New Group Focuses on Safety and Communication
People like cycling in Niagara. There are folksy fruit stands and idyllic vineyards, farm-to-table restaurants, coffee shops and enough pathways and country roads to satisfy even the most ambitious riders.
Yet in recent years, many of the two-wheeled set in Niagara Region were feeling uneasy about bicycle safety in the area.
Wally Tykoliz, president of the venerable St. Catharines Cycling Club and co-founder of the newly minted Niagara Cycling Club Alliance (NCCA), knew there was strength in numbers. But when he tried to track down the other clubs in the area to deal with the issue, he realized there was something missing.
Soon thereafter, the grand poobahs of seven Niagara cycling clubs sat down at the White Oaks Resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in what was the first step that would result in the formation of the NCCA.
“It was the first time ever that all the cycling clubs have ever met together to discuss anything,” Tykoliz says. “And it quickly became apparent that this was the greatest tool. The initial purpose was that we have to educate. First and foremost, it is about safety. In 2015 and 2016, there was a rash of cyclists killed [in] many accidents.”
Just how this public outreach will happen has yet to be finalized, but the group foresees the potential of developing a relationship with local bike shops. And if that first point of contact means more members for the clubs, then all the better.
Together, the Alliance already boasts more than 1,000 athletes, and has effectively established itself as an authority on cycling in the Niagara region.
The NCCA includes the Amici per la Vita Niagara Cycling Club, which specializes in destination trips for its members; Niagara Freewheelers Bicycle Touring Club, with its open, friendly and accessible mandate; and Forza Niagara Cycling Club, which concentrates on structured rides with an eye to skills development; if it’s mountain biking and off-road racing, it’s all about Energy Cycling Club; Bikefit Sunflowers Cycling Club is also a mountain-biking club, but one that is exclusively for women; the Short Hills Cycling Club is a pioneer mountain-biking club that is also active in the trail-building scene, so bring a rake or shovel; and the oldest club in Niagara, the St. Catharines Cycling Club, specializes in racing.
“Ultimately, we want to make the public aware that there are seven clubs offering all different kinds of rides to the general public,” Tykoliz says.
The most important service the group may provide is to direct the many would-be local cyclists to a club that is right for their needs and abilities.
The NCCA is also organizing its first joint venture: Canada’s 150 Birthday Ride. Scheduled for July 2, the ride is open to all levels, with a scenic and winding road route through the vineyards and orchards around the town of Pelham. In addition, a new mountain-bike route has also been added. And, of course, a BBQ and huge birthday cake will follow. There will be a nominal fee when registration opens on the Canada’s 150 Birthday Ride website, to be announced soon.
“The group overwhelmingly supported the idea,” Tykoliz says. “This is the most fun, energetic group of volunteers I’ve ever been associated with.”
Although NCCA already has a full agenda in its first year of operation, other initiatives on the horizon include organizing a volunteer brigade for the 2021 Canada Games if St. Catharines wins the bid, as well as focusing on youth development and implementing a passport system that would allow members from one club to sample rides from other clubs. For information on each club, visit its respective web site; for NCAA, please contact Wally Tykoliz at 905-933-8077; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new Alliance already boasts more than 1,000 cyclists.