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Ajax working to make town more bicycle-friendly to help boost economy

Click to play video: 'Ajax working to make town more bicycle-friendly to help boost economy' Ajax working to make town more bicycle-friendly to help boost economy
WATCH: In Ajax, business owners are hoping a new transportation trend will bring in new customers. As Aaron Streck reports, cycling could be the key to boost local economy – May 10, 2021

One thing that the pandemic has allowed people to do is get out and discover their communities.

The Town of Ajax is hoping to build on that with cyclists not only riding the trails but also using their bikes as a means of transportation around the town to help boost the local economy.

“Generally, it’s a very safe means of transportation,” said Bruce MacDonald with the Durham Region Cycling Coalition.

But MacDonald, who has been riding his bike all over Durham Region for years, says it’s not all smooth peddling — there are some tricky stretches.

“I have people coming to me all the time asking me, ‘Can I ride my bike to get from here to here?’ Yes, but watch out for that one small section, really be careful or I really recommend you walk your bike for that few hundred feet there,” said MacDonald.

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Communities like Ajax are trying to improve their cycling infrastructure.

Armi De Francia, an active transportation co-ordinator for the town, says they’re working to expand the network.

“They need more options beyond driving and transit, so what biking does is it allows that affordable, flexible transportation mode out there,” said De Francia.

De Francia says Ajax has 120 kilometres of bike paths and lanes. While most people use the waterfront trails, she’s hoping the recent cycling trend will lead to further discoveries around the community.

“(Cycling) allows us to see businesses that we wouldn’t have been able to if we were speeding in our car,” said De Francia.

The Bean and Basket in Pickering Village is one such business looking to cash in on passing cyclists. Co-owner Elaine Evangelista says they even want to put a bike rack out front.

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“(Cyclists are) coming from Toronto, they’re coming from Whitby, and they’re cycling from further away, so it would be very important for us to be able to attract people here so they can come not just see the shop but also see the area, see the neighbourhood,” said Evangelista.

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Municipalities around the region may be supportive of making improvements for cyclists, but all levels of government need to be on the same page to make it work.

As for MacDonald, he says if cycling is going to become more of a means of transportation to help boost businesses, the networks are only as safe as the weakest link.

“You can’t ride on a paper plan, it has to get built,” said MacDonald.

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