Earth Day, Cold, Wet & Windy – Again!

Brampton's new all electric fire truck.

Saturday morning dawned the same way that it has for the past three years, windy, wet and numbingly cold. Storm clouds raced across the sky bringing driving snow and hail pellets. With the temperature hovering around 5 degrees, the snow did not stay on the ground but the biting wind made it feel far cooler than the temperature indicated. Despite that, several hardy souls made the trek to the Earth Day celebration by bicycle, some coming from as far away as Georgetown.

Cyclists leave from Paul Palleschi Recreation Centre in Heart Lake heading for the Earth Day celebration at Gore Meadows Community Centre
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It’s Earth Month – Give your planet a hug!

Dayle hugging willow tree

April is a great time of year. It heralds the true beginning of spring with longer days, warm sunshine and soaking rains that wash away the winter blahs. Signs of love are everywhere, from the birds gathering nesting material to the young folk, holding hands in the park.

Perhaps the best part of April is that it heralds Earth Month, a time to think about all of the environmental challenges we are facing and to take positive action to create a sustainable future for us and all the creatures sharing this small planet we call home.

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Mobility 2040

Franceschini bridge

The Future of Transportation in the City of Brampton

Sometimes it hard to imagine what is going to happen next week let alone by 2040. But that’s what the City of Brampton Transportation Planning staff are trying to do as they envision how transportation in this City will evolve by the year 2040. They are launching a study to update the current 2015 Brampton Transportation Master Plan into a new Brampton Mobility Plan that will guide the City’s investment in transportation over the next 17 years. They are looking for your input. Join a virtual public meeting on July 18th at 7:00pm. And you can provide comments in a survey and map that is available until the end of July.

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BikeBrampton Announces 2022 Outdoor Schedule

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.

Transportation carbon intensity
Creating a cycling culture Katie Whittmann (2015)

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.

shows a typical pop up venue
2021 Professors Lake Pop-up

The BikeBrampton Bike Hub team is preparing once again for a full slate of outdoor events for this year in both Brampton and Caledon. Bring your bike for a free inspection and minor tune-up. Learn about route planning and bike safety. Get a free bell or bike light while supplies last. Check out the schedule on BikeBrampton.ca. Sign up to the BikeBrampton News to stay up to date on the latest event information including Bike the Creek, Brampton’s signature cycling event.