to the bombing of Iraq and more generally against excessive fossil fuel consumption for transportation. The ride brought out Hamilton's police service to keep a wary eye on the antics of the peace-pedal-pushers. 

Critical Mass was originally a San Francisco thing in 1992, but has since spread to cities around the world. The film We Are Traffic: A Film About Critical Mass, which documents the rise of the phenomenon, has been shown by Transportation for Liveable Communities (see below). 

Friday, April 18, 2003


As Hamilton’s Raging Grannies adjust their overwrought hats and their political button–festooned aprons and shawls outside the front entrance, shoppers heading into Toys R Us look on, amused.

The gaggle of six grannies are shifting through reams of song sheets before settling on their first ditty and the day’s theme. It goes like this: “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, war toys have got to go, take them off the shelves like good little elves, Hi Ho, Hi Ho.” New lyrics to familiar Christmas tunes are all the rage with the granny set as they take aim at violent toys and games.

Rambo, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Skeletors, Mortal Kombat, Doom, guns and tanks get the Grannies’ goat while roller blades, puzzles, books, building blocks, Lego, dolls, and cooperative games, are offered as positive alternatives.

Four short songs into the Raging Grannies songbook, a couple of employees from the Upper Wentworth store appear and inform the grand-motherly minstrels that they are expected to pack-up their act and move on.

The grannies inform the youngsters that the grannies are going nowhere, and if the store wants them to move they will have to call the police.

Big smiles from the grans. Scowls from the employees, who disappear back into the voluminous blue box of a store to, presumably, call the police.

Hardly missing a beat, the Raging Grannies are into their next song.

A steady stream of shoppers appear happy to receive a leaflet while the Grans sing in a light rain.

A man in a car requests a leaflet then laughs out loud: he expected ordinary Christmas carols but thinks the grannies reworking of the classics is just peachy. “You made my day!” he shouts, still laughing as he drives off.

The Grannies’ goal for the day is to raise awareness about violent toys, toys which, according to their leaflet, “teach that war is an acceptable way of settling disputes, encourage play at hurting and killing others, require children to use violence in order to win, depict graphic violence, create the need for an enemy, glamourize military life, combat and war, reinforce sexist stereotypes of male dominance and female passivity and depict ethnic or racial groups in a negative way.”

A few more songs and Toys R Us staff make another foray, telling the Grannies to move their sing-fest to a remote island of green in the massive parking lot, well away from the customers. The Grannies are having none of it. The suggestion that they are blocking costumers from the store is simply not true, so they dig in their sensible heels and sing some more.