Saint John Cycling is building a bike-friendly Loyalist City
Saint John, N.B., the oldest incorporated city in Canada, is situated on the Bay of Fundy and surrounded by the Caledonia and St. Croix Highlands. This rocky, hilly city is home to a relatively new but very dynamic cycling club, Saint John Cycling, one that is engaged fully in advocacy, development and community.
After the tragic death of New Brunswick cyclist Ellen Watters, a member of the Cyclery-opus team, on Dec. 28, 2016, Saint John Cycling was integral in lobbying for Ellen’s law. This regulation, obliging drivers to give cyclists onemetre of space when overtaking, went into effect on June 1. Club president Gary Crowley identifies the organization’s “very quickly deployed rally in January” and the passing of the law as key events for the sjc. He sees a marked improvement in drivers’ behaviour but admits, “There are still some motorists who don’t seem to respect cyclists on our roadways.”
There are many ride options for the 100 or so sjc members around the city. Rockwood Park is situated in the city’s north. There, mountain bikers can link together 55 trails of various levels of difficulty for a grand total of 26 km. The park is the centre of many of the events that the club organizes, such as the Rockwood Challenge. “We had more youth participants, 60-ish, this year at the Challenge than adults, which is very promising for the future,” Crowley says. Since 2015, there has been a mountain bike skills course on an acre of the park; the sjc Trail Crew was central to its creation. “The Trail Crew maintains the trails for Rockwood Park throughout the year at no expense to our city,” vice-president Holly Mckay says with pride.
The Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers have many secondary roads running along their lengths. The six cable ferries that cross the rivers give cyclists plenty of options for tying together rides. Crowley recommends riding the Bluffs in Sussex, 75 km northeast of Saint John for the views alone. He says, “You are hard-pressed to find a route that doesn’t include a challenging hill or two around here.”
About a quarter of the club races and members have several options beyond the Rockwood Challenge. The Bloomfield time trial series takes place from May to September, offering chronos of 20 km and 40 km and even a 7-km hill climb. Autumn brings cyclocross season with two races on tap for the cowbell crowd.
Two recent club initiatives address different kinds of newcomers to the city. Members have started to take German cruise-ship passengers on rides around Saint John and Rockwood Park. “A cycling tour is the best way to show off our city,” Mckay says. Alongside the Crescent Valley Resource Centre, finds and repair bikes for new Saint Johners from Syria. For more established Saint Johners, sjc launched a pilot Cycling Without Age program at the Loch Lomond Villa, the first seniors home to run cwa in Canada.
Mckay says, “Our city is just becoming cycling friendly, thanks to our friends in city government who are more aware and on-board. The sjc members have been very involved in making real change.”
“Club president Gary Crowley identifies the organization’s ‘very quickly deployed rally in January’ and the passing of Ellen’s law as key events for the SJC.”