City sees major benefits in elite cycling – prepared to work with new leadership at cycling club.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 15, 2011 – It was a great idea at the time but it got off to a shaky start and just didn’t get any better.

The first step in having elite cycle racing take part in Burlington started during the Jackson administration when a group known as MidWeek Cycling appeared before a Council Committee asking for financial support for a plan they had to run two cycling event in the downtown core and at other venues around the city and elsewhere in the region.

Then Mayor Jackson however didn’t like the look of the idea and was disturbed over the fact that the project wasn’t properly documented and that the promoter hadn’t showed up for a critical meeting. We should have paid attention to that red flag.

On a recorded vote it passed but Jackson didn’t go for it. On that one he was right. More than a year later, a lot of egg on our faces and hours and hours of time pout in by staff and the Regional Police – and guess what? We are looking at the event again.

This time however – it is going to be a lot different. The biggest change is at the MidWeek Cycling club level. Crag Fagan, the guy that drove people at city hall and the Regional police offices nuts, will not be part of the next attempt to bring elite cycling to the city.

Why are we doing this a second time? The original agreement was for a two year period. The thinking at the time was that 2011 races were to be a lead up to the 2012 races which were 2014 Olympic qualifying events.

Chris Glenn has kept his staff focused on the objective, it wasn’t always easy working with an event organizer who didn’t appear to be able to meet commitments.

Chris Glenn has kept his staff focused on the objective, it wasn’t always easy working with an event organizer who didn’t appear to be able to meet commitments.

Many saw this as an opportunity for Burlington to take advantage of the geography and put the city on the map as the place to hold first class racing events. The plans to hold a Criterion event in the downtown core had a lot of people excited. The Burlington Down Business Association and the Burlington Hotel Association were all a twitter over the possibilities.

They liked the idea so much that they petitioned the Region for permission to have retailers remain open for the Canada Day Race. They could just see the dollars rolling in.

Councillor Jack Dennison, a keen cycler did everything he could to make the event happen but it was just one problem after another that had city hall staff doing far more than they should have. That won’t be happening again. The event is actually the Canadian National Road Cycling Championships which are held by the Canadian Cycling Association. That association doesn’t really put on the event. They look for a local association to put on the event and chose MidWeek Cycling to do that job. MidWeek had Crag Fagan lead the project for the club. That was a terrible mistake.

Fagan came close to getting himself arrested when he had MidWeek issue a cheque to the Regional Police to cover some permits. The cheque bounced. Bouncing a cheque made out to the police isn’t exactly a positive career move.

Things are going to be much tighter and much more disciplined. City hall staff now have a much better understanding as to how these events take place and what the dynamics are and what they need to do and what they need the partners in the events have to do. During early 2010 staff did everything but send a cab to Toronto to pick up Fagan so that he would actually be at meetings. It was dispiriting for the staff and disappointing for everyone involved – but Scott Stewart, currently the Acting City Manager but in real life the General Manager of Community Services could see the potential and he worked with his staff to figure out how they could salvage something from the experience.

Stewart’s team has put together a list of what has to be done and by when – and made it very, very clear that if a deadline is missed – no excuses this time, the deal is off. The deal amount to $30,000. From the city and $20,000 from the hotel association.

The cycling association has to have the following worked out and documentation delivered to the city and the Regional police by October 3rd. No extensions.

If they come up with documentation on the timing, the staging of the event, worked out the logistics that are involved, worked out how residents in the affected areas will be notified, how the general public will be kept aware of what is happening and provide a preliminary traffic management plan – things will go forward. But – the city has made it very clear – the deadline is October 3rd.

Traffic management was a major hurdle that really wasn’t overcome during the 2011 experience. The costs police were looking to have covered were seen as just too high by the MidWeek Cycling people. The belief is that the police have also learned something from this experience and the intention seems to be to make more use of the volunteer police.

Acting City Manager Scott Stewart mentioned that someone had suggested the police volunteer some of their time. Stewart commented that “that one wasn’t on – the idea didn’t fly:, which is unfortunate. Our police are well paid and policing in Burlington isn’t exactly hard work. Giving a little back is part of the Burlington culture that could work its way into the police service.

There were some valuable lessons learned from the summer of 2011 experience. The city now knows that cycling events work best when roads being used are closed with escorting available for those who must drive along the cycling route. There were other lessons learned as well – the biggest one being to insist that deadlines get met by the sponsors of the event. We will know on October 3rd if that lesson has really been learned.




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