Dr. Beth Savan and her research team at U of T collaborated closely with partner non-profit organizations, most notably on these projects:
Bike Host is a program created and delivered by CultureLink Settlement and Community Services that matches up newcomers who are open to cycling with mentors who ride regularly. U of T researchers helped to refine and tailor the approach by using evidence-based tools derived from the social psychology literature on engagement and behaviour change. With funding from the Metcalf Foundation, researchers first studied this program in 2013 and the results were so impressive that they expanded data collection techniques in order to confirm the results. In 2014, the numbers of participants in the program grew through intensive recruitment in Toronto’s downtown eastside, especially within St. James Town.
Mobilizing Business Communities to Support Safe Cycling Infrastructure
In 2015, a Heart and Stroke Foundation “Spark” advocacy grant provided funding to U of T researchers to work with Cycle Toronto to engage Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) regarding the need for bicycle infrastructure in their local communities. While cycling has demonstrated positive effects on local businesses through increased sales, increased commercial property value and decreased commercial vacancy rates, businesses are often opposed to cycling infrastructure if it limits on-street parking, and have been critical voices limiting bike lanes and cycling for transportation. U of T researchers provided training, facilitation and engagement to support Cycle Toronto’s local ward advocacy efforts across the city with proven strategies to engage business communities. By enlisting additional BIAs through these efforts the diversity of community voices has increased that are advocating for safe cycling infrastructure, thereby removing barriers to active healthy transportation options across the city.
Commissioned by the Regional Municipality of Peel, and led by The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), in May 2015 U of T researchers worked with TCAT and CultureLink to launch Pedalwise, a community bicycle program in Brampton. As part of the program, over 30 registered participants received a bicycle to use for the summer. Modeled on CultureLink’s Bike Host bicycle mentorship program, the PedalWise program was designed to develop community cycling knowledge, utilitarian cycling skills and confidence and community connections while promoting healthy living and having fun cycling. The team developed and delivered a replicable program to increase cycling in Peel Region.
Scarborough Cycles: Building bike culture beyond downtown
Scarborough Cycles was funded by the Metcalf Foundation Cycle City program between 2015 and 2019. Led by TCAT, in partnership with CultureLink, Cycle Toronto, and U of T, this innovative project launched two community bicycle hubs in a suburban area of the city where very few people cycle. The bike hubs provide community members with access to bicycles, tools, repair clinics, workshops, mentorship activities, and opportunities for civic engagement. U of T’s role included: 1) providing oversight and direction to the project through participation In the steering committee, 2) developing a process to identify suburban areas with strong potential for increased cycling and to effectively target interventions in those areas, 2) designing and administering surveys to Scarborough residents, 3) identifying and analyzing barriers to cycling uptake, 4) evaluating potential partner capacity for cycling program and service delivery, 5) identifying and evaluating skills, gaps, and capacity needed by partners, 6) developing and implementing program evaluation to track and document progress including entry and exit surveys of program participants, and 7) writing reports, publishing articles and presenting findings at conferences.