If you are interested in showing your displeasure about the Ontario PC government’s plan to ram a provincial limited access highway through the heart of the greenbelt all but destroying Brampton’s planned Heritage Heights community, here is your chance.
Several grassroots organizations have banded together to raise awareness about the proposed 413 highway and the 2,000 acres of irreplaceable farmland that will be destroyed and that will set the stage for car dependent development for the next 30 years!
You can join walkers starting from the Heart Lake Garden Centre on Heart Lake Rd. at 10:00am. You can join cyclists starting near Kleinburg or from Mississauga at the Lisgar GO station. Both rides start at 9:45am. Walks and rides end at the Brampton Fairgrounds in Caledon.
The pressing need of the climate emergency gives us a unique opportunity to rethink how we use land and how we move people and goods in the Greater Toronto Area. Building more super highways such as the proposed 413 and the Bradford Bypass represent status quo thinking that is bad not just for environmental reasons but also because of the cost and the negative social implications. Recent BEA blog posts outline these consequences so please check them out for more details.
We still have an opportunity to do this right but first we have to get our Provincial Government to rethink their position that supports building these highways. The first step is to encourage the Federal Government to complete a full impact assessment to take yet another detailed look at the impact of Highway 413. Add yours to the chorus of Ontario voices who are concerned the Provincial Government will be taking us in the wrong direction if this highway is built.
You may have voted Conservative in the last provincial election but recent surveys indicate you don’t support spending billions on highways that are of questionable value and certain to cause environmental damage. Please take action to make your position clear on this issue. Thank you!
The Brampton Environmental Alliance (BEA) is teaming with Engage Peel, Human Impact Environment and GreePAC to host an all-candidates debate for the upcoming Provincial election in the riding of Brampton North. The debate will take place virtually on May 17th, 6:30-8:00pm.
GreenPAC is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that runs 100 Debates on the Environment, with the objective to make the environment an issue that no party and no candidate can ignore. GreenPAC works with local groups to co-ordinate and underwrite the costs of hosting an all-candidates debate.
“GreenPAC believes, debates let candidates know that the environment is a top voter priority”, according to GreenPAC Program Coordinator Rizwana Hussain. “They help voters to make the connection between climate change and their other priorities, like health and affordability, and to make an informed choice at the polls.”
By: Rosemary Keenan, Sierra Club Peel Chapter Chair and David Laing, President, Brampton Environmental Alliance
It was a brisk, enjoyable and energizing day at the first ever Grown Green Awards Celebration held at Norton Place Park this past Saturday April 23rd. Norton Place Park is a hidden gem in the heart of the City with a small lake beautifully surrounded by trees and trails. The Earth Day event was about celebrating the Brampton City’s and its residents contributions to a more environmentally friendly world.
Recent reports from the International Panel on Climate Change paint a grim future for our planet in the coming years unless we make dramatic changes in how we produce and consume energy. That scary analysis should be enough to mobilize us to take action. But what can we, as individuals, realistically do?
Carbon emissions are a waste by-product from our production and use of energy. We can lower emissions either by using less energy or by using energy from less wasteful sources. It turns out that one of the most effective things we can do here in Brampton to reduce emissions is to use our cars less and our bodies more.
A 2019 energy audit completed for the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, found that Brampton’s cars and trucks account for almost 60% of the city’s carbon emissions. And a 2016 transportation survey found that, of the 2.3M transportation trips taken in Peel Region by car each day, the median distance is just 6.3 km. That’s an hour’s walk but less than a 20 minute bike ride.
The human body uses energy very efficiently to move itself, especially when travelling by bicycle. The calories contained within a glass of orange juice will carry a cyclist about 5km. That same amount of energy derived from gasoline burned in a car’s engine, typically won’t carry the driver to the end of their driveway.
Adding costs to the equation makes the case for travelling by bicycle even more compelling. Brampton drivers spend just under $1B per year on gasoline and diesel fuel. That’s on top of the costs for, licensing, road construction and maintenance as well as the vehicle capital and repairs. Overall, a typical motorized vehicle costs more than $6,000/year to own and operate, whereas the average cost of ownership for a bicycle is less than $100 annually.
Barriers to cycling
Access to a bicycle, perceived distance, perceived comfort, lack of skill or concerns about theft, weather and arriving sweaty to the destination are among the many reasons cited for why more people don’t use a bicycle for transportation. A barrier not often discussed, however, is a lack of cycling culture.
Cycling for transportation is considered the norm in many parts of the world where conditions are similar to those here at home. But, in many North American cities, cycling behaviour has been discouraged to the point where a person who uses a bicycle for anything other than recreation is considered second-class or more than a bit odd. Eleanor McMahon, a past Ontario cabinet minister, past Board Chair of Share the Road Cycling Coalition, and the current President and CEO of the TransCanada Trails Association, once said that, “cycling is known as a rich man’s sport, and a poor man’s second choice.”
Fortunately that perception in Ontario and specifically in Brampton is beginning to change. There is no question that cycling popularity is on the rise, especially since the pandemic began encouraging more outdoor activities. Bike retailers have had a hard time keeping up with demand and long wait times for new bicycles have only recently begun to ease.
The city of Brampton responded in 2020 initiating a “Streets for People” campaign that is building bicycle infrastructure as part of an Active Transportation Master Plan. Last year 15km of linear bicycle infrastructure was added including, multi-use paths, urban shoulders and on-street bike lanes. This year city plans call for an additional 31.5km that will flesh out a significant portion of the city-wide cycling network.
Safe infrastructure, is only one of the required elements leading to the cultural shift necessary to get folks out of their cars and onto their bikes. Education and encouragement are two other important factors. That’s where BikeBrampton and the Community Cycling Program comes in.
BikeBrampton is a volunteer group advocating for better and safer active transportation choices in Brampton and Peel Region. As the name implies active transportation is the term used to describe destination type trips that are mostly or entirely human powered including, cycling, walking, skateboarding, etc. But BikeBrampton also partners with PCHS (Punjabi Community Health Service) to deliver the Community Cycling Program (CCP) on behalf of Peel Region.
The purpose of the CCP is to increase cycling mode share by creating a cycling community and normalizing cycling as a legitimate form of transportation. The program increases access to a working bicycle through a bike lending library and by teaching basic bike maintenance skills. It also helps build familiarity, comfort and confidence for riding on existing infrastructure by teaming new and experienced riders as well as through skills training programs and group rides.
One of the more popular aspects of the program is the series of ‘BikeWrx’ pop up events at different sites in both Brampton and Caledon throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Last year’s pop ups proved very popular. According to Sonia Maset, the Brampton and Caledon Bike Hub Program Manager working for PCHS, “Our goal at the beginning of the summer of 2021 was to provide 100 hours of service to 2,000 residents between July and October at 13 different locations, 10 in Brampton and 3 Caledon. In four months, we delivered 120 hours to 2,348 residents over 46 events spanning 17 locations in the two municipalities.”
Services at these events included free bike bell and light installation (courtesy of the Region of Peel), free bike inspections, basic repairs, bike and helmet fittings, route planning, trail etiquette, group rides, obstacle courses, and one-on-one rider education.
In a unanimous vote at this past Wednesday’s Committee meeting, Brampton Council said yes to the updated implementation schedule of the Active Transportation Master Plan for 2022. This includes an $8.6 million budget for education, programs and infrastructure including, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, counters, initiating a bicycle friendly business program, updating the city’s cycling map, and providing support for a return to live events such as the Bike the Creek signature cycling event.
The motion did not pass without debate. The installation of cycling infrastructure often creates controversy, particularly in suburban cities, like Brampton, where cycling for transportation is less common than in larger urban centres. A recent study found that most drivers don’t like sharing the road with cyclists because they believe the cyclists are inconsiderate. It turns out the vast majority of cyclists treat the road rules with respect yet the impression lingers. Local politicians are a target of vocal opponents who don’t want to compete for road space with cyclists or who see bike lanes as taking away valuable road space that otherwise could be used for more traffic or on-street parking.
The fact is bike lanes can often improve traffic flow by defining a clear space where cyclists are supposed to be on the road. They also tend to calm traffic, reducing average speeds, making the road safer for all but especially for vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Safer infrastructure also encourages more pedestrian and cycling behaviour, thus reducing the number of cars on the road. As communities become more active, there are corresponding improvements in health outcomes and the sense of well-being amongst practitioners.
Despite these public benefits, the controversy remains. Residents may object to a bike lane being installed in front of their house because it would take away their on-street parking. Yet it is often the same residents who complain about high speed drivers and who want calming measures put in place.
Quelling the controversy is possible. Communication is the key, letting residents know about the coming infrastructure, educating them about the benefits and listening to their concerns. Once the infrastructure has been in place for a few years, it becomes the norm. Strangely enough, when that happens, residents will complain bitterly if a civic leader proposes they be removed.
Brampton’s Transportation Planning and Road Engineering staff listened patiently as Council raised complaints received from constituents. They agreed to do a better job of contacting those residents to ensure their concerns were heard and addressed without compromising the integrity of the planned active transportation network. Satisfied with this approach, in the end, all 10 Councillors and the Mayor voted to support the updated implementation schedule.
Whether we were born in Canada or came here later in life, it seems many of us don’t like Canadian winters. Did you know there is a scientific reason why winters make us feel so lethargic and unhappy?
It turns out the lack of light affects our brain’s ability to generate serotonin and melatonin, two chemicals that help regulate our sleep cycles, energy, and mood. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Lack of exposure to full-spectrum natural light also reduces the body’s production of vitamin D, a chemical necessary for calcium absorption. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to many diseases including, breast, colon, and prostate cancers, heart disease, depression and weight gain.
Low levels of vitamin D in children are related to rickets which causes soft, poorly formed bones. Children can also experience SAD and the affects can be similar to clinical depression. This includes negative thinking, changes in sleeping or eating, and lower overall energy. Loss of concentration is another symptom, which may affect the child’s school results.
For many children and teenagers, an effective antidote to SAD and low vitamin D levels is to get outside and absorb the natural light. Even 30 minutes of winter light exposure per day on the face can generate sufficient levels of vitamin D, serotonin, and melatonin.
The World Health Organization recommends children and adolescents aged 6 through 17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily to maintain healthy bones and muscles. But, according to the Region of Peel, fewer than half of Peel’s kids are getting the minimum amount of daily activity. And 27% are overweight or obese.
Walking or riding to school and back, at least some of the days of the week, may be the simplest and easiest solution to these related problems. It builds physical activity into the child’s daily routine which supports better mental health outcomes, higher concentration abilities and better academic performance.
February is Winter Walk Month and there is no time like the present to put your child on the “Road to Health”! Encourage them to walk or ride. Walk with them if you have the time or join with a group of parents to form a walking school bus or bike train. Who knows, you may find that winters become enjoyable for both you and your family!
What’s walking and riding to school have to do with the environment? Well, 20-25% of Peel’s morning and afternoon vehicle traffic is from children being driven to school. Increasing the amount of walking or riding will decrease vehicular traffic which is the single biggest producer of carbon emissions in Brampton.
The City of Brampton has created a new award program to recognize individuals, businesses, organizations and institutions in the city that have demonstrated environmental leadership and have significantly contributed to the “Grow Green” vision of conserving, enhancing, and balancing our natural and built environments to create a healthy, sustainable, and resilient Brampton. Nominations will be accepted until February 28th, 2022 and the awards will be handed out during an Earth Day Environmental Festival to be held at Norton Place Park on Saturday April 23rd.
The Climate Change Award will be given to an individual and a business/organization that has significantly contributed to advancing climate change mitigation, adaptation, awareness/knowledge, and or actions.
The Stewardship Award will be given to an individual and a business/organization that has significantly contributed to the advancement of environmental sustainability iniitiatives related to the conservation and/or stewardship of trees, natural heritage systems, water, and/or the reduction of waste.
The Environmental Youth Award will be given to an individual or youth group that has demonstrated exceptional achievement in the advancement of environmental protection, climate change actions, and/or sustainability.
The Environmental Legacy Award will be given to an individual who has provided outstanding personal service and ongoing contributions to advance the “Grow Green” vision of conserving, enhancing, and balancing our natural and built environments to crate a healthy, resilient and sustainable city.
In an interesting move, two Brampton Councillors are asking that the City withdraw its support for highway 413. It was previously thought that the Provincial Government would support the City’s plan of a “Boulevard” option for the portion of the highway running through the Heritage Heights sub-division in the City’s northwest. More details about the Boulevard design can be found on the City’s website.
Evidently, the Ministry of Transportation has indicated they will not be incorporating the urban boulevard into their corridor planning, but rather will continue to plan on the basis of the entire corridor being a 400-series limited access highway.
Council is now realizing that, should the highway proceed as planned, it would split the Heritage Heights community in two and jeopardize Council’s vision for Heritage Heights as a complete community. Additionally the highway would “increase car dependence, contribute to low density suburban sprawl, increase greenhouse gas emissions, increase congestion, and prevent Council’s vision for northwest Brampton from being realized”.
While the revised Council resolution continues to support the urban boulevard concept, if it is passed, the City would now be strongly opposed to the current 400-series design currently being proposed by the Province.
The motion is set to be voted on at the January 26th, virtual meeting of Council. Residents wishing to speak to the issue can summit a delegation form to the email@example.com. Alternatively, letters in support of the motion to can be sent to MayorBrown@brampton.ca copying the City Clerk.
The next meeting of the Brampton Environmental Alliance will be held virtually on Wednesday December 8th. Informal networking at 6:15pm. The meeting starts at 6:30pm sharp! Click the Register button for your free ticket.
Keynote presentation by Dr. Dianne Saxe. Dianne Saxe is one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers and was the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, until the Conservative Government rolled that position under the Office of the Auditor General in 2019. Dianne is running as a member of Provincial Parliament candidate for the Green Party of Ontario (University Rosedale riding) in next year’s Provincial election. Dianne is an articulate defender of the environment and a champion of the new green economy. The BEA is thrilled Dianne has agreed to share her passion and environmental knowledge with BEA meeting participants.
Spotlight presentation by Tooba Shakeel. Tooba is a Senior Coordinator of Sustainable Neighbourhoods Program (SNAP) at Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). She is an ISA Certified Arborist, an EcoDistrict Accredited Professional and a Board member of LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) a Toronto-based not-for-profit group dedicated to urban forest protection. Thanks to Tooba for agreeing to share information about CVC programs in Brampton including the Fletcher’s Creek SNAP!
Events This group coordinates events for members and assists with events for residents – BEA Collaboration event, Brampton Earth Day event
Education and Resources This group arranges talks on environmental topics, using the One Planet principles of focus: Land and Nature, Culture and Community, Travel and Transport as they relate to Brampton. The group also helps connect members to needed resources and expertise on financing and various environmental topics
Advocacy This group helps coordinate and amplify community advocacy campaigns and environmental initiatives under the three One Planet principles above.