"one-way streets are among the biggest barriers for a lot of cyclists. Even confident riders like himself can find it daunting to make a left turn off Main Street, where multiple lanes of traffic make it impossible to signal your way across the road."
One sweet ride
Ditching four wheels for two keeps these Hamiltonians green and serene — not just on Earth Day, but year-round
Moyle, 44, credits his mode of transportation for his unorthodox views. It’s shiny and cherry-red, with plenty of room for a briefcase, groceries or even a case of beer. It has an all-leather seat and it rides like a dream.
Did I mention it’s a bicycle?
“People find out you commute by bike, and they think of a tree-hugging, granola-crunching, carbon-offsetting hippie,” Moyle says over coffee at My Dog Joe.
He certainly proves that’s not the case. Moyle looks like the world’s most stylish English professor (he’s actually an analyst) — proof positive that you don’t need a Spandex bodysuit to be a cyclist. His dark-wash Levis are rolled once at the ankle above leather boots from R.M. Williams. He wears a houndstooth sportcoat with a dress shirt and striped wool tie. He carries a Toscane leather briefcase.
Yes, he rides a bike year-round, but there’s also an SUV in his driveway. It’s just that he prefers to pedal the three-kilometre round trip (which he rides twice a day, as he goes home for lunch) between work and home.
A lifelong biker, he made the move from fair weather (since 2006) to year-round commuter cyclist in 2010. Before that, his mountain bike was fine through spring, summer and fall, but the exposed chain often rusted. The bike’s sporty style encouraged him to ride like he was racing, and the crouched position left his wrists and neck exposed to the cold.
It was after a 2009 trip to Montreal, when he used that city’s BIXI bikes, that he made the move to his current ride — a delivery bike from Dutch manufacturer Batavus. Like the BIXI, its upright position and foot-forward geometry make for a comfortable, leisurely ride. The built-in racks allow for plenty of panniers, baskets and bags. The fully enclosed chain means no rusting and no greasy pant legs.
In the past two years, there have only been four or five days when weather conditions (including his nemesis — icy ruts) have forced him to leave the bike at home.
Otherwise, Hamilton is a city ripe for the riding. With very few hills, besides the Escarpment, it should be a biking no-brainer, but Moyle feels the one-way streets are among the biggest barriers for a lot of cyclists. Even confident riders like himself can find it daunting to make a left turn off Main Street, where multiple lanes of traffic make it impossible to signal your way across the road.
Myke Hutchings agrees. King Street is the most logical path from his Gage Park home to Jackson Square (where he works as a case manager for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board), but he detours to Cumberland Street, then follows the Stinson Street bike lane, before cutting back up to King.
Hutchings, 38, started riding to work for health reasons. Bored by gyms, but determined to fit exercise into his daily routine, he bought a Pashley adult tricycle in 2011. He opted for the three-wheeler for better balance and stability, but he’s found the bike offers something else — interaction with his surroundings. A trike isn’t something you see everyday, so it gets lot of looks, which often leads to conversations with strangers. He takes his camera with him every morning. He sees parts of the city he’d never noticed before. And though his morning ride only lasts 20 minutes, he’s found it makes him more laid-back all day.
“I’ve slowed down and become more relaxed,” he says. “It used to be about getting from point A to point B. Now the journey is enjoyable as well.”
There was some anxiety in the beginning, but Hutchings says he just had to get on the road to gain the confidence. He looked online to learn how traffic laws apply to cyclists, talked to Hamilton police and took questions to his father, a retired driving instructor.
“You just have to watch everything around you,” he says. “And hand signals, hand signals, hand signals. I can’t say that enough.”
Riding is easier than most people realize. Hutchings says that of the roughly 160 people in his office, only two or three are regular bike commuters.
The rest view his decision as a kind of novelty. It’s a shame because a city’s bike safety relies on a cyclical tenet — the more cyclists there are on the roads, the more accustomed people become to sharing the road, and the safer the roads are for cycling, the more people start.
It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing commitment. You can start small and gain confidence on trails and side streets, as Hutchings did. Look into provincial cycling laws to find out how to conduct yourself as a rider, and as a motorist around riders.
Get a kick start with Earth Day activities this weekend (information at http://earthdayhamilton.ca) or participate in Bike to Work Day on May 28 ( http://www.smartcommutehamilton.ca). See where it takes you. Who knows? Maybe by this summer you’ll learn to love your commute as well.
Coming to a roadway near you
Cyclists like Moyle and Hutchings cite a lack of both bike lanes and bike parking as a major component of what’s missing from Hamilton’s cycling infrastructure. Daryl Bender, project manager, alternative transportation with the City of Hamilton, says the new multi-use trail over Highway 403 (an extension of the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail completed in fall 2011) has an average daily usage of more than 300 cyclists and pedestrians per day.
Planned upcoming projects for 2012 include the following:
• Two-way bikes lanes on Hunter Street, through the core, are due to be installed this summer.
• Bike lanes on Woodward Avenue between Beach Boulevard and Brampton Street
• Northbound bike lane on Victoria Avenue between Burlington Street and Barton Street
• Extension of the Dundurn Street bike lanes between York Boulevard and King Street
• Bike lanes on Highway 8 in Stoney Creek between King Street and Fruitland Road
• When West 5th Street is reconstructed between Mohawk College and Mohawk Road, part of the plan involves wider curb lanes for bikes.
• Two-way bike lanes on the King Street bridge over the 403
• The Hamilton Cycling Committee’s Share the Road campaign will distribute Share the Road car magnets and stickers to local bike shops. They’re also creating a flyer of quick facts highlighting road-sharing responsibilities for cyclists and motorists, putting ads on Hamilton Street Railway buses and flying Share the Road banners over Main Street in front of City Hall and in Dundas.
• Bike corral installation on John Street North.
• CAN-Bike classes are being offered through the City of Hamilton Recreation Division this summer. Visitwww.hamilton.ca/cycling and click on Cycling Education for more information on courses that cover everything from cycling skills for kids and adults, to bicycle maintenance.