Getting to know the Saskatoon Cycles board of directors: Merlin Toth

As a non-profit, Saskatoon Cycles relies on the generous efforts of its volunteers. One of the ways you can contribute to and help shape the direction of our work is by becoming a member of our Board of Directors. At our AGM on November 3rd, 2021 three people joined our Board. We’ve already introduced you to Gordon Holtslander, past board member and IT genius, and next up is Merlin Toth, a passionate cyclist and retired professional in the security and surveillance industry.

Q: Who are you and why do you ride a bike?

            My name is Merlin Toth and I joined the board of Saskatoon Cycles in November of 2021. I ride a bicycle because it is a great way to stay in shape both physically and mentally. It allows me to travel easily around the city of Saskatoon without worrying about rush hour traffic or trying to find a parking spot Downtown or in the Broadway area. It allows me to travel all over the province of Saskatchewan and around Western Canada at a relaxed pace, immersing myself in the sights, sounds and smells of my surroundings while perched on a bicycle saddle instead of hurtling along cocooned in a car. Cycling is also a way to reduce our carbon footprint and to do our part to reduce the accelerating pace of climate change. A recent study out of Oxford University in the UK found that switching from driving to cycling for just one trip per day could result in a personal reduction of 0.5 tonnes of CO2 annually. It’s not a huge amount individually but if each of us do something, multiplying that reduction by hundreds or thousands or millions, it becomes very significant!

Q: Any favourite cycling rides or routes in or around Saskatoon?

            In Saskatoon, I would have to say the Meewasin Trail from Wanuskewin in the northeast to Chief Whitecap Park in the southwest. The riverbank views are ever-changing. Around Saskatoon, any of the less-travelled roads in the area. I used to ride mainly paved routes but now my wife and I prefer the quiet gravelled and dirt farm roads with their fewer and almost invariably friendly and courteous drivers. 

Q: Why did you decide to join the board?

            I see Saskatoon Cycles as being at the forefront of cycling and active transportation advocacy in Saskatoon. When I lived in Yorkton, prior to moving to Saskatoon, I sat on the Yorkton Active Transportation Collaborative where we worked toward improving opportunities for all aspects of active transportation there, and I saw a chance to continue that work here in Saskatoon.

Q: What do you hope to contribute through your involvement?

            As I mentioned, I have cycled extensively in Western Canada and some in the Southern US, a quick rough tally comes out to about 80,000 kms in total. I have seen quite a bit of cycling infrastructure in my travels, some which works well and some which does not. I believe I can draw on my experiences on the bike to advocate for safer and more efficient streets and roads for all users.

Q: Have you already volunteered with Saskatoon Cycles? If so, in what initiatives have you been involved?

            In the past I have volunteered some shifts with the Bike Valet, a wonderful service that allows people to attend festivals and events by bicycle without worrying about the security of their beloved set of wheels while it awaits their return. I have to admit I have used the Bike Valet services far more than I have helped provide it.

Q: What do you see as some priorities to make Saskatoon better and safer for cyclists?

            We actually have many very good cycling paths in our city but there are many gaps between them. Cycling paths historically have been placed where it was easy and cheap to accommodate them, not where they were actually necessary for safe movement, resulting in a very disjointed active transportation network. I would like to see a mandate that any development or redevelopment plans in Saskatoon include cycling (and all active transportation) as part of the overall development/redevelopment plan. Then we can avoid having to try and fit these in piecemeal in the future. We are seeing some of this in some of the newest neighbourhoods but we have a long way to go to make these comprehensive. I would also like to see an education program for both motorists and cyclists to encourage both to travel around this beautiful city of ours in a manner that is safe, respectful and courteous to all.

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