Greg Hall needs a new bike.
After a few thousand rides from Oriole Park to Notre Dame High School, his current two-wheeler does not have much left to give. And with those daily eight-km commutes no longer being necessary after this week, Hall is ready to upgrade his wheels.
“That’s going to be a little retirement gift to myself — a new bike,” said Hall, 55.
Hall has spent 30 years in the Catholic education system in Red Deer, the last nine years as principal of Notre Dame. Over those three decades, whatever the weather, Hall has eschewed motorized transportation “probably 98 per cent of the time” on his trips to and from work.
While at Camrose Lutheran College in the early 1980s, Hall paid heed to legendary cross-country coach Garry ‘Gibber’ Gibson’s philosophy about staying active. That, along with a youthful money shortage, ensured his early-career trips to St. Patrick’s Community School would be made using leg, not engine, power.
If running late, which he admits he often was, he would run. If the snow was substantial, he might ski to work.
But most of the time, he would grasp a set of handlebars and pedal his way to school. Since 1984, he has cycled to his job nearly every single day, going through only three bikes over the three decades.
“It’s just a great way to get some activity,” says the effervescent educator, “And fresh air! The fresh air is wonderful. I have a sedentary job, so it’s a nice way to build in a little bit of activity.”
If driving, he says the trip would take 15 minutes. On a bicycle, it is twice that.
Though the occasional swear word and incredulous verbal volley gets lobbed his way in winter, for Hall the coldest months are the coolest. Dress properly and you can stay warm without sweating too much or having to endure minutes in a slowly-heating car.
Maybe eight winters ago, during a particularly cold snap, he did freeze his cheeks a rosy red. But Hall says this last winter was the most challenging of all. With city crews constantly battling ever more snowy streets, bike paths were a low priority.
But he says despite that, he remains grateful for the cycling infrastructure Red Deer boasts. He won’t stop riding in retirement, and he believes in time the city will get more bike lanes for riders like him.
Hall has served on the Better Biking Red Deer committee, helping in the development of a winter cycling master plan. That committee’s work, he said, helped to make cycling more accessible and ensured paths would be plowed so riders could go year-round.
But even if efforts have been made to give riders a share of the road, Hall has been involved in some pretty mean collisions and learned that drivers rule the road.
“I have learned that you cannot take anything for granted, you have to be so defensive. You’re invisible out there, or you have to pretend like you are,” says Hall.
Hall calls his retirement plan ‘Flexibility 55,’ which will likely include some substitute teaching and a good deal of hiking with wife Susan.