Up and early at 7:00am, Hamilton came together to celebrate its 10th annual Bike to Work Day. Several community organizations, city councillors, and enthusiastic commuters gathered with their bikes to enjoy a donut and coffee and to celebrate the Bike Month kick off! From free bike repairs, live performances, and rides taking place around the city, the event was a massive success, allowing us to promote and celebrate active transportation. By promoting cycling or healthy active living, companies and groups came together to support Hamilton and get people on their bikes.
One of the many groups there was our project Friendly Streets. A project of Environment Hamilton and Cycle Hamilton, the goal of Friendly Streets is to make walking and biking a safe and enjoyable experience. To accomplish this goal, we first needed to determine what encourages people to bike. What are the friendly aspects of our city or specific neighbourhoods that make it bike-friendly? With this in mind, we connected with a variety of commuters and asked them what they enjoyed about their commute, opening the floor for people to share how they generally feel about commuting around various areas of Hamilton.
Bike lanes were key in many people’s commute, noting it allowed them to travel faster, especially during rush hours when traffic is at its peak. Commuters also appreciated the safety it provides, key to a stress free ride, allowing residents to enjoy their city and surroundings without having to worry about cars. Both physical and mental health benefits were also repeatedly mentioned by both adults and children, noting it gave them an opportunity to exercise, helped them clear their mind and wake up in the morning, and generally use biking as a healthier method of commuting. Hamilton’s vibrancy also brought people onto their bikes, with some noting the flowering trees, historic architecture, churches, murals, and the beautiful waterfront, mentioning they were unable to enjoy these things when driving. It’s important to highlight the positives but also acknowledge the barriers that either make cycling difficult and unsafe for people, or barriers that prevent people from cycling at all. Lack of bike lanes in the mountain area makes it very difficult to bike, with residents expressing the need for separated bike lanes. Cars also pose a threat to people who bike sometimes, especially in areas where there are no bike lanes, or bike lanes are not protected or easily identified.
Through gathering this information, we were not only able to gather information about commuter’s experiences and have discussions, but also discuss alternative routes and options for a safer trip to work. Perspectives from commuter cyclists are important to include in the conversation about friendlier streets because mobility needs are diverse – this should capture those who use the streets every day and experience challenges, as well as those who don’t use their streets for walking and biking but want to see more changes to improve the enjoyableness of active travel.