Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Fund (OTF), free online cycling safety courses will soon be available to Kingston residents. On Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, Kingston and the Islands MPP Ted Hsu joined representatives from Cycle Kingston for a virtual announcement, outlining how the group will spend its grant of $51,100 from the Foundation’s Resilient Communities fund.
“I’m really happy that the Ontario Trillium Organization was able to recognize that [Cycle Kingston] is a good organization to invest in and that investing in teaching cycling safety is not only good for the [cyclists], but for the structure of transportation within our city,” Hsu said.
“Active transportation and cycling are really important to the future of cities. One thing I see about cycling that maybe constrains how much [of it] there is, is [what] I would call ‘misunderstandings’ between cyclists and automobiles. I think training, not only for car drivers, but also cyclists, in terms of what the rules are how to do things safely, is going to help that culture of having bicycles and automobiles share the road, and share it effectively.”
Cycle Kingston is a local organization committed to the promotion of cycling throughout the community. Through events and other public outreach, the group works to enhance the safety of cyclists in Kingston.
“We run in-school programs, where our staff go and talk to students, anywhere from grades three up to grade eight, about cycling safety. We attend community events and set up safety circuits where people can practice key skills that we think are important to be safer on the road,” said the organization’s President Neil Scott.
“We also engage with the City of Kingston in talking about cycling safety issues… and we also run cycling camps every summer, through Queen’s University, the YMCA, and we’ve also run them ourselves.”
Like many not-for-profit organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges for Cycle Kingston. Not only was the group unable to offer its in-person clinics and other programming, but with a lack of events for two consecutive summers, the organization was unable to generate a significant amount of its annual revenue.
“All of these limitations were occurring at a time when many people were engaging in cycling and taking it up as a form of transportation… So, we started to think during [the pandemic] how we [could] deliver educational programs when we [couldn’t] deliver in-person classes,” noted Scott. Concerns related to the pandemic’s impact on Cycle Kingston and its programming led the organization to establish an online delivery method for its safety courses.
“The online courses allow us to offer cycling education for individuals who are not comfortable with or unable to attend in-person courses… It also creates an entry point to direct people to in-person courses, thus increasing future enrolment in in–person courses, increasing revenue, and resulting in more people choosing to cycle and giving them the skills to do so safely. This will reduce GHG emissions and traffic congestion, and contribute to increased health of the individual and the community.”
In total, Cycle Kingston was able to develop two different online courses, both of which focus on necessary bike safety skills, as well as the rules of the road for cyclists. The courses will be free of charge and are expected to launch sometime next spring, ahead of another busy cycling season in the city of Kingston.
On top of the online courses, the OTF grant money was also used to support Cycle Kingston’s Gear Up! Recycled Bicycles program, which offers affordable refurbished bikes to Kingston residents. “The OTF grant provided funding to improve our facilities so we could operate safely, re-open our shop to the public, and help meet the demand for refurbished bicycles in Kingston,” noted Scott.
This past summer, Cycle Kingston and Gear Up! were able to employ a full slate of youth “bike fixers,” who gained practical hands-on work experience through the initiative. While the Gear Up! shop is now closed for the season, it is expected to re-open next April.