by Scott Elliott, PCI #915/EMSCI #198
Niagara Regional (ON) Police Service
For those of you who have read my annual Toronto Bicycle Show articles in the past (both of you), you may find my approach a little different this year.
No, I was not greeted by my beloved “eau de dirt”. Must be the odd year; I’ve kind of lost track.
Yes, I purchased my usual share of bike porn and was just as excited to do so as I usually am.
The difference is that I actually manned a booth this year during the March 1st to 3rd show. You see, I am the police representative for a local bicycle advocacy group called the Regional Niagara Bicycling Committee (cyclingniagara.ca). I was appointed to this committee by our Chief five years ago. Our role is to advocate safe cycling in our region as part of a healthy lifestyle, a means of active transportation, and a way to attract tourists.
The booth, which displayed maps and brochures about cycling in the region, just happened to be located right across from the Gran Fondo Niagara booth. I had met the organizers of this event at a bike summit a few months prior, and one of them recognized me and came over to chat. For those of you who are not familiar with the term “Gran Fondo”, it translates loosely from Italian as “big ride”. These rides have exploded in popularity in the last few years, and 5000 riders are expected to ride in the inaugural Niagara 125 km (78 mile) event (granfondocanada.com) on September 14, 2013.
My connection to this event is that it takes place on the exact day I turn 50. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my half-century milestone, so I signed up to ride with a team of friends. Unfortunately, I think I made a grave error by mentioning the significance of this date during my chat with the organizer. He seemed quite interested and said he would have to do something to recognize this. I now cringe at the thought of what might be done to thoroughly embarrass me at the event. I long for the anonymity of just being one of the multitudes of riders. Guess that’s gone!
I did spend some time wandering the show after completing my shift in the booth. The marketplace, where Toronto-area bike shops sell their wares, was as full of amazing deals as usual, but I spent more time on the other side. This is where our booth was located and is home to many cycle-tourism and event displays as well as exhibits by well-known manufacturers such as Shimano, Yakima, Bianchi, Opus, Pearl Izumi and Louis Garneau, most promoting new product lines. One of the event booths was for another Gran Fondo, this one being organized by legendary Canadian cyclist Steve Bauer. I used to work for him when he operated a bicycle/wine touring company in Niagara. His event takes place just outside of the Niagara region, one week before the Niagara event. Check out www.canfondo.com for more info.
I also watched some BMX trick riding. It is amazing what these guys can make their bikes do without the use of ramps or rails. The BMX trick jumping area would make IPMBA conference obstacle course designers and riders pee their pants. There was also an indoor mountain bike race track.
My favourite area, which gave me an idea for an activity during the Police Cyclist Course, was a bike polo tournament. These guys used mallets to hit a ball around an area that resembled a hockey rink without the ice. It just seems so Canadian, and the bike-handling skills required for slow speed balance and quick acceleration were phenomenal. I can see it as an alternative to the “battle box” for developing these skills.
And so my annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of cycling has done its job once again. I am reinvigorated for the upcoming cycling season and long for the temperatures to warm so I can ride the roads and trails of Niagara without having to spend an hour getting dressed first. Oh, you lucky inhabitants of southern climes. I hope you realize how wonderful you have it!
Scott Elliott is a Patrol Supervisor and Bicycle Patrol Coordinator with the Niagara Regional Police Service in Canada. He is LEBA- and IPMBA-trained and has been an IPMBA Police Cyclist Instructor since 2006 and an EMS Cyclist Instructor since 2007. Scott is also qualified as a CanBike instructor and enjoys both road and mountain biking. He can be reached at email@example.com.
(c) 2013 IPMBA. This article appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of IPMBA News.