Bicycles are the best form of urban transportation and more people should be out there riding on two wheels. In Toronto, like many North American cities, cyclists in the city are predominately white males (for a variety of reasons). With people stuck at home due to the pandemic there has been an increase in interest in cycling, particularly thanks to reduce vehicular traffic. Thanks to safer roads more people who identify as BIPOC are riding, and the group BIKEPOC is there to encourage even more riders. In 2019 Keiren Alam launched the group to create a more welcoming and diverse cycling community!
2021 will hopefully be a turning point for cyclists in Toronto!
Before the pandemic, Alam hosted monthly rides and workshops on skills like fixing flat tires. Her events were put on pause once the pandemic hit, but Alam organized fundraising rides for Black Lives Matter Toronto in July 2020. Shortly afterwards, she launched BIKEPOC’s bike match program to pair donated bikes with people who had difficulty accessing them. “A lot of people need bikes and the demand is clearly there,” Alam says. “We’re in a pandemic and people are still trying to get to work and are avoiding the TTC for safety.”
BIKEPOC partners with local community bike groups like Charlie’s FreeWheels and Bike Chain to build and repair donated bikes. They completed 20 bike matches last year, getting bikes in the hands of women, children and people of colour. After a winter hiatus, Alam relaunched the bike match program in mid-March and, in two days, she received applications from over 25 people in need of a bike. That’s in addition to the people who signed up last year but still haven’t been matched. “We have a lot of demand and not a lot of bikes coming in or getting donated because there’s a massive shortage of bikes right now.”
People opposed to multiple transit solutions often argue that it’s not worth building bicycle lanes because nobody rides in the rain. They couldn’t be more wrong. A new study from Germany looked into the use of bikes during poor weather and found that places with good bicycling infrastructure had more cyclists during when it rains compared to cities without safe roads. Now we have scientific evidence that building bike lanes keep people on their bikes, so let’s build more of it!
Between cities and regions, not only cycling levels differ, but also the reactions of cyclists to adverse weather conditions. Using data from 122 automated bicycle counting stations in 30 German cities, and a composite index of adverse weather conditions that consists of air temperature, precipitation, wind speed, relative humidity, and cloud coverage, we calculate city-specific weather elasticities of the level of utilitarian cycling. The results show that these weather elasticities vary significantly between cities. Our next step is to analyze various determinants of weather elasticities, which reveals that the share of young inhabitants and the density of the cycle network have a positive impact on weather resilience. Based on the notion that resilience to adverse weather conditions reflects a revealed part of a city’s bicycle culture, the weather elasticities can be used to create a ranking ofbicycle cities. This ranking is positively correlated with a ranking based on the modal share of cycling, as well as with other rankings based on stated preference surveys or external conditions such as infrastructure or cycling safety.
Here in Toronto we’ve seen little to no changes in our urban space during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other cities have been closing streets and making more room for people while in Toronto we’ve closed a couple streets on the weekend and gave up sidewalk space to private enterprise. Neighbouring communities have done a lot more (and I’m jealous).
The biggest development in Toronto was to catch up on the scheduled installation of bike lanes. Without a doubt these bike lanes are popular and there was clearly bent up demand for safe, sustainable, transportation. Ryerson University in Toronto has shown that not only are the lanes popular they have been saving a lot of lives!
Fully separated cycling facilities (like cycle tracks) could reduce the number of injuries along Bloor-Danforth by 89%. This could mean 153 to 182 fewer serious injuries over the next decade, depending on ridership
Fully separated cycle tracks are significantly safer and prevent more injuries than other types of cycling infrastructure, like partially separated lanes and painted lanes
The availability of safer cycling infrastructure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could have a “safety in numbers” effect, attracting higher cycling volumes and preventing even more injuries
Removing temporary cycling infrastructure could have a “bait and switch” effect, actually leading to more injuries; temporary infrastructure attracts new users to the route, but when this protection is removed, the number of injuries could increase from pre-implementation levels
Every delivery person knows that driving a truck through a city is stressful and dangerous. Our current delivery logistics tend to rely heaveily on trucks to transport goods to their ultimate destination, which clogs up roads and pollutes our cities. DB Schenker, one of the largest delivery companies, has decide to trial bicycle deliveries for that last step of distribution and it’s working out better than expected!
“We are 40 % more productive on a bike compared to a truck in the big city. At the same time, we saving CO2 emissions and thereby greener solutions. In addition, besides the better accessibility, we have another big advantage: Always easy parking. “
The new e-bikes have two boxes that can carry up to 300 kg of payload with parcels. The bikes’ batteries have a capacity of eight hours, which means that it only needs to recharge once every day. Every day, the deliveryman is stopped by people, who wants a picture of the e-bike. One of the deliverymen is Ion Gushtu, who loves the attention and exercise in the job: “It is very popular driving environmental friendly and I think people are appreciating the new initiative.” Ion has been driving around Bergen since 5thof March 2018.
The climate crisis requires solutions at all levels and that includes the streets. Safe streets for pedestrians and cyclists ensures that more people will use sustainable transit (and not drive polluting cars). New York City has earned a reputation for redesigning their streetscape to be for people instead of cars, which has been praised here on this site and elsewhere. This reputation was fostered under the previous mayor and now the new mayor, Bill De Blasio, isn’t living up to his predecessor’s urban design philosophy. We can’t ignore that the debate has moved from just needing bike lanes to needing safe bike lanes – New York City is still ahead of other cities. Let’s hope all cities can have more elevated debates about safe transit infrastructure.
Let’s stand back and look at what’s going on. The problem is the absence of an infrastructure that gives bikers, pedestrians, and even delivery trucks what they need so they don’t go to war against each other for the rat-infested crumbs of asphalt the city has them fighting over. Cyclists need protected lanes and prioritized lights all over the city. Give that to them and they won’t swarm the sidewalks, they won’t drive the wrong way all the time, and they won’t go through intersections when they shouldn’t. Give pedestrians the wide and safe sidewalks they need, the benches their weary legs desire, the trees that make shade in the summer, and calm streets in which the majority of space is devoted to the majority of people who are not in private cars. This has been proven to work — it’s not a risky leap, it’s been ridiculously successful in cities across the world, particularly in Europe.