Team Julie seeking members for Greg's Ride - Sept. 7, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
For the second year in a row, Blyth’s Julie Sawchuk is bringing dozens of cyclists to Greg’s Ride, a fundraiser for the provincial Share the Road initiative.
The ride, named in memory of OPP Sergeant Greg Stobbart, who was killed while cycling in Milton in 2006, will be held in Hamilton this year and Sawchuk says she’s expecting over 30 members of Team Julie to ride alongside her. The team, however, is always looking for new members and interested cyclists are encouraged to sign up at sharetheroad.ca.
There are three distances for this year’s ride: eight kilometres, 37 kilometres and 77 kilometres. Sawchuk will be riding her hand bike along the 37-kilometre route and she will be joined by plenty of family members, including her husband Theo, children Ella and Oliver and others who are making the trip.
Ella designed the team’s shirts this year, so Julie says her daughter is excited that so many cyclists will be seen on the streets of Hamilton wearing her handmade design.
Sawchuk first became involved with Greg’s Ride last year through her work with the Share the Road initiative. She has become a vocal advocate for reform of traffic regulations and education surrounding cycling in Ontario since she was paralyzed from the chest down when she was struck by a car while cycling over two years ago.
At last year’s ride, Sawchuk said she was “moved” by the event and how passionate those involved are in regards to cycling safety and how everyone was pulling in the same direction.
Greg’s Ride serves as the major fundraiser behind Share the Road’s ability to lobby the provincial government for better laws to protect cyclists and stiffer penalties for those who fail to obey those laws. Recent changes in laws and stiffening of penalties, she says, have come as a direct result of Share the Road government lobbying, meaning that they have come as a direct result of Greg’s Ride and its hundreds of participants every year.
Not only was Sawchuk moved emotionally last year in Milton at the ride, but she was also moved physically, taking part in the ride with her husband Theo, who pushed her for the duration of the ride.
While Sawchuk had yet to build up her arm muscles to a level that would facilitate the use of a hand bike at the time of the ride, she also was yet to buy a hand bike that could stand up to the demanding, hilly route.
Now, with a year to work on it, she will be doing over 35 kilometres on her hand bike.
Going back to last year’s ride, however, Sawchuk said it was an important experience for her. It was the first time she had been out on the road since the collision and it felt great. She said to feel herself descending hills outdoors and on the road again was a magical feeling.
Not only did she feel great being on the road again, but she felt very alive. Talking about Stobbart and how he died in a very similar incident to the one that paralyzed her, she says she came away from the ride feeling lucky to be alive.
This is the 12th time the ride is taking to the road and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised in that time.
“In 2006, OPP Sergeant Greg Stobbart was killed while cycling on Tremaine Road in Milton. After Greg’s death, his wife Eleanor McMahon founded the Share the Road Cycling Coalition in his memory to advocate for safer roads for all Ontarians,” the ride’s website states. “At Greg’s Ride: Ontario’s Ride for Safer Cycling, we ride in Greg’s memory, celebrating how far cycling has come in over 10 years and striving to make Ontario the safest place in Canada to ride a bike.”
The ride takes place on Sunday, Sept. 24 and more information is available at sharetheroad.ca.