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The Clean Air Partnership is a registered charity, founded in 2000. Our mission is to work with partners to achieve clean air, facilitate the exchange of ideas, advance change and promote and coordinate implementation of actions that improve local air quality.

My Four-Municipality Ride – A bike tour from Mississauga to Hamilton

It was late in the afternoon on Sunday this past weekend, as I was in the final stages of planning my Sustainable Day-Cation to Mississauga (be sure to watch for the posts in the coming weeks!), when I was struck by a whim.  To celebrate Pollution Probe‘s Clean Air Commute Week, I decided to cycle back to Hamilton from Mississauga.

Now Let me preface this by saying that, while I am a relatively avid cyclist, I am by no means an experienced long-distance endurance cyclist.  I don’t own specialized bike shorts, my bike costs well under $500, and I don’t do these kinds of rides on a regular basis.  But once I have my mind set on something, there’s not a whole lot of things that are going to change my mind.  So I set off for Mississauga with my bike on the Go Bus with all intentions of riding home later that afternoon.

These are the kinds of shorts that you will not find in my wardrobe.

As I toured through the City, I really started to get excited for my trip home, and when the time came, I changed into a lighter, more breathable shirt, saddled up and went on my way.  So I departed from Square One in Mississauga, rode west to Winston Churchill Road, south to Lakeshore Road, west to Burloak, North to the Centennial Bikeway, West into downtown Burlington and then basically along the waterfront and along Plains Road until I got into Hamilton.  Let me tell you, I’ve never been so happy to see that “Welcome to Hamilton” sign.  After over 3 hours of riding in 30 degree heat (over 40 with the humidex at some points), I was ready to be home.

A couple of things as disclaimers: 1.) I drank A LOT of water.  2.) I tried to pick routes that were either in the shade or along the lake to keep me as cool as possible. 3.) I’m no stranger to strenuous exercise, and was very mindful of how I was feeling, and always knew where the nearest transit stop was if I needed to call it quits early.  If any one of these things isn’t true about you, then I wouldn’t recommend doing this ride on a hot day.  So, now that all of that is out of the way, let’s go through some of the highlights of the ride, and some of the opportunities for improvement.

First, the opportunities for improvement.  The most significant challenge I faced on my ride was moving south on Winston Churchill Boulevard from north of the QEW down to the lake.  I actually opted to ride on the sidewalk because a.) there were no pedestrians there at all and b.) with traffic moving at 60-80 km/h, with several interchanges bringing traffic onto and off of the road from the highway, I was uncomfortable riding with traffic.  Crossing major highways is a real challenge for cyclists and pedestrians in the GTHA, and right now there are very few places where those crossings are safe and easy to use, especially for cyclists.  Of course, because most of the roads which cross the 400 series highways are relatively major roads themselves, this is always going to be a challenge.  There are some projects that are in place (Burlington’s Fairview Street and Highway 403 interchange, for example), which serve to improve cyclist safety at these high-risk areas, it just remains to be seen if other municipalities will be swayed by the evidence from these pilot projects.

Truthfully, that is really the only major complaint I have with my ride, so let’s move on to my favorite part, the highlights!

The highlight of the trip, for me, was riding the entirety of Burlington’s Centennial Bikeway, right from Burloak all the way downtown.  It was definitely the most relaxing 8.2 km of the trip (How do I know it was 8.2 km?  They have signs along the route!), even though the wind was blowing right in my face the entire time (Thanks a lot, barometric pressure gradient…).  Some of Mississauga’s trails (especially the Burnhamthorpe Trail) were also incredible to ride on.  Something that was a bit of a gaffe on my part turned out to be a great little accident.  After riding South on Mississauga Road (which has some awesome hills if you’re heading south, by the way), I turned right on the Collegeway, which was not the way I intended to go, which I only realized after riding for about 10 minutes.  But that road has some phenomenal cycling infrastructure and some incredible vistas, so it really made that wrong turn into a right decision.

At the Intersection of Winston Churchill and Lakeshore, where my ride in Mississauga ends and my ride in Oakville begins.

Lakeshore Road in Oakville, while it doesn’t have a bike lane along its entirety, was a beautiful ride where cars were easily able to pass me without any conflict.  And as I rode into downtown Oakville, I kept my eyes peeled for Blue W stickers in windows, and used that opportunity to cool down and refill my water bottle.  After a quick detour for a carb break at Elm Hill Cookies, I continued west towards Burlington.  Riding through Bronte Provincial Park I was cooled by the thick tree canopy, and buoyed by the fact that I was getting closer to home.

The start of the Centennial Bikeway at Burloak drive. Biking through Oakville was so great that I was upset to leave, but getting onto this pathway was a welcome way to start my ride through Burlington.

As soon as I crossed Burloak, I never left the comfort of a bike lane.  So kudos, Burlington and Hamilton, for giving me a nice safe route home.  Riding along the lake was great, it’s really hard to imagine a much better stretch of path than riding through Spencer Smith Park.

Without a doubt, though, one of the most significant surprises and highlights of my trip was the courtesy and respect I was shown by the drivers on the road.  The entire 55 km route, I wasn’t honked at once and didn’t have a single conflict with an automobile.  In fact, I was often waved in, smiled at and generally given a lot of space to ride.  It was great, and it really showed me that drivers in the GTHA are quite good at sharing the road, for the most part.

So there you have it.  I pulled into home warm, tired and ready for a serious bout of stretching, feeling great about making a journey that I would normally take transit or drive, all with zero emissions.  Give it a try sometime, there’s so many amazing places to cycle through Ontario and so many sights that you don’t really see when you’re whizzing by them in a car.

Until next time, ride safe!

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2 Comments on “My Four-Municipality Ride – A bike tour from Mississauga to Hamilton”

  1. Ashley-GreenHeroes June 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Clean Air Partnership,

    As your post guides readers through your journey from Mississauga to Hamilton, it gives tips for safe, happy cycling, introduces people to great places to cycle and raises the profile of barriers to safe cycling and what needs to be done to combat that. All of this helps promote cycling, a very green mode of transportation, and so we are very honoured that you contributed it to our GreenHeroes Twitter contest. We love to celebrate people who are doing great things for the environment. It’s what we do. Thank you for participating and congratulations on winning!

    -Ashley Ashbee, Digital Communications and Social Media Specialist, GreenHeroes

  2. Mississauga Living Green June 29, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Reblogged this on mississaugalivinggreen and commented:
    Congratulations to our friend at Clean Air Partnership for his successful ride home from Mississauga!

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