Building bike culture beyond downtown
Between 2015 and 2019, TCAT in partnership with CultureLink Settlement and Community Services, the Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank (at the University of Toronto), and Cycle Toronto, launched an innovative project called Scarborough Cycles: Building bike culture beyond downtown.
Scarborough Cycles four goals were to:
- Create and disseminate new knowledge about cycling in the suburbs
- Build capacity among local agencies and individuals to support cycling
- Address barriers to cycling
- Engage with residents and stakeholders about the benefits of improved cycling infrastructure
How do we incubate cycling in a part of the city with very few people cycling, even fewer bike lanes, and only one bike shop? In 2016, Scarborough Cycles opened two community bike hubs at AccessPoint on Danforth and Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre. These Bike Hubs offer access to bicycles, tools, repair clinics, community rides, mentorship, workshops and civic engagement opportunities for residents.
The project was based on a targeted, four-step approach that other suburban communities can replicate. We adapted proven social psychology strategies, such as those used for quitting smoking or reducing energy consumption, to encourage and sustain behaviour change for cycling through a four-step process: 1) find the neighbourhood, 2) identify local barriers, 3) remove barriers and start cycling, and 4) keep cycling.
- In its first three years of programming, Scarborough Cycles repaired over 2,000 bicycles, led over 1,000 people on rides, and trained over 200 people in cycling skills.
- 84% of first time participants said they intend to cycle more as a result of the program, and returning participants reported 7% more trips by bike.
- Among mentorship participants, the average number of days cycled to work or school doubled. Cycling for fun also increased, and the more new friends people made through cycling, the more cycling they did. Participants reported learning new routes and cycling skills.
- The cycling program expertise of the original project team (TCAT, CultureLink, Cycle Toronto and the Cycling Think & Do Tank) was successfully transferred to one of our local host partners, Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services. They continue to run Scarborough Cycles and have opened a third location with funding from City of Toronto Waste Management.
- For their work on Scarborough Cycles, TCAT and Access Alliance received a Clean50 Top Project award, which recognizes the 20 best sustainability projects completed in Canada in the previous two years.
To learn more about the community bike hub approach, read our report, Building Bike Culture Beyond Downtown: A Guide to Suburban Community Bike Hubs.