Over a thousand cyclists are expected to tackle a variety of circuits
this year in the northeast section of the city.
Words by Perry Lefko
You’ve heard of the Tour de France? Well, how about the Tour de Mississauga?
It may be one of Mississauga’s best-kept secrets, although it continues to evolve as an annual event, growing in popularity and in purpose. More and more people are putting the pedal to the mettle in Mississauga—and the Tour highlights our growing cycling obsession.
“Cycling is a real force in the city, and we need to accommodate it,” says Tour chairperson Dorothy Tomiuk. “The Tour has multiple objectives and it’s fun, too… let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a great social networking thing as well. Mississauga is a very diverse and a somewhat discombobulated city with various villages. This is a way of thinking as a city and bringing everyone together.”
The Tour celebrates its fourth year on September 18, and this edition will begin and end from the newly-renovated Mississauga Celebration Square. Each year, the Tour runs through a different quadrant of the city and this version encompasses the northeast part.
The first event began with only 30 cyclists, followed by 400 the next year. Last year, it reached 1,000.
“This year we’ll get even more, and that’s pretty good growth,” predicts Phil Green, an avid cycler and long-time cycling advocate for the city. “I’m looking forward to the day when we get 30,000 or 40,000. There’s been a huge increase in the number of people cycling, so what the Tour de Mississauga does is it crystallizes that (annually).”
The Tour runs in staggered starts, beginning with a 100- kilometre route, followed by a 60k and then a 30k. There are no prizes for the top finishers. It is all about riding for the pure fun of it. The motto is: “This is not a race—the journey is the destination.”
Any kind of bike, including electric assist, is allowed. The minimum age is 10. All minors 16 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Tomiuk, who cycles about 250 kilometres per week for both recreational and work purposes, marvels at the cross-section of individuals who have participated in the Tour since its inception.
“You’ve got the Spandex crowd, cheek by jowl, with the slightly out-of-shape riders, middle-aged riders, teenage riders and families. We’ve had people in their 80s. That’s the beauty of it. It gets everybody out. The commonality is a celebration of the community.
It’s a uniquely Mississauga event. It was born in Mississauga, built by Mississauga volunteers, and its taking advantage of what we’ve got in Mississauga and trying to pull us together as a city. Once you learn the route, you can go out any weekend and ride this stuff.”
Participants can ride as far as they want to on the Tour, even if they only intend to go the shortest route.
“What’s unique about the Tour is we have defined distances, but they can be approached in different ways so (riders) will see things they’ve never seen before or see things they can only see from a bike,” Tomiuk says. “It’s not just about covering the miles and saying, ‘Come out and see if you can ride 60 kilometres.’ It’s come out to see a part of Mississauga you’ve never seen. Get up close to natural wonders and amazing landmarks and things you’ve probably never heard about in this particular quadrant of the city.”
One of the themes of the Tour is “Vote with Your Wheels,” which means that participating in the event sends a message to City Council about the importance of cycling.
“Part of the whole process is to show Council, ‘Yep, the cyclists are out there and once you make it safe, they will come out in droves, and that’s going to help us become an active city, a healthy city and it will help with the gridlock,” Tomiuk adds. “We’re saying that if they put in bike lanes, people will not drive. They’ll say, ‘I’m just going to take my bike. I can save on gas. I can get myself healthy. I can get there faster and it will be fun.’ If people have the alternative, they will take it.”
Ward 3 rookie Councillor Chris Fonseca, cycles regularly and is excited about trying the Tour for the first time. Fonseca says, “The growth of the Tour is helping illustrate that Mississauga can be a destination city for cyclists of all ages. Our residents are more and more enjoying the unique perspective of their City that can be seen from a bike.”
After they cross the finish line, participants can enjoy the free barbecue provided by the Region of Peel, which is promoting active transportation and lifestyle choices. There are also raffles for prizes. In addition, on-site bike mechanics from Mississauga’s top cycling shops will assist riders as needed at the Celebration Square venue and via mobile services en route.
As Tomiuk reiterates, it’s all geared “to help us develop that sense of place and to help cyclists from around the city realize we are, in fact, a vital part of the City.”
A CYCLING MASTER PLAN:
Cycling for recreation, fitness or transportation has been a growing concern in Mississauga since the city started to expand and road construction replaced open land.
A letter sent by cycling advocate Phil Green in 1990 to Ward 2 Councillor Pat Mullin put the wheels in motion for the municipal government to address the growing needs of cyclists with specifically-designed paths. Green noted in the letter the abundance of “wonderful” cycle paths for recreational cycling but not for commuting, and added that if roads were to be extensively reconstructed, cyclists needed to have a voice in the planning stage. Moreover, he said the city seemed to be designed “by the automobile for the automobile and it is time for a new perspective.”
This led some four years later to the development of a Cycling For Transportation Committee, which morphed into the Mississauga Cycling Advisory Committee (MCAC) of which Green became the founding chairperson. MCAC is comprised of volunteer members who meet monthly and advise City Council and its staff about cycling issues.
“When we were organizing these community bike rides even 20 years ago that’s what we were doing— trying to make people aware that they could ride their bikes in Mississauga and it wasn’t totally dangerous and we were also trying to impress upon councillors that there were voters that wanted to ride their bikes,” Green says.
QUICK TOUR FACTS:
• 20-30k Family Ride 9:30 a.m. start time
• 60k Signature Ride City of Mississauga 8:30 a.m. start
• 100k Challenge Road Ride 8 a.m. start
• General completion time of 60k ride is 3 hours, or 4-5k for “leisurely riders”
• Most of the route is flat
• Points of interest in this year’s ride include:
The Etobicoke Trail, Hershey complex and IceLand, the Airport, Britannia Farm, the village of Malton and the downtown core.
• Registering is online and cutoff date is September 15, 11:59 p.m.
For more information go to www.mississaugacycling.ca.