Sustainable Commuting for a Healthier City

urban cycling coverIn early June, the Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) staff participated in the national Commuter Challenge. This week long competition challenges individuals and workplaces to leave their cars at home in favour of active and sustainable methods of commuting to work (such as walking, cycling, carpooling, using transit, and telecommuting).

Thunder Bay is a very active city. Last year we scored first among Ontario communities with a population between 100,000 and 250,000 people. Our citizens travelled 44,898 km sustainably, avoided 796kg of carbon dioxide, and saved 3307 litres of fuel over the course of that week. TBPL employees travelled a total of 171 km sustainably, avoiding 28 kg of carbon dioxide and saving 12 litres of fuel over the course of the week. This year, Thunder Bay was directly challenged by Kingston, who beat us; as a result, we slipped to second place among communities with a population between 100,000 and 250,000 people in Ontario. Even though we were beaten by Kingston, our city greatly increased our sustainable commutes: collectively, we travelled 74,897 km sustainably, avoided 12,392 kg of CO2, and saved 4650 litres of fuel over the course of the week! TBPL also saw an increase in participation for 2019, which meant that TBPL employees travelled further sustainably (1471 km), avoided more carbon dioxide (209 kg), and saved more fuel (75 litres); together with everyone else in Thunder Bay who participated, TBPL staff are helping to make the city a healthier place!

While the Commuter Challenge is over, there’s no reason why we can’t continue to make healthier commutes. If you’re looking for some tips, be sure to stop by your local TBPL branch; we have all kinds of resources to help you out!

walkable city coverIf you’re interested in commuting by bicycle, a really handy reference book is Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living by Madi Carlson. Carlson gives the pros and cons of different bikes and gear, plus she has some great tips for planning your routes out. You can also try Selene Yeager’s The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Women: Everything You Need to Know for Whatever, Whenever, and Wherever You Ride, which includes some fantastic women-specific information like how hormones affect you while exercising and riding while pregnant.

A really interesting book is Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck. Speck is a city planner who specializes in revitalizing American downtowns; he has found that pedestrian friendly cities are far more livable than those that are designed around cars. He has developed a theory of walkability which has ten steps; only when all ten steps are implemented can a city truly be considered walkable. After I finished reading Walkable City, I kept seeing all the ways Thunder Bay is designed specifically for cars (and helping cars travel safely at faster speeds, which in turn encourages cars to travel faster on the roads) rather than for pedestrians. If we want a more pedestrian-friendly city, we need to really rethink our relationships to our cars! TBPL has also ordered Speck’s new book, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places, so that will be available soon, too!

Another interesting book is Taras Grescoe’s Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile. Over the last century, our culture has been very auto-centric, and so public transportation has largely been underfunded. Grescoe looks at public transportation around the world, examining what works and what doesn’t with the hope of advocating for better public transit for all.

Together, through sustainably commutes and rethinking our relationships with our personal vehicles, we can all make Thunder Bay a healthier place!

Shauna Kosoris – If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!

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