For this years’ final installment of Breaking Barriers to Biking presented by MEC we spoke with Marvin Macaraig. Marvin works as a community health promoter and Scarborough Cycles coordinator through Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services.
Marvin was attending the University of Toronto at both the Scarborough and St. George campuses when he needed to find a reliable form of transportation. For him, that was a bike. The TTC was prone to delays that were out of his control, but he found that if he hopped on his bike he knew how long it would take. It made his commute predictable and that consistency meant that he wasn’t late to his courses and meetings.
Now, Marvin is an everyday rider commuting by bike to Scarborough Cycles. The organization’s main goal is to break down barriers to biking while striving to be the leader in suburban cycling issues. It’s a process that starts with building a culture of cycling where knowledge and expertise goes beyond recreational riding so that people are also using bikes for transportation and utilitarian purposes. He paints a picture of Scarborough Cycles as the hub of a wheel with spokes radiating as each person takes their knowledge and rides out into the city.
As the culture of cycling grows, Marvin told us that there are still very real and psychological barriers to riding a bike. People often come to him and say, “This is great Marvin, you’ve got me riding to school, on local trips, but I want to do more and don’t feel safe.” He can help people find safe routes in their neighbourhoods but all too often there is no good route to travel and Marvin knows these streets well; he grew up in Scarborough, riding a bike with 20-inch wheels and a white banana seat until the frame broke in half.
Marvin told us that the areas of Scarborough that are easiest to navigate feel like downtown with densely packed businesses and slower streets. However, as you move further north and east the roads grow wide and fast. The 401 bisects Scarborough with few places to cross. There are almost no bike lanes and bike riders rely heavily on multi-use trails for transportation. Even the trails of the great ravine system and hydro corridors become unsafe when winter arrives. The unmaintained routes become blanketed with snow and ice, cutting off essential parts of the area’s active transportation system. This frustrates Marvin, “It’s a public resource, [the City] would maintain any other public resource.”
At AccessPoint on Danforth, Scarborough Cycles runs numerous programs ranging from workshops, to an earn-a-bike program, to “Cycling Without Age” that allows people with limited mobility to experience the feel of riding a bike. While Marvin continues to advocate for the expansion of Toronto’s network of cycling infrastructure and winter maintenance, it is difficult for many to ride to the community health centre. Located at Danforth Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue, AccessPoint and Scarborough Cycles are disconnected from Toronto’s network of cycling infrastructure — the once nearby Pharmacy bike lanes are long gone, and even the new “Destination Danforth” bike lanes stop short. Many more people could benefit from cycling and according to Marvin bike lanes would improve all of the programming at AccessPoint not just the excellent work Scarborough Cycles takes on.
Photos by Nicholas Jones
Written by Ry Shissler