Tuesday, 4 October 2016

On the road again

It seemed like a natural thing to happen at the time, even though I don't really know how it did. Right after I was hit, my family and friends started to talk about Share the Road. It made sense to me, too, so I started talking about it too. How cyclists (and other non motorized road users) are not given the space they need to be safe. How roadways in Huron County (and elsewhere) were not designed to be wide enough. How things needed to change. I spoke on the radio, was interviewed by the Citizen and appeared on CTV news a couple of times. I wanted to let people know that things need to change.

While I was still in hospital, change started to happen. My graphic designer friend Erin made a bumper sticker that looks like this:

They were printed up and sold to raise money for my recovery and my family. The stickers landed in bike shops, at races, in bookstores, coffee shops and even in the knitting store in Blyth. Lots of local businesses got on board to support the effort - an effort to educate drivers. Since then, those stickers have traveled far. I have had requests from Alberta, had lots of people say they have seen them far away from Huron County and we even have friends that have taken them to England!

Last weekend my family, friends and riding friends attended Greg's Ride in Milton. Greg Stobbart was an OPP officer who was struck and killed while riding in 2006. His wife, Eleanor McMahon started the Share the Road Coalition in his memory and has been working ever since to make riding safer for all Ontarians. I spent some time riding with Eleanor on Sunday. She is now MPP for Burlington and is the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport - and she is making things happen.
The two Eleanors.

Mom and Dad both did the 15km ride - proud of them :)
The whole team!

Team Julie - our shirts were a hit!

On Sunday every member of the Swift family rode 15km, from 8 year old Henry to the "old folks". Seven and a half out and seven and a half back. Theo and I both did firsts - I rode the borrowed hand bike and Theo ran to help me along. It was hard, but we did it in just under two hours on a beautiful sunny day.

It wasn't so much about the ride (although being on the road again, and with my whole family, was incredibly meaningful) it was about being together with all these other people who were there for the same reason. To enact change and to support all those who have been affected by drivers not sharing the road. We also celebrated the changes that Share the Road has created. It was a very emotional morning, hearing from Executive Director Jamie and Founder Eleanor. They are the ones who lobbied the government to create the one meter passing law and have educated thousands of children about safe riding. Share the Road is helping communities all over Ontario become "bike friendly" and are working with the provincial government on the allocation of $25 M for cycling infrastructure.

So it's not just about bumper stickers anymore. The message goes much deeper than that. When Jordan from Share the Road Cycling came to Holmesville we learned about how much further we can take the Share the Road message. About how many communities like ours have effected change. When Huron County receives the report of recommendations for making the county a bicycle friendly community, we need to be there to support it. We need to let our local politicians know that we want to see changes. We want bike lanes, paved shoulders, cycling education, helmet checks, bike friendly events...making bumper stickers and signs to let cars know you are riding are good ideas, but we need more. We need bigger changes from our local government and beyond. We need to support Share the Road - it is because of their lobbying that new legislation went into effect last fall. Because of their lobbying that we have the 1 meter passing law. I know that some think that it is not enough, but it is a start and it is better than what we had before.

When I got on that three wheeled bike I had lots of different emotions. I felt like a little kid, on a three wheeled bike, who needed protection. But I thought a bit invincible - like I couldn't get hit by a car because it had already happened...any lightening doesn't strike twice, right? And I also felt like I deserved to be given space to ride that bike on the road - move over assholes. [One guy choose to lay on his horn as he drove past Eleanor and I riding together. The nerve.] You can't deny feelings - but not of these were very accurate - I am not a little kid, I have paralysis and have to ride differently; I am most certainly not invincible - lightning does strike twice; and I do not deserve to ride on a road - I have to earn the privilege by doing so safely, just like any driver.

If you missed the ride but still want to support Share the Road you can donate here. Those of you who live in Huron County stay tuned. The recommendation for making Huron a safer place to ride will be coming soon - be prepared to let council know that you want to see these changes happen. 

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