Want to promote active living? #BikesCanDoThat!

May 5th, 2019

By Lindsay Stroud, former GreenUP Transportation & Urban Design Manager

In 2018 the provincial voice for cycling, Share the Road, released a document titled, Bikes Can Do That. It details seven benefits that can be achieved when bikes become the daily vehicle of choice for more people in your community. Over the next year, we plan to dive into each of these ideas, and this month we explore how bikes can help residents lead healthy, active lives.

In 2015, Peterborough was awarded a Silver level, Bike Friendly Community status by Share the Road. Our community was acknowledged for advances made in bike-related infrastructure, partnerships, promotion, and education. It was an honour and no small feat, but also not completely unexpected. After all, Peterborough’s love of bike riding, for both physical activity and recreational enjoyment, has been obvious for decades.

Peterborough’s extensive trail network is a great place to test out your two wheels! Enjoy a family ride on International Trails Day with the Trails Scavenger Hunt provided in the City’s Fun Guide.

Early inspiration and continued dedication to bike riding has lead to an extensive trail system that weaves around our city, passing through and leading to many parks and landmarks. There are 44 km of trails to explore, including the Trans Canada Trail, Rotary Greenway Trail, and the Parkway Trail. Peterborough’s trails are open year-round, but International Trails Day on June 1st is a great chance to find what our trails system has to offer.

There are also well-travelled, well-loved, and now well-signed road routes that stretch out into Peterborough County, and beyond. The Peterborough Cycling Club, one of the largest per capita clubs in the province, leads nearly a dozen organized rides a week that are geared to all ages and skill levels. Their expert knowledge has contributed to the thoughtful development of the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Classics, which are three local road routes that offer short (45-65km) and long (80-100km) experiences.

Peterborough has long embraced bike riding as a vital component of active living, and now the number of people who self-report cycling for exercise now sits near 24%. With this level of interest, it is not surprising that residents are asking for more access to cycling opportunities.

Bike riding is an excellent way for all ages to build a little physical activity into the day, and it’s a lot of fun, too!

Linear activities and facilities such as walking, cycling, and cross-county skiing, topped the list in Vision 2025 (2016), which is the City of Peterborough’s recreation and parks strategic plan. It states, “Residents and stakeholders envisioned a city with fully integrated trails/pathways and an on-road cycling network that connects all parts of the City, reaches to every neighbourhood, connects natural heritage areas and compatible land uses, and links the countryside in all directions.”

As the City begins an update to its Cycling Network later this year, watch for more opportunities to contribute your ideas about how to create a complete network that connects the places we live to those where we work, shop, and play.

These connections enhance recreational cycling, and also help to make bikes a more viable transportation option in our community. Regular bike riding throughout adulthood can protect against a variety of age-related health issues. New research shows that compared to non-active commuting and walking, commuting by bike is associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, two of the leading causes of death in the City and County of Peterborough.

If you are interested in using your bike for daily trips around town, May is the perfect month to start doing so. The Shifting Gears transportation challenge runs throughout the month, with free bike checks, workshops, rides, and gear giveaways to help you feel more comfortable and confident in your bike commute.

Building activity into our daily travel isn’t just a win for adults, but for children too!

Currently, only 35% of 5- to-17-year-olds meet the physical activity recommendations. A 10-20 minute bike ride to and from school can go a long way to helping a child reach the recommended 60-minutes of physical activity. This can improve physical fitness, along with mental, emotional, and intellectual potential, since getting our bodies moving is shown to increase creativity and self-esteem, and decrease anxiety and stress.

To get more kids on bikes, GreenUP and B!KE have created Pedal Power, an in-school, on-bike cycling education program for elementary students. Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough has found that though many students reported riding bikes daily or weekly, on average only 2% of the school trips were made by bike. Pedal Power aims to increase competence and confidence in young riders, and their families, so that more students can gain the benefits of biking to school. Pedal Power will run in five local schools this spring. This program is made possible with funding from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, and the City of Peterborough.

Pedal Power will run in five local schools this spring. The program teaches bike handling and safety skills to create more confident, competent young riders.

If you want to get your child’s school biking this spring, schools can register for Bike to School Week (May 27-31, 2019), a new program of Ontario Active School Travel. Teachers, posters and sample activities are available at http://ontarioactiveschooltravel.ca/bike-to-school-week/.

For families, Kids on Bikes will return to Millennium Park on June 8th with a learn-to-ride zone, bike playground, bike decorating, and bike check-ups to help get your wee ones moving on two wheels. Visit peterboroughmoves.ca or Facebook to get all the details.

Building for bikes is one sure way to promote active living in our community. Peterborough is off to a great start! Could a Gold level Bike Friendly Community award be in our future?

Throughout 2019, GreenUP will be exploring the benefits that can be achieved by a city and its residents, when it commits to valuing the bike as a significant, useful, (and fun) mode of transportation, through the Bikes Can Do That series.

Posted in #BikeCanDoThat!, cycling, Peterborough, transportation