Spotlight: Getting Scarborough pedalling

Liam McCurry

Scarborough Cycles has been working to create a strong community of cycling in Scarborough, with the help of research and advocacy organization The Centre for Active Transportation. 

Marvin Macaraig is a health promoter working at Scarborough Cycles, now in its seventh year of programming. 

Scarborough Cycles was launched when data revealed an explosion in cycling in downtown wards from 2005-15.  But during the same period, Macaraig says, cycling declined in North York and Scarborough suburbs. 

“If you’re trying to move the needle on sustainability or biking or active transportation, you have to go where there is the most opportunity,” he explains, and Scarborough is where the opportunity is. 

Scarborough covers one-third of Toronto’s land mass and is home to some 650,000 people, but only had one bike shop before 2015. 

Scarborough Cycles maintains three bike hubs to help riders tune their bike, get the proper equipment, learn about their bikes, and even buy or earn a bike. 

They were the only bike hubs in the city that were able to stay open and help front-line workers during the onset of the pandemic, Macaraig says.  

The hubs are run out of multi-use buildings such as community and resource centres or in partnership with the City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing.  

The most crucial part of what Scarborough Cycles does, says Macaraig, is “trying to find pockets and networks of people in the city that will never join a bike club but will ride every day.”

Macaraig says the program’s plan to keep building bike culture beyond downtown i “identify a population, newcomers, refugees, or youth and identify their barriers, then remove the barriers to ride and keep riding.”  

After that, the only barrier left is personal safety, he says. In 2022 the best option for personal biking safety is separated bike lanes. “It’s a political leadership problem.”

But Scarborough Cycles is ready, says Macaraig, “so that when it’s time for a consultation to put a bike lane in Scarborough, we know whom we can draw on for support.”

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