Truth be told, I really like riding my bike. I like it so much that I have spent nearly a cumulative year of my life on cycling holidays, and in the first week of May I had the pleasure of adding one more feather to my cycling cap.
From May 5th to May 10th, local leaders from regions across Ontario's Greenbelt joined the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust on a bike ride of more than 460km. The ride was a chance to beta-test the newest addition to what seems to be quickly blossoming into a cyclist’s dream come true. I'm talking about the Greenbelt Route, a signed route that crosses seven regions as it winds it's way around Lake Ontario, from Niagara up to Northumberland.
Watch us ride the Greenbelt Route.
On the ride it kept coming up that the Greenbelt Route has the potential to bring significant new tourism dollars to the regions we traveled through, and that projects in cycle tourism have the potential to drive a whole new market into these communities. And we proved it to be true with our collective desire for butter tarts, and our unquenchable thirst for fine wines and craft beer!
On the very first day I had the chance to ride with Jean François Pronovost of Vélo Québec. He spoke to me about the significant advances in cycling that have been made in since the inception of his organization in our neighbouring province to the east. He touched on some of the real tourism benefits that have come about as a result of La Route Verte, now heralded as a world-class provincial network of long distance cycle routes. Jean François told stories of abandoned rail corridors that have had new life breathed into them, with shuttered train stations flickering back to life with a new energy directed at the active, affluent, and hungry clientele that travels on two wheels. In fact there are real statistics that support these claims. According to Vélo Québec, cycle tourists spend 1.3 times more than other tourists, and they stay longer too!
Making my way up and through the winding countryside, I was awestruck by the hidden beauty of this part of the province. There is much to see in Ontario’s Greenbelt, and in terms of a day or weekend cycling trip, the Greenbelt Route is perfectly accessible by bus and train.
As we rode through Ancaster and around Hamilton and Dundas the route took us down and up the Niagara Escarpment, along gorgeous winding roads, and right past the Christie Lake Conservation Area which is home to the 2014 Greenbelt Harvest Picnic. We then climbed out of Dundas to the top of Sydenham Hill and I stopped for a stunning view out over Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour to the distant Niagara shoreline of Lake Ontario.
We crammed a lot of kilometers into that five-day trip, and by the end I was exhausted. With a number of steep climbs and gravel stretches, there were moments when I was gasping for breath! But I can say for certain that I am looking forward to getting out this summer for a day here and a weekend there to experience the Greenbelt Route at my own (slower) pace. The Greenbelt Route includes rail trails, rolling hills, flat sections, and thrilling descents. With more than 460km of terrain, it has something for everyone.
The Mobile Workshop was a fantastic opportunity to share the experience of cycling this brand new route with so many knowledgeable people. I really appreciated having a chance to hear compelling stories from the places we visited along the way, and seeing the real progress that is being made by the regions and municipalities in terms of welcoming cyclists to Ontario and into the Greenbelt.
-- Communications Assistant