colour photo of brianna salmon for transport article

Buoyed by federal cash, two pilot projects are under way in Peterborough to promote active and efficient transportation—walking, cycling and riding transit—as alternatives to pollution-causing  automobile use.

The federal government’s EcoMOBILITY program has granted the City of Peterborough Transportation Department funds to test three technologies to detect bicycles at signalized intersections. The EcoMobility grants covers 50% of the $25,000 project cost.

“The City … has a responsibility to enhance all forms of active transportation (non-auto) including public transit, cycling and pedestrians,” Transportation Department manager Jim Kimble stated by email. He added that technical solutions “make it possible for and encourage more persons to take advantage of alternative modes of transportation.”

Technologies to detect bicycles with sensors embedded in the road pavement and video sensors are being tested at three city intersections. One bicycle-activated signal is already up and running where the Rotary Trail crosses Parkhill Road east of Inverlea Bridge. Bicycle detection at two other test intersections—Monaghan Road at McDonnel Street and Fisher Drive at Sir Sanford Fleming Drive— is installed but needs tweaking. It should be up and running soon.

Following the pilot, Kimble says, as many as twenty bicycle-detected traffic signals will be installed across the city at intersections which see high volumes of bicycle traffic.

“The bicycle detection will reduce delay for cyclists at signalized intersections, reducing trip times and improving cycling operations,” Kimble stated.

EcoMOBILITY funds have also allowed Peterborough Green-Up to add a new neighbourhood component to its popular Shifting Gears program. For 9 years every May, Workplace Shifting Gears has encouraged commuters to try out active and efficient transportation for their trips to and from work. Now, Green-Up is piloting Neighbourhood Shifting Gears to target specific neighbourhoods with resources and events to encourage walking, cycling and taking transit for all trips, not only the workday commute.

“What we kept hearing was that people who weren’t working, who were retired, or were students, weren’t getting the opportunity to participate in the [workplace] program,” Brianna Salmon, Transportation Programs Coordinator for Peterborough Green-Up said. By introducing Neighbourhood Shifting Gears “we’re trying to made sure the program has an impact on as many demographics of people as possible.”

Two neighbourhoods were selected to participate for this first year—Avenues South (between Charlotte, Bolivar, Monaghan, and Park streets) and the area on either side of the London Street footbridge. Salmon has been going door-to-door in both neighbourhoods starting in August to deliver information on cycling routes, transit routes and schedules (including a list of when buses stop in the target neighbourhoods), safe cycling tips, gift certificates for bicycle accessories, and family day passes for Peterborough Transit.

Green-Up has also developed a tracking system on its website for participants to measure the amount of car-free travel they do. That data is used to tell participants how much CO2 emissions they are saving and how much of their daily required physical activity they are getting.

Salmon and her colleagues are also holding events to encourage residents to get out and explore their neighbourhoods. “The idea is to bring people together to let them know what’s available in their community,” Salmon said, “to help them appreciate things that exist in their community already.”
Walking tours of heritage homes and trees held in both neighbourhoods this month have been well attended, Salmon said. “People were really happy about it. They said that they already had some community organizations but often they were developed for the purpose of dealing with… vandalism or break-ins or crime. [With the walking tours people] felt like it was really nice to be brought together to share something that was really special and positive in their community.”

According to Salmon, the walks gave neighbourhood residents an opportunity to get to know one another and their neighbourhood a bit better. That, she thinks, will encourage them to explore their neighbourhoods on foot, bicycle, or by transit more often.
“I think if you know people in your neighbourhood or you have destinations or things you appreciate seeing in your neighbourhood, that can help to bring you out and provide you with motivation to explore your neighbourhood as a component of your physical activity. I think getting people out in their neighbourhood walking or biking or exploring can really help develop a sense of community.”