As some workplaces reopen and we slowly return to some of our daily activities, you may be rethinking how you get around.
The pandemic has led to more people choosing individual modes of transportation, such as biking, instead of taking transit or carpooling. Regardless of your comfort level with cycling, it’s still possible to travel sustainably while protecting yourself from COVID-19.
On Wednesday, September 9, we held a virtual community meeting and Q&A with Ali Ehsassi, MP for Willowdale on getting around safely. In case you missed our meeting, here are our tips for staying safe on your sustainable commute.
The 4 Rs: Retime, Reroute, Remode, Reduce
The 4Rs principle is a key aspect of our work in transportation demand management. These concepts can help you get around, practice physical distancing, and reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19. They are:Change the time of day that you travel to avoid congestion or crowded transit vehicles. Find another way to way to get around. Is there a better route for getting to where you need to go that helps you practice physical distancing? Changing how you travel can also improve your commute. For example, if your transit route is often quite busy, are you able to cycle for a portion of your commute? Plan ahead to reduce unnecessary peak travel or chain your errands to reduce the number of times you need to head outside
Below, we’ll explore how to apply these principles to stay safe on your commute.
Staying safe on transit
Transit providers have implemented a range of precautions to protect both customers and staff, including making masks mandatory. Check your transit provider’s website for the latest COVID-19 transit updates.
If you are taking transit, try to avoid rush hours and instead travel during non-peak hours. You can also use Google Maps to tell you how busy a TTC station is by searching for and clicking on the station. Also consider combining modes of transportation to limit your time on crowded vehicles. For instance, if you take a bus to the subway, are you able to skip the bus and walk, bike, or take a scooter directly to the subway station?
Another precaution you can take is to reduce the number of surfaces you touch. If you don’t have a monthly pass, make sure you reload your PRESTO card ahead of time online to avoid having to touch a PRESTO machine at a station. You can also setup auto reload options so that you never have to worry about running low on funds.
Combining cycling and transit
Cycling can sometimes be the fastest way of getting around. With the new additions to Toronto’s cycling network through their ActiveTO program, now is a great time to start cycling if you’ve been hesitant to ride a bike in the city before.
If you cycle to a bus stop, you can put your bike on bus bike racks which carry 1-2 bikes depending on the route once you get on.
There’s no extra fee for putting your bike on the bus. However, remember to remove any accessories on your bike as they can obstruct the driver’s view so bring something to carry them in.
Also keep in mind you can only put your bus on a bus bike rack or bring it onto a subway train outside of rush hours (before 6:30 a.m., between 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and after 7 p.m. on weekdays or anytime on a weekend). However, many TTC stations and Toronto streets have free bicycle parking and you can also suggest new bike parking locations via email or BikeSpace app.
If you don’t own a bike or want to avoid taking your bike on transit, consider getting a Bike Share membership. PRESTO users can get 20% off their first year of membership.
Bike Share stations are often located close to subway stations and other transit stops in Toronto’s downtown and midtown, with new pilot zones in North York and Scarborough, making it easy to hop on a bike for a portion of your trip. You can download the CycleFinder app to find available bikes and unlock them from your phone.
Tips for safe carpooling
To reduce risk of contracting COVID-19, be exclusive with who you carpool with. Make sure you and your fellow passengers wear masks and keep your windows open if possible.
It’s also a good idea to have an agreement with your fellow carpoolers that you will disclose to each other if you have recently been in close contact with people outside of your social bubble. Being transparent about your recent close contacts can help ensure everyone is comfortable with the carpool arrangement.
Carpoolers should also reduce the number of people per car, to allow for more physical distancing. For example, if the vehicle is a four-door sedan, have only one passenger in the back seat, diagonal from the driver. If the vehicle is a minivan with three row seats, have a maximum of two passengers sitting in individual rows, diagonal to the other passenger.
Make sure to disinfect frequently touched vehicle surfaces with disinfecting wipes before and after you share a ride with other individuals.
Similar guidelines apply when taking an Uber, Lyft, or a taxi. Masks are mandatory, and passengers must sit in the back of the vehicle. Make sure you wash your hands before and after your ride and keep the vehicle windows open if possible.
Getting a carshare membership allows you to enjoy the benefits of having access to a vehicle, without having to worry about maintenance costs or having a parking space at your residence. If you find that you occasionally need a car, carshare could be a good option. Examples of carshare services include Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare, and Communauto.
The same safety guidelines for carpooling and rideshare apply when you are using a carshare. Ensure you and your passenger(s) don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your windows open if you can.
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