I showed up about 90 minutes early at the Together We Travel Ride For Angels event today (Saturday), but even then, the parking lot at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo was buzzing.
Shelter tents were going up, the logistics of registration was being worked out and route marshals were trying to figure out exactly what the route was.
Together We Travel is the first in what could become an annual cycling activism event. It resulted from last year's memorial ride for Barrie Conrod, killed by an overtaking driver while he and his partner Heather Caron were out on a sunny Sunday afternoon ride on a rural Waterloo Region road. That ride drew hundreds of riders -- many who knew Barrie and Heather, many who just wanted to come out to fly the flag for safe cycling on regional roads.
This year's ride is both a continuation of the strong feelings generated by the memorial ride, and a bit of a test -- is the local cycling community willing to support a "share the road" style bicycle ride to raise awareness of cycling safety and to demonstrate how significant the local cycling community is?
My point of contact with all this was one of the organizers, my friend Vy Waller. But there are a lot of people involved, including Heather Caron, Scott Nevin of the Waterloo Cycling Club and lots of others I only know by a nod and a handshake. And (full disclosure) I was a "volunteer" at this event, helping erect the tents and tying the red armbands on riders (sorry to all those who got the armband on the right arm, instead of the left).
If I come off sounding like a cheerleader for it, you can attribute that to my overt enthusiasm for any cycling event that puts bikes on the road.
And this one did. Hard to do a head count. Certainly, more than 200. The organizers think as many as 400. (Sunday update: organizers say there were more than 300 attending.)
There were a lot of white shirts.
And it was pretty impressive, from my position near the back of the pack, to see a long line of cyclists filling a whole lane in various roads in Waterloo with recumbents, tandems, kiddie trailers, mountain bikes, even a bike with training wheels, and ridden by children, teens, parents, singles, seniors and bike club members.
The Waterloo Region Police were on board, helping stop traffic at key intersections -- to the chagrin of some motorists, held up for a few minutes as the parade passed by, who must have wondered if all the cyclists in Waterloo Region were out Saturday night.
Thanks to the generosity of the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival and Waterloo's Open Streets event, the ride was able to finish at the Waterloo Public Square, parking our bikes in the middle of Willis Way and using the jazz festival stage for the short speechifying at the ride's end.
Nevin asked the riders to "get the word out there to share the road." And Caron, holding back tears, said, "Our hope for the ride is to raise awarness of cycling safety, and to lead to changes."
Sadly, it will probably take more than one ride to do this. Hope to see you out there next year.