10 August 2008

Steel Town Cycle Chic & NY Times Article

Photo by Larry Strung
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.


Anonymous said...

I love the story about Hamilton, an Ontario (English-speaking Canada) city I've always had a lot of affection for. I love how the contributor pinpointed the dual resentment against cyclists, perceived at once as "Lumpenproletariat" losers and petit-bourgeois toffs.

Another factor, of course, was the deliberate destruction of the tramlines in Hamilton and many other cities, forcing workers to go into debt to buy a car to get to work, do the groceries, etc. Hamilton is also ideally suited for a tram network.

The escarpment also means a warm microclimate - while there was a lot of snow throughout southeastern Canada in this very wet winter, usually that area is as cyclable as Copenhagen, with just a bit of snow and mild winter temperatures.

It is also right next to the "fruit belt" with wonderful peaches and commendable wines, especially the whites.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful picture... just exquisite.

my hyggelig said...

I love how you allow me to day dream and look at beautiful pictures and then give me great articles to sharpen my knowledge. Thank you and keep it up! The NYT article nailed it on the head ~ this is a frustrating place to live right now, so many lost opportunities. Sigh.

Congrats on the 1 year - it is hard to believe "it was as lonely as a Finnish Winter...". There is a reason people keep coming back for more. Please keep it coming!

Colville-Andersen said...

thanks, you three!
great additional info on hamilton, lagatta... thanks for that.

thanks, sigrid! but all things considered, a Finnish winter can be cosy. Log fire, sauna, vodka...

Brian said...

On the Times website, a great pic was part of a slide show:

Pic on NYT website

Colville-Andersen said...

thanks, brian! cool shot!

Andrew J. Besold said...


She has got to be one of the most beautiful and stylish women I've ever seen grace the pages of your blog.

I found it hard to believe she wasn't from Copenhagen. I got to make it up to Canada more often!

Dennis Alan Gray said...

Unlike most folks in Ontario I truly enjoy Hamilton. It's one of my favorite place to ride, especially the escarpment. Long flat rides across the top with spectacular views of the valley below and in the distance one of the 5 largest lakes in the world. That's why it's such a shame that the bicycle is still so highly resisted here in Ontario, it's the best way to enjoy a beautiful part of the world.

This link is a picture I took while on a 200km charity ride through the Hamilton area. A cyclist, taking in the view, telling someone else about it. I just loved the moment.


Colville-Andersen said...

thanks for the link!