Celebrating Cycling: Bike Month 2022

By Charlotte Lake, Communication & Digital Marketing Assistant, Access Alliance
Group of youth biking through a neighbourhood

Mobility is a privilege people tend to overlook. Biking as a mode of transportation offers advantages not only physically, but also financially, socially, and environmentally. With rising gas prices, steep transit fares and climate change – cycling is an outlet we must take advantage of! Scarborough Cycles, a program run by Access Alliance in partnership with the City of Toronto, creates space for cyclists of all levels to ride, repair, and connect. It embraces cycling as a movement rather than just a recreational activity.

Throughout the past six years of Scarborough Cycles programming, there have been many events and accomplishments worth celebrating. This June, the Scarborough Cycles team recognizes Bike Month as an annual celebration that also represents opportunity, agency, and community.

Check out the video to below to hear what some staff and volunteers had to say about Bike Month.

Pedaling through the Pandemic

In 2020, Toronto underwent “the largest, single-year increase in new bikeways”. In times of isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic, people found escape in the outdoors and physical activity. Many rediscovered their local Toronto neighborhoods through walking and biking. The surge in cycling because of lock-downs induced a widespread bike shortage. This paired with closures of bike repair shops due to pandemic restrictions inhibited many who wished to bike but lacked adequate resources. AccessPoint on Danforth served as a valuable resource during this time, equipping residents with bicycles to use and tools to repair their own. The program also offered training workshops for youth and continues to do so – prepping them with hands-on experience.

Overcoming Barriers to Biking

Despite these shortages, the pandemic sparked an interest in cycling that has not dwindled. Access Alliance plans to build on this momentum by raising awareness about the benefits of cycling for local communities. Unfortunately, biking in many of Toronto’s neighbourhoods is daunting and discouraging for residents. Heavy traffic combined with the absence of substantial bike lanes on main roads puts cyclists in danger. Ultimately, this lack of infrastructure for cycling limits the movement of people in these communities. Scarborough Cycles’ Marvin Macaraig helped to produce the documentary, Scarborough Needs a Cycling Network (YouTube video linked below), which aims to showcase Scarborough voices and their opinions about cycling.

Accordingly, Scarborough Cycles advocates for the Danforth Complete the Street initiative to ensure public safety with bicycle infrastructure. This initiative aims to redesign roads between Broadview Avenue and Victoria Park to be more considerate of cyclists.

Cycling has the power to unite people and nurture community. Aside from physical barriers, Scarborough Cycles also challenges social obstacles. The Hijabs and Helmets cycling program was formed when organizers realized there were very few Hijabi women involved in the cycling scene. This program gives Hijabi women and their allies the opportunity to develop their biking skills and engage in group rides and social events. It also encourages visibility for Muslim communities, as they often do not feel protected or welcome while cycling in an era of rising Islamophobia.

Group of Hijabi women cyclists taking a break in the park.

Moving Forward

Access Alliance Scarborough Cycles works towards advocacy wins in the community. The hope is that with each consecutive Bike Month, for years to come, we will continue to see system-level changes that build positive and safe experiences for all cyclists in Toronto!

Large group of cyclists smiling and waving

Make sure to follow Scarborough Cycles on Twitter (@ScarbCycles) and Instagram (aasustainability) to keep up to speed on all of their advocacy and programming updates!