In Hamilton this year, the international September 22 car free day has turned into a whole week of alternative transportation activities and events including a 150 km Carbon Cycle to raise awareness about climate change. Registered participants in Smart Commute Week can win a free VIA rail trip to Ottawa and numerous other prizes.
On Sunday, the fourth Open Streets Hamilton once again eliminates vehicle traffic on James Street North from 10 am to 5 pm to make way for pedestrians, cyclists, roller bladers, dancers, skate boarders and more. Events include a Gore Park party, three stages devoted to music, free zumba classes, facepainting, sidewalk sales, pet photography, and a giant scrabble game.
On Thursday – car free day – there are morning group bike rides from all over the city to Gore Park to help residents leave their car at home and try out cycling to work or school. From 11:30 to 1:30 pm there’s a healthy living fair in Gore Park, and the HSR will be providing free transit to anyone wearing a Smart Commute wristband – available free at multiple locations across the city.
Friday morning kicks off the Carbon Cycle – a bike ride to the shores of Lake Erie to focus attention on major greenhouse gas emitters and the need to move away from fossil fuels. Cyclists head out from city hall at 8:30 am for the 75 km ride to the ExxonMobil refinery and the coal-fired electricity plant operated by Ontario Power Generation. They will camp over Friday night at the Haldimand Conservation Area before cycling the 75 km return trip on Saturday in time to participate in a Gore Park rally (1 to 4 pm) that’s part of the global day of action on climate change.
The latter actions are sponsored by the Hamilton 350 Committee. The rest of the week’s events are organized by Smart Commute Hamilton, an association led by the city which works with local businesses and community organizations to encourage active and sustainable transportation to improve employee health and wellness. Major funding for the initiative comes from Metrolinx, the provincial agency championing rapid transit and other transportation initiatives.