Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner September 17, 2020
I’m a fan of our local newspaper, and in June, I read about the Shifting Gears Bike Commuter Consult, whereby I could take my trusty Norco bike to B! KE on George Street, all COVID-19 compliant, leaving it at the door, and they would, for free, examine it and call me on Zoom to report on its condition for summer.
For my pains, I would receive a free bike accessory. I chose a light, though I seldom cycle at night.
Lo and behold, the mechanic instructor was longtime acquaintance Jean Greig, a woman of many talents; writing and music to name two, who is working at the non-profit community-based shop. Jean found a few problems and gave me advice.
B! KE is a remarkable resource here in town. It is managed by the indefatigable Tegan Moss, and does all kinds of outreach, teaching “do-it-yourself’ skills, keeping used parts and second-hand bikes, always mindful of economic barriers to widespread cycling. It has just acquired its charitable number and can issue receipts for donations. Then, I met the impressive Lindsay Stroud, a Trent grad and one-time B! KE volunteer, who has for eight years organized programs at GreenUP, in schools (“Pedal Power”) and the community (“Shifting Gears”) to encourage active transportation for all ages.
We have 72 kilometres of bikeways within the city. There is a latent demand for more and safer infrastructure. From all appearances, COVID-19 has brought out increased numbers of people motoring under their own power. There are many groups of enthusiastic cyclists and the road cycling organization Peterborough Cycling Club, rides on county routes There is also the Tandem Bike project for people with low or no vision. But for most of us, it will be cycling to errands and work and school. In that regard, wiser planning years ago would have put small grocery stores within better reach.
I chatted with Susan Sauve, the transportation demand planner at City Hall, a dedicated outdoors person. These four women work closely together in Peterborough to increase the percentage of us who cycle and walk to our destinations. That number is now about 10 per cent, the highest percentage among communities in the GTA and Hamilton. Hurray for us.
In 2008, city council approved a plan to install more sidewalks where they are missing. We won’t walk unless we are confident of the way. It is now 50 per cent complete. I notice and am grateful for the sloped ends of sidewalks that makes transitioning at corners smooth.
In 2012, the city approved a Transportation Plan with a proposed cycling networks. The Transportation and the Cycling plans are under review and residents can offer input online at connectptbo.ca.
The coordination of four groups, the city, the county, public health and GreenUP, is impressive in making Peterborough bike-and walk-friendly.
COVID-19 has changed the local landscape recently. Active transportation has increased about 20 per cent. We see many more people walking and cycling, for something to do, and to increase good mood.
It is hardly necessary to itemize the fitness benefits of this activity. Nor the very desired reduction in greenhouse gases. But more subtle effects are also felt. At bike level, we’re more likely to connect with driver of cars, and with pedestrians and other cyclists. It makes the city we occupy more friendly and comfortable and “lived-in.” We may become a slowed-down place.
There are now additional pages in the Ontario Driver Training manual about the cycling presence.
As for me and my newly tuned bike, I am about to replace my cycling down George Street on a busy afternoon for some alternative route. In Chinese cities, for example, a whole lane is reserved for cyclists, sometimes an entire family on a bike.
I keep my bike under a tarp in the backyard, trying to see it first as I step out. I want to postpone those hip and knee replacements as long as possible.
A salute to those people planning and encouraging us.
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