Now that I’ve finally ridden the Ride for Heart, I have a few suggestions for improving the experience, getting more people involved, and making it safer:
- Separate it into two events: one race and one pleasure ride. It’s obvious that a lot of speed demons enjoy the opportunity to race along the DVP, but they really shouldn’t be mingling with riders who are just out for a leisurely Sunday pedal. With the racers leading the charge out of the starting chute at 6:45 a.m., it wouldn’t be a problem except that the 75 km course loops back on itself at the top, which puts the speedy peloton in conflict with much slower riders for at least a quarter of their ride. At the very least, the racers should start an hour earlier than other riders so that the two groups don’t conflict. Another option is to run the event over a whole weekend: multiple races on Saturday, pleasure ride on Sunday. I’m sure that racers would appreciate this just as much as the rest of us.
- Push back the start time. I mean, really, who wants to wake up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning to go for a bike ride? More importantly, how many more familes would participate if the latest start time got pushed back from 9 o’clock in the morning to 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon? I know, inconvenience to drivers, blah, blah, blah. Spare me. This could tie into my previous suggestion: have races in the morning, leisure in the afternoon.
- Let people start from somewhere other than Exhibition Place. What’s the point of forcing someone who lives in North York to drive down to the waterfront, ride up to North York and back to the waterfront, and then drive back up to North York? Wouldn’t it be better if they could just ride over to the York Mills exit and get on the DVP from there? I saw riders getting on and off at virtually every ramp along the highway, so people are already doing this anyway. And they’re probably not registering to participate, either. It’s not a problem for me to ride down to the Ex, but it would be a lot easier (and fun!) for me to use either the Don Mills or Bayview on-ramps.
- Ditch the set course and just let people ride wherever they want. As far as I could tell, the course isn’t really enforced anyway. A fast rider could probably have done the York Mills–Bayview loop several times before time ran out, and someone who signed up for the 25 km ride could have done the full 75 km without being stopped. Indeed, for all the checking I saw, anyone could have started any route at any time. For maximum effectiveness, tie this in with the previous item: let riders get on the highway wherever they want, ride wherever they want, and get off wherever they want. Riders should pay a set access fee at whatever ramp they use to access the Parkway and that should allow them to go anywhere.
- Do it more often. Why just one early morning in the spring? How about every Sunday through the summer? With different charities running it each weekend? Five bucks gets you on the DVP and Gardiner between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (with on and off privileges at any exit) every Sunday for three months. I know, inconvenience to drivers, blah, blah, blah. Suck it up.
All of these suggestions would get more people on the road and probably raise more money. If these changes were made, I’d anticipate a minimum of 150,000 cyclists taking part. Just set up tables at each entrance, sell wristbands for $5–$10 and let people cruise at will.