By Doug Hallett
When it comes to cycling to Hillside, festival organizers think there is safety in numbers – and a police escort doesn’t hurt either.
One of the new twists of this weekend’s 29th annual Hillside Festival will be organized bike rides to and from the festival site on Guelph Lake Island. They’ll leave from St. George’s Square at 5 p.m. this Friday and at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, travelling along the Speed River Trail.
Each night, the organized bike rides will leave the festival’s bike lock-up area at 11:15 p.m. and return to Guelph via the roads. A police escort will accompany the cyclists along dark Conservation Road, until they get to the lights of Victoria Road, said Hillside executive director Marie Zimmerman.
“We are always trying to encourage cycling, but it’s a little bit dangerous at night,” she said in an interview. Hence the police escort on the dark stretch of the return trip. “We are hoping to demonstrate to people that it’s manageable and it’s fun,” she said.
Riders are being encouraged to wear reflective gear and to bring bike lights. As usual, the supervised bike lock-up at Hillside is free.
GOTBike, a local cycling advocacy group, has teamed up with Hillside to organize the bike rides. The group will be at Hillside all weekend promoting cycling.
The bike rides will leave from the Hillside shuttle bus stop, which is in a new location this year at Quebec and Wyndham streets in St. George’s Square.
Once again, Hillside is providing free bus rides to and from the festival site.
Parking fees charged on the festival site, which cover the cost to Hillside of providing free bus rides, will be a dollar a day higher this year, because of the increased cost of supplying the buses, Zimmerman said. It will cost $7 a day, or $20 for the weekend, to park a motor vehicle at Hillside this year.
The fact that St. George’s Square is no longer used as a Guelph Transit transfer point means the square can now be used by Hillside shuttle buses, she said. Last year, Hillside buses left from the River Run Centre.
People will be able to exchange their tickets to the sold-out festival for festival wristbands before they get on the shuttle bus. So when they get to the festival site, all they have to do is walk across the causeway to the island, Zimmerman said.
Hillside buses will leave St. George’s Square every 20 minutes on Friday July 27 from 4-9 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The last return bus leaves Hillside each night at 12:30 a.m.
As well as the regular Hillside shuttle buses, accessible buses will leave from St. George’s Square on the hour and return from Hillside on the half-hour.
One change on the festival site this year will be “more trash turnaround,” Zimmerman said. She said this means not only more frequent clearing of garbage bins, but also more stations where people can put their dirty dishes, compostable food scraps and recyclables.
The festival’s “green team,” which each year raises money for green improvements at Hillside, will collect funds this year to have a solar-powered hot water heater installed next year at the tent where festival volunteers wash dishes, she said.
As usual, there will be a water tanker on the Hillside site where people can get their containers filled with chilled Guelph tap water, free of charge, she said. The tanker is sponsored by the City of Guelph.
The Hillside Festival is planning to make its website more usable by people with various disabilities, and it’s inviting suggestions from the public.
“By March 2013 we hope to have a fully accessible website,” said Hillside executive director Marie Zimmerman.
It could mean introducing “auditory cues” so that people who are blind or have low vision can use the Hillside website, Zimmerman said.
“Mouth-directed cues” might be introduced for people with mobility issues, and changes are also being contemplated to make the website easier to use by people with cognitive special needs.
Hillside has set up an advisory group called the Hillside Accessible Website Review Team, made up of people with special needs, people who work in the field of special needs and people who are experts in designing accessible websites.
Hillside is working with Barking Dog Studios, a local web design company, on the accessible website project.
Hillside is soliciting ideas via a blog it’s launching at access.hillsidefestival.com.
People will be able to use the blog to let Hillside know what features they’d like to see in an accessible website, Zimmerman said.