Grizzly bears have been the most dangerous road hazard faced so far by a group of intrepid cyclists intent on sending the country a message about global warming.
Malkolm Boothroyd, 17, will travel the furthest by a long shot of a group of four cyclists riding part or all of the Yukon leg of the cross-Canada Pedal for the Planet bike rally, winding up in Ottawa on Sept. 14.
Boothroyd started the Whitehorse-to-Edmonton leg of the tour with his mother, Wendy, who returned home from Edmonton.
Fully self-supported, they rode nine to 10 hours a day, completing the journey of just over 2,000 kilometres in 17 days.
They saw 16 bears en route, including five grizzlies.
Fortunately, none of the bears showed any sign of aggression, Boothroyd said while stopped for lunch along Hwy 2 near Lacombe on Saturday afternoon,
Joining him in Edmonton for the ride to Red Deer on Friday and Saturday were Jeh Custer from the Sierra Club, Lisa Faye from Oxfam Canada and care worker Russell Charlton, who all live in the provincial capital.
While Charlton’s journey wrapped up in Red Deer, Boothroyd plans to make the full trip. Custer and Faye are riding as far as Calgary, and then will pick up the trip again from Regina to Saskatoon.
It is expected that hundreds of people will have joined in by the time the various legs of the ride converge in Ottawa, said Faye.
Prairie regional organizer for Oxfam, she wants to spread the message about how climate change has affected the lives of millions of women.
Every time she takes a sip of clean water or washes off road grime in the shower, Faye, 32, is reminded of the stories she learned while touring Madagascar.
Climate change has dramatically changed weather patterns in Madagascar, including unseasonable flooding of the rice paddies that has made them highly susceptible to invading weeds, said Faye.
Men figure they are already too busy to help control the weeds, so the women float through the paddies on planks, pulling weeds, she said.
Their extra duties make it that much harder to take the time needed to collect and boil water for their children, who commonly drink out of the gutters.
Closer to home, Custer, 26, says he joined the ride to publicize the need to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions generated within Canada, particularly through the tar sands projects at Fort McMurray.
Energy campaigner for the Sierra Club, Custer said his research shows that tar sands projects are responsible for on sixth of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
Government and citizens alike seem unwilling to acknowledge and take responsibility for those admissions, he said.
“It’s no longer just and Alberta issue,” he said.
No associated with any specific organization, Charlton, 25, said he joined the ride to show support for the group’s efforts to publicize its concerns.
Pedal for the Planet is a Kyoto Plus campaign, organized to encourage Canadian officials to make a stronger commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada has faltered badly since the original Kyoto Accord, and needs to make a significantly stronger effort during international talks set for Copenhagen, Denmark in early December, said Custer.
The bike rally’s progress can be followed online at kyotoplus.ca/pedal