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).