Ontario’s Greenbelt is an area of protected greenspace and farmland, where some of the best agricultural land in Canada is located.To promote the Greenbelt, volunteers and sponsors put together a bicycle ride each year called the Tour de Greenbelt. I saw an ad for it last year but we weren’t cycling as much then so postponed our participation till this year. There are four different rides to choose from and although I really wanted to do the one through the Niagara vineyards, we were busy that weekend. The second choice was the ride out of Newmarket, a small town north of Toronto. Why? Because it would start and end at a farmers’ market and I couldn’t pass that opportunity!
The weather forecast wasn’t good. After weeks of perfect weather, they were calling for rain on Saturday but we bought some rain gear and decided to go anyway. In the end, the weather held, the sun came out at certain points of the ride and the rain only came when we were back in Toronto. It was an amazing day! We’ll definitely do some of the other rides next year; maybe we’ll even volunteer! Click below for a slideshow:
Today is international car-free day, a day in which people are asked to leave their car at home and go about their business without it for a day. The idea is not only to illustrate how life is like in any given city without most of its cars on the road but also to reflect on the challenges and limitations of being without car, particularly in North America where cities are not pedestrian-friendly. Toronto failed miserably a couple years ago when celebrating car-free day. The city had done much to promote it and then when the day came, most city councilors arrived at city hall in their cars. When asked by reporters why they drove if the city was making such a big deal about car-free day, most simply stated that it wasn’t convenient to take public transit. And that was that.
Alan was furious and wrote some letters to the mayor and his ward representative, but the city councilors are partly right. We have a long way to go to catch up with most European countries when it comes to public transit infrastructure and sharing roads with bicycles.
A Canadian woman who lives in Copenhagen was interviewed on CBC Radio this morning about car-free day and she confessed that it doesn’t occur to people there to mark car-free day since two-thirds of the residents already commute by bicycle or public transit. She spoke about the infra-structure built in so that cars and bicycles can share the roads easily without confrontation and how traffic lights are synchronized to the speed of bicycles (20km/h) so that cyclists can get a green light all the way through when commuting.
And Vauban, a suburb of Freiburg, Germany, has banned cars altogether. The entire suburb was designed and built so that every resident is at walking distance from shops and schools. Public transit into the city is also easily available. Read more about it here.
As a historian, I understand why North America moved away from a focus on public transit and based its cities on private cars. How we got here is not the issue. The issue is that we now know that this car culture is not sustainable in the long run and our society needs to invest more heavily into making walking, cycling, and public transit the most convenient options for its citizens. Maybe that way, our councilors won’t have an excuse anymore. Better yet, maybe like the people of Copenhagen, it won’t even occur to us to celebrate car-free day.
PS: Montreal has closed part of its city core to cars today.
The good weather will soon end and the cycling will stop but for now, we try to make the most of the summer weather of the past week. While I love my Opus for commuting and getting around town, for longer rides with a group I needed something else. So we finally got something this weekend. Meet my new bike, a cyclocross:
Last night we went out in yet another ride with TBN. This one got us to the Leslie Spit, a park that extends far into the like and from which we got an amazing views of the city. It was an ideal ride to test my new bike since the ride was only about 25 km but it went through very varied terrain – from smooth roads to rocky and sandy gravel. Ideal to test the versatility of the cyclocross. The bike performed really well and I’m very happy with it.
But the best was the view of the city:
You can browse the flickr site for some other pictures, but you get the idea. The evening ended at a vegetarian restaurant near Gerrard & Broadview where I had the most amazing grilled eggplant dish, even if it left me really full…
Coming back from the farmers’ market with paniers full of fruits & veggies. Notice the beautiful basil plant hanging from the basket…