WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACHIEVE? – Climate Change, Healthy Active Citizens, Social Cohesion.

WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACHIEVE? – Climate Change, Healthy Active Citizens, Social Cohesion.

School bikes

What are we trying to achieve?

The Halton Hills Community Cycling Challenge provides a powerful vehicle to address several important issues facing us today.

Climate Change

Climate Change is a serious and daunting challenge. Municipalities know this very well as we in Halton are already spending millions of dollars on climate change mitigation measures.  We know that transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. With that in mind, one strategy is to promote active transportation with cycling having the greatest potential to make a difference. However, investment in cycling is relatively new and decision makers are still tentative in their support.

The point of the Bike Challenge is to get people out on the streets on their bikes where they become visible to all. The more we get them out the more impact they have on decision making. It is about creating demand.  That demand translates into investment in cycling infrastructure that will ultimately improve safety and create a functional network.  This in turn translates into more cycling, not just for recreational purposes but also for utilitarian use.

We want the act of riding a bike to become more main-stream and accepted as an activity and as a mode of transportation.

Healthy Active Citizens

A second concern is the well-documented decline in physical activity which contributes to issues such as obesity and several chronic diseases. Encouraging people to be more physically active is a key strategy in addressing these issues. However, just repeating the message isn’t all that effective when we are trying to change behaviour. The Bike Challenge encourages people to dust off their bikes and take them out for a spin. We believe that when people participate in the Bike Challenge they experience the joy of cycling and discover that it is a great way to get around the community.

Social Cohesion

A third issue is social cohesion. The universality of the Bike Challenge is very important to the project.  To this end, we make sure that everyone who wants a bike can have a bike even if they can’t afford it. We partner with a local non-profit group, Hayden’s Re-bicycling, to give bikes to anyone who needs one but can’t afford it.

The fact that people can become involved in a large altruistic community project with no one left out because of their financial situation in very important too. This may be the first time they have been able to help the hospital or any charitable group due to their financial circumstances.

We also involve children who can contribute individually in the same way as any adult by “donating” their kilometres. This may be the first time many of them have actively contributed to a community initiative. It is very interesting to see how the kids become motivated to ride their bikes for the cause and how they in turn encourage their parents to also get on their bikes.

Making cycling acceptable to all and by making sure everyone has access to a bike can have a tremendously positive effect on those who do not have access to a car. Youth in particular gain the freedom to travel throughout the town in a manner that is normalized.

All of the above has a levelling effect within the community. We are all the same. We can all ride a bike.