A heat map overlays submitted trip data over a standard city map, using colours to highlight the common routes that cyclists take. A number of years previously, I had switched over to using a bicycle as my main means of transportation, including commuting to work in Rexdale, so I was ‘all in’ on this. I was happy to know that some level of government was taking an interest in cyclists.
I signed up and was issued with a small, rechargeable GPS tracking device. I was to carry this device on every cycling trip for a number of weeks. Once the test period was over, I turned in my tracker and thought that was it.
However, something else came out of this heat map exercise: Brampton Bicycling Advisory Committee, which morphed into BikeBrampton.
A cycling enthusiast, named David Laing, had gotten permission from Erica Duque, Region of Peel Active Transportation Co-ordinator, to email the subjects of the heat map study. David outlined a desire to gather like minded people to establish an organization to promote cycling in Brampton.
The interested parties met at David and Dayle’s house, around the dining room table. I was impressed with the diverse background of the attendees, and yet they all had something in common – they loved to cycle. One thing I remember about that first meeting was that I was finding it hard to concentrate on the conversation. The reason was that one of the other original BikeBrampton members, Oakley the dog, kept staring at me, and only at me. I could not figure out if he wanted to tell me something, or if I had food on my face.
As the meeting wore on, one thing became apparent to me. With our wealth of experience, the passion displayed, and the help of our IT guy, Kevin, we could become a formidable force. The gist of the meeting was that Brampton was falling way behind other municipalities in building cycling infrastructure and promoting cycling as an alternative form of transportation. We were here to change that.
As I rode home from the meeting that night, it crossed my mind that I may have stumbled into something really cool. It kind of felt like a movie story line, with a gang of do-gooders, all with their own special talents, ready to take on the establishment, or “the man”. I thought of the movie “Ocean’s Eleven”, the 2001 remake, where David would take on the George Clooney role of Danny Ocean. Of course, that would mean that Dayle would end up being the Julia Roberts character of Tess Ocean. All of us would use our special talents to accomplish our common goal. The bottom line was, regardless of the difficulties along the way, we would end up prevailing in the end. To a large extent we did.
As the years rolled by, David and Dayle put in countless hours of work. At first it was about letting the stodgy powers-that-be know, that we were not going away and would not be denied. We got out to public events and found allies. People saw us parading down Main Street, literally, at CeleBrampton.
Immediately, I started to notice something incredible happening. We started liaising with other people and other groups. Not necessarily groups who cycled, but groups who shared our belief that we could do better in Brampton. This alliance with other community-minded people became one of our strengths. This helped me to become more engaged and prouder of my own city, and the people who live here.
Even within the core BikeBrampton group, we became less like a club and more like a family, sharing each others’ highs and lows, trials and tribulations.
Our work started to pay off. Things started happening. Slowly at first, then gaining more momentum. The powers-that-be, in City of Brampton, got their heads out of the sand, and recognized the need for a Cycling Advisory Committee and an Active Transportation Project Manager. Cyclists that I met in Toronto knew of BikeBrampton. Eventually, our efforts were mentioned during a 2018 speech by MP Sonia Sidhu in the federal House of Commons.
There is one thing I have realized more and more, lately. Although everyone involved has some level of passion for riding a bicycle, it is not all about the bike. Just last week at “Different Spokes”, I spoke to and assisted four different people who were new to Brampton. They were happy for the assistance to fix their bikes and talk about route planning, but it was more than that. They were craving the social interaction and sense of community, that something like a bike hub provides.
This is the kind of success that David and Dayle have nurtured. An inclusivity that has made all levels of bicycle riders feel comfortable.
We will continue to push for more cycling infrastructure, that increases the safety of cyclists in Brampton. We will also try to ensure that citizens from all groups consider the importance and advantages of being a bicycle rider in our city, for many more years to come.
by Steve Stoller
Previous blog posts by Steve:
Cycling Chronicles Vol 14
Cycling Chronicles Vol 13
Cycling Chronicles Vol 12
Cycling Chronicles Vol 11
Cycling Chronicles Vol 10
Cycling Chronicles Vol 9
Cycling Chronicles Vol 8
Cycling Chronicles Vol 7
Cycling Chronicles Vol 6
Cycling Chronicles Vol 5
Cycling Chronicles Vol 4
Cycling Chronicles Vol 3
Cycling Chronicles Vol 2
Cycling Chronicles Vol 1