10 August 2008
Steel Town Cycle Chic & NY Times Article
One simple and yet brilliant guest photo today, from Larry Strung in Hamilton, Canada. Larry is a photographer with a wonderful photo series called Hamilton365. Here's what Larry says about why he took this photo and why his project is important:
Hamilton is mostly a "blue-collar" town, which means working class people that for the most part have been employed in the steel industry. That industry is in decline, so there is quite a bit of poverty while the city changes its economic direction. It has so much potential, but the biggest difficulty is changing attitudes. The really poor ride bicycles (if they are fit enough) because they can't afford a car. The new "industry" in the city is centered around a very good university that has it's most recognition from work in the health care field - so there is lots of new work related to this in local hospitals as well. The university and health-care people are the ones interested in using and promoting cycling. The former steel workers cannot get employment in this new industry, so there is a resentment present. The bulk of the population relate riding bikes to either the new "white collar" workers who are displacing them, or people so poor that they cannot afford a car. So they tend to be aggressive towards cyclist when driving in their cars...
My project, www.hamilton365.com , is an attempt to change the attitudes about the people of Hamilton. From the outside, Hamilton has always had a reputation of a "tough" town - something to be avoided. Even from within, people have a poor attitude about themselves. I have found that if you can get beyond the outside appearance, in most cases the people have a very warm and open heart. So the goal is to change the perception of being a city full of threatening people, to a city full of "people of character". When the perception is that people are full of character, they become interesting to get to know instead of to be avoided.
For cycling, the city is just about perfect. It is a harbour city - on Lake Ontario. In an east-west direction the city is perfectly flat. In a north-south direction, the city is bisected by a "mountain" - it's actually just a big hill. We have a land form here that is referred to as an escarpment - a single hill that goes for hundreds of kilometers. It's the same land form that Niagara Falls goes over. So we can practice our hill-climbing skills on this escarpment, and commute to work along the flat without building up a sweat. The World Cycling Championships were held here in 2003.
I think that Hamilton will come around in terms of being a cycling city, but it will take a few more years and a few more confrontations yet.
One little note from me: There is a great opinion piece by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times today, about Denmark and the things we do which can inspire others. Have a read.